The ubiquitous blue and gold has been part of the fabric of the NASCAR throughout the west for the past 25 years, instantly recognizable from its frequent trips to Victory Lane and championship celebrations.
The same way the powder blue and STP logo of Richard Petty or the rainbow colors of Jeff Gordon’s DuPont sponsorship are associated with a driver and the team’s level of excellence, the NAPA AUTO PARTS emblazoned on Bill McAnally Racing’s fleet of race cars is woven into the fabric of NASCAR short track racing.
Twenty-five years together has produced 60 wins on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series level and five West championships for McAnally and NAPA. BMR has also won titles on the local level in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. In addition, the Bill McAnally-led team captured the Rookie of the Year title with NAPA in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2002. Through McAnally, NAPA has been the entitlement sponsor on countless K&N Pro West races over the years and has begun to provide sponsorship for East races in recent seasons.
Through the Bill McAnally Racing pipeline, the team has fielded cars for the likes of NASCAR Next drivers Brandon McReynolds and Cole Custer, three-time K&N Pro Series West champion Eric Holmes, Brendan Gaughan, Michael Waltrip, Kerry Earnhardt, Sarah Fisher and Travis Pastrana. Clint Bowyer made his NASCAR K&N Pro Series debut in a pair of races for BMR in 2004 before he made his first NASCAR XFINITY Series start.
Throughout it all, McAnally looks upon the relationship between the team and their long-time sponsor as a partnership. It’s been successful on and off the track, as they have worked together to develop various ways to use the BMR team to market NAPA and its products.
“I don’t think any one individual has worked any harder than Bill has to help us build our brand on the West Coast,” said Dan Askey, president of sales for NAPA.
This season, Bill McAnally Racing is commemorating a major long-term relationship with the 25th anniversary of sponsorship by NAPA AUTO PARTS.
“Congratulations to Bill and his entire organization on celebrating 25 years with NAPA, quite a milestone,” said Mike Rearden, NAPA Director of Events/Sponsorships. “We are honored to have Bill McAnally Racing representing the NAPA brand both on and off the track. Over the years, Bill has enjoyed much success and operated to the highest of standards. We look forward to our continued partnership.”
It’s been a long road for McAnally, from winning his first NASCAR championship racing a late model stock car at a Northern California short track to developing one of the flagship teams in the K&N Pro Series West and more recently becoming the only car owner with teams racing full-time in both the East and West divisions of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. He and his wife, Deanna, have worked hard through the years to realize the success they obtained racing at NASCAR’s regional level.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have NAPA partner with BMR for the past 25 years,” McAnally said. “I’m grateful to everybody at NAPA and to all the sponsors in the NAPA family who have been part of our racing program.”
NAPA AUTO PARTS, NAPA Filters, NAPA Belts & Hoses, Martin Senor, NGK, NAPA Batteries, Valvoline, NAPA Tools & Equipment, NAPA Mufflers & Shocks, NAPA Gaskets/Fel-Pro, NAPA Bearings & Seals, NAPA Chassis, NAPA Brakes, Balkamp, and NAPA AutoCare have all contributed to the team’s success.
McAnally’s relationship with NAPA AUTO PARTS actually began before their sponsorship started and even before he launched his racing career. He became a loyal NAPA customer while a student at Ukiah (California) High School. The local NAPA store offered a pay-as-you-go program to students to let them purchase a tool set piece by piece.
“I bought my first tool set one socket at a time,” McAnally recalled. “That’s where my NAPA relationship started.”
That relationship developed into a sponsorship after McAnally moved to the Roseville, California, area and began racing at All American Speedway. That initial sponsorship involved oil and filters – through NAPA Filters and Valvoline Oil.
Perhaps it was a sign of things to come, but that first year together in 1990 was a highly successful one – with McAnally winning the late model division championship in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at the quarter-mile Roseville track.
By the end of the year, the sponsorship had grown. McAnally credits Larry Haith, who was General Manager of NAPA Sacramento, with being instrumental in helping build the relationship with NAPA and its associates. Martin Senor Automotive Finishes led the way among more than a dozen associate sponsors that came on board at that point.
McAnally joined the ranks of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 1992 – making two starts as a driver/owner in what was then known as the NASCAR Winston West Series. He followed that up with five starts in 1993. Despite losing his car and equipment to vandals the night before the 1994 season opener, McAnally still managed to race in six events while rebuilding his team that year. He reached his dream in 1995, running the full schedule of regular season events and finishing ninth in the championship standings. He followed up with another solid year in 1996, finishing ninth in points for a second season.
