BUSCH: Daytona: Innovative Motorsports race recap

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (Feb. 18, 2002) -- Thomas Pacconi Classics, Inc. (TPC) has entered the world of NASCAR racing with its sponsorship of the ...

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (Feb. 18, 2002) -- Thomas Pacconi Classics, Inc. (TPC) has entered the world of NASCAR racing with its sponsorship of the #47 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, owned by Innovative Motorsports, Inc. (IMI) of Concord, NC. In a deal struck with team owner George deBidart, TPC will be backing the #47 car for the entire 34-race 2002 Busch Grand National Series schedule.

"We're thrilled to be part of the Busch Series," said TPC president Thomas Pacconi, Jr. TPC is the leading consumer products merchandising company that develops, designs, manufactures and merchandises a broad spectrum of household products, ranging from seasonal decorations to furniture, tabletop wares to toys, jewelry to lawn and garden accessories. Already hugely successful with a diverse line of products in the fast-growing field of NASCAR collectibles, TPC is a household name on industry-leading cable television retailer QVC.

"With the success we've seen on QVC's 'For Race Fans Only' weekly NASCAR merchandise program, teaming up with IMI is the right thing to do," Pacconi Jr., said. "George deBidart and I agree that his experience in the NASCAR world, coupled with ours in sourcing every imaginable consumer product, makes this type of cooperation a natural."

After months of planning, IMI was able to prepare the TPC #47 Chevrolet for its debut at the NASCAR Busch Series 2002 kickoff at the GNC LiveWell 300 at Daytona on Feb. 16. "Some of our people are longstanding race fans. But, I have to admit, this is my very first exposure to racing," Pacconi, Jr., said. "I can see that we have a tightly knit team. Shane's my kind of guy, watching the personal and professional relationship he shares with his father (Steve Hmiel of Dale Earnhardt, Inc.) reminds me of me and my father."

Young driver Shane Hmiel was excited to have a full-season ride in the Busch Series. Showing he was serious about his abilities and desires, he drove excellent practice laps all week leading up to the race. He qualified 13th for Saturday's race. Despite a wet beginning to the day, resulting in a two-and-a-half-hour delay, the race was run in its entirety. When the checkered flag fell, Hmiel had exceeded everyone's wildest expectations in the IMI and TPC camp by finishing in the top five.

"Fifth place is excellent," Hmiel said. "It's a testament to how good the Thomas Pacconi Classics team is. All I want to say is, 'Good job to Junior [race winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr.] and everybody that finished in front of us.' But fifth is like winning to us with that Wagner horsepower."

As for what comes next, Hmiel added, "We go to Rockingham. We're going to run all the races and try to become this year's Raybestos Rookie of the Year. This is a good start. I don't know how much better you can start, other than winning."


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Shane Hmiel