Ken Clapp, who at the time served as NASCAR’s vice president of Western Operations, helped guide McAnally as a champion in NASCAR’s weekly racing series to the regional level of competition. Clapp has continued to serve as a trusted advisor through the years, offering the benefit of his years of experience in the industry.
McAnally knew from the beginning that to attract and keep sponsors he would have to develop a program that offered them a value, with a return for their investment. Through the early years, when he was not at a race or working at his race shop, he was often headed down the highway – towing his race car to an event that would provide key additional exposure for his sponsors. He traveled up and down California’s Central Valley with his race car, going every place he could to gain that exposure – including county fairs, sporting events, and agricultural shows.
During the 1996 season, McAnally began working with Wayne Wells, who was then NAPA’s Western Division Vice President, in putting together a program with NAPA’s six distribution centers in the western part of the United States. That led to a complete new look for the BMR entry at the beginning of 1997, with blue and gold colors as NAPA AUTO PARTS became the primary sponsor and the car number was changed to 16. The change of appearance was indicative of the growing role McAnally and his team took on in representing NAPA. Part of the marketing campaign involved the No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS show car, which quickly became a fan favorite at more and more displays at NAPA store events and other events in the West.
McAnally and his team also began expanding their role with NAPA at race tracks. He worked with NAPA representatives to put together NAPA Hospitality events at select K&N Pro Series West races. The initial hospitality events involved McAnally rolling his backup car into the parking lot at a race track, setting up some pop-up canopies, roping off enough space for the get-together, and having a cook-out. NAPA saw the value and began utilizing BMR in developing its grassroots, hands-on hospitality events that worked in conjunction with nearby NAPA Distribution Centers to host store and shop owners. The hospitality events continue to serve as a key component of BMR’s relationship with NAPA.
As a NAPA executive, Wells saw the opportunity to grow the at-track events from what essentially started out as a big tailgate party.
“We had a barbecue and hospitality,” Wells recalled. “The drivers were there. It was just like a big picnic. As we won, it turned into an event where hundreds of NAPA representatives participated. It evolved into hospitality – where store owners, employees, and customers attended. The turnouts were unbelievable. It became a big family. It all goes back to the fact that we were winners and Bill was such a great representative.”
NAPA AUTO PARTS also saw an opportunity to work with McAnally in becoming an event sponsor for K&N Pro Series West races. The number of event sponsorships has increased through the years as more and more opportunities developed in key markets. In recent years, NAPA has extended its sponsorship of events into the K&N Pro Series East. Meanwhile, the company’s strong support of the K&N Pro Series West has continued. This season, eight of 13 races carry the NAPA brand.
Bob Duvall, NASCAR’s Senior Director, Business Development, has witnessed NAPA’s successful approach and how the company has built on its sponsorship with BMR and developed opportunities with hospitality and event entitlement in the K&N Pro Series.
“To me, NAPA is doing more than putting a name on the event,” he said. “They fully embrace the sponsorship by tying in hospitality with the race entitlement. With them, race entitlement means good times for their key customers.
“It shows what true activation is all about with a sponsorship, people attending a sporting event where they can get close to the drivers, meet the heroes that they see on the track, and enjoy the family fun entertainment of stock car racing,” Duvall said.
On track, McAnally continued in the role as a driver and owner until early in 1998 – when he opted to turn over those duties so he could focus 100 percent on building his team into a top contender. The move paid off, as BMR scored its first series win later that year with Gary Smith behind the wheel at the old Portland (Ore.) Speedway. McAnally continued to build on the team’s success in 1999. With driver Sean Woodside on board, the team won two races and captured its first series championship. BMR became a powerhouse in the series in 2000 as it partnered with Orleans Racing and Brendan Gaughan took over the driving duties. The combination netted two more titles, with back-to-back championships in 2000 and 2001.
Wells recalled the effort put in by McAnally and Gaughan away from the track, as well.
“They took their NASCAR team hauler, with the No. 16 NAPA show car, and called on many, many NAPA stores across the western division – which included California, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico,” Wells said. “Brendan made the comment that Bill taught him more about NAPA and how important it is to get out and meet the customers than anybody else ever did.”
Wells credits McAnally’s hard work in building the BMR and NAPA relationship.
“Nobody works harder for NAPA in helping us sell auto parts, because that’s really what we’re trying to do,” he said. “It’s difficult to express what he did for us.
“When we started, we would fund the team from sales of t-shirts and collectables,” he said. “Bill basically built his business in the good old American way to what it is today.”
Wells compared NAPA’s reputation with that of BMR. NAPA is known for quality and dependable auto parts, and BMR is known for its high standards, he said. Those similar traits make for a successful relationship, he said.
“Bill’s a winner, a leader, and a team builder,” said Wells. “And that is why he and NAPA have a great business partnership.”
Always looking for an opportunity to gain more exposure for his sponsors and for NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series West, McAnally took on an additional role in 2002 of becoming an event promoter. It was not a move he had mapped out in advance, but when he saw the chance to take the series to key West Coast markets he made the move and expanded by forming Bill McAnally Racing Promotions. Once again, it was NAPA’s support that provided a way for that to happen, McAnally points out.
McAnally was determined to make the BMRP races special high-energy, exciting events. That effort has resulted in races – such as the annual event at his home track in Roseville – that have become fan favorites.
Dan Askey, who is now President of Sales for NAPA, is one of the company executives who worked closely with McAnally and saw BMR develop through the years.
“I guess I have been working with BMR for 15 of the 25 years, after moving into the Division VP role in 2000,” Askey said. “At that time, NAPA had just had a few years in NASCAR, having won a couple of (NASCAR Camping World) Truck (Series) championships and moving into the (NASCAR Sprint) Cup Series. This was new to NAPA and activation at the track was something all of us wanted to do. Having the No. 15 running around the track on Sunday was not enough. I tell you this because that is what Bill taught us.
“He was running and winning in the NASCAR Winston West Series,” Askey said. “He had a single-car team with Brendan G. at the helm. Bill took it upon himself to show the Western and Mountain Division customers and employees how activation works.
“Bill is a tireless leader,” Askey continued. “When a local track didn’t have a sponsor or promoter, Bill McAnally did it himself because he knew there would be lots of NAPA stores and their customers attending.
“Bill had a vision that if he could find good young drivers that could go to the next level or higher, it would be good for NAPA.
“At the end of the day, the thing that makes Bill the person he is with NAPA is the fact that he is part of the fabric of NAPA,” Askey said. “Bill has earned the respect of our entire organization by not only doing what he said he would do, but doing more.
The 2002 season, meanwhile, was another exciting one for the team. BMR graduated with Gaughan to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series that year – winning the rookie title. McAnally also remained focused on continued success in the K&N Pro Series West, where Austin Cameron took over the driving duties and scored five wins in 2002.
One of most dramatic stories in the history of the series came in 2003, when Cameron was sidelined for much of the season after being diagnosed with cancer. After sitting out most of the races for treatment, he came back to win two events and capped that year off by winning the inaugural NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
The team experienced success subsequent to that timeframe with newcomers to the series, as NASCAR underwent a youth movement. Talented young drivers with BMR accounted for three rookie titles in the K&N West within a five-year span between 2005 and 2009.
Meanwhile, veteran driver Eric Holmes – who already had won one championship in the series – joined BMR in 2008. It brought more success, with a second title for him and a fourth championship for BMR.
The 2008 season was also significant for BMR because it marked the first year of its partnership with Toyota. The combination met with success on two levels. In addition to delivering the manufacturer with a title at the regional level of NASCAR that year, BMR also won a championship with them at NASCAR’s weekly level of racing.
“We were pleased to deliver championships to Toyota in their first year with BMR,” McAnally said. “That marked a great start and we’re honored that Toyota has become a key partner in our program.”
Toyota has also worked with BMR in developing success with race entitlement and activation in strong markets that have no other NASCAR events, while providing great support for the K&N Pro Series.
“Toyota has enjoyed a successful partnership with Bill McAnally Racing,” said David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, U.S.A. (TRD). “Our partnership began with two driver’s championships in 2008 and 2010 with Eric Holmes, and we’ve won quite a few races together over the past eight seasons. Supporting NASCAR’s regional level and assisting in the development of talented drivers is important to Toyota and we are proud of what we’ve been able to do together with Bill McAnally Racing in the K&N Pro Series.”
After winning the 2010 series championship, Holmes continued to drive the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota for several more years. Overall, he won 15 races with BMR, the most of any driver, and remains an important part of the team as a spotter and driver coach.
BMR expanded its program into the K&N Pro Series East in 2014. It became and continues to be the only team to compete full-time in the East and West divisions of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. McAnally has continued to carry the NAPA banner and those of its associates as a top contender at NASCAR’s regional level.
Everybody at NAPA recognizes and appreciates what McAnally has done for the company, according to Brad Shaffer, who served as Division Vice President at Genuine Parts Company.
“I think it’s safe to say that no person has endeared themselves to NAPA more than Bill McAnally,” Shaffer said. “From NAPA store owners to NAPA AutoCare owners all the way to the CEO of Genuine Parts Company, the NAPA welcome mat is always out when Bill comes knocking.”
NAPA appreciates McAnally’s attitude in getting the job done, he said.
“Bill has always been so accommodating,” Shaffer said. “He never says no, even when asked to do something with little notice. In fact, he seems to thrive on the challenge of performing miracles.”
Shaffer cited McAnally as “progressive and aggressive” in his approach.
“He is always looking for ways to improve and expand in both racing and in his shop business,” Shaffer said. “In a sport where egos can get in the way, Bill maintains a ‘accentuate the positive’ demeanor. He has been a great mentor to young drivers and he surrounds them with the right team.
“We (NAPA) could not have partnered with anyone better than BMR,” Shaffer continued. “Bill and Deanna McAnally represent what NAPA is all about. Work ethic, class, devotion, pride, performance and integrity. BMR is also a winner. Championships are expected and earned. We have a tremendous swelling of pride when the BMR cars hit the track with that big NAPA logo on the hood – pride of performance and pride of a world class organization.”
BMR’s effort in the K&N East this year has involved Nick Drake running the full schedule in the No. 15 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. NASCAR Next driver Cole Custer, meanwhile, has continued to run the No. 00 NAPA AUTO PARTS and Haas Automation entry in select events in the series, where he competed as a 15-year-old rookie in 2013.
Custer is the son of Stewart-Haas Racing Executive Vice President Joe Custer.
“Teaming with Bill McAnally Racing was a great opportunity to continue moving forward to the next level with our K&N team,” Custer said. “I’ve long admired what Bill and his staff have accomplished in the K&N West and I was glad for the chance to join together as he expanded into the K&N East.”
BMR’s program in the K&N Pro Series West has varied over the years, ranging from a one-car operation in the early years to running as many as three cars full-time from 2005 to 2010. In addition, the team has also prepared cars for many drivers who were just doing select races in the series. There are many well-known names among the list of drivers who have driven select events for BMR over the years from Waltrip to Pastrana.
BMR’s blue & gold NAPA car has had an average finish of 3.22 in the championship standings in 18 seasons of competition in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
This year, BMR is running two cars full-time in the K&N Pro Series West. Second-year driver Brandon McReynolds is behind the wheel of the No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota and Chris Eggleston, in his first full season in the series, drives the No. 99 NAPA Filters/NAPA Belts & Hoses/NAPA AutoCare/H2O Fire Protection Toyota. Both drivers have multiple wins this season.
In addition to success at NASCAR’s regional level in the K&N Pro Series, BMR also returned to its roots in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series with a successful effort as part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. A win by BMR’s Allison Duncan in 2005 marked the first victory by a female in that series at Stockton (California) 99 Speedway and delivered D4D with its first win.
Paulie Harraka had joined BMR’s weekly program and in 2008 he and the team provided the NASCAR D4D effort its first championship with a track title at All American Speedway. Harraka won 11 of 22 main events that season. His success continued as he moved up to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in a NAPA-sponsored BMR car in 2009. His two wins as a rookie marked the first Drive for Diversity wins at NASCAR’s regional level.
McAnally’s most recent venture was the first-ever NAPA Filters Drivers Expo Powered by Toyota in August. It brought together 11 talented young drivers with very diverse racing backgrounds. The program was developed to serve as a driver combine and as a racing seminar. Veteran industry executives were featured speakers and the media was incorporated into the two-day event that featured equal focus to on-track and off-track coaching and evaluation. Once again, McAnally hit a home run, based on the feedback from everyone involved in the event.
Looking ahead, there are no signs of McAnally and NAPA slowing down – not as long as there are races and championships to be won, and opportunities to further market the NAPA name.
Duvall understands why NAPA has remained with BMR for the long haul.
“When I see a sponsor like NAPA stay for 25 years, it tells me the sponsorship is working for them and that they are seeing a return on their investment in our sport,” he said. “It also tells me that the team has done an outstanding job of over delivering and under promising, clearly an outstanding job by Bill McAnally Racing and its entire staff.”
“Bill wrote the book on sponsorship with NAPA.”