Larry Ott: Marketing is a gas for drag racer Flanigan - The Buffalo News
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Larry Ott: Marketing is a gas for drag racer Flanigan

Dan Flanigan did not win a single final round of drag racing this season but he came close. Yet, he considers this season to be another in a string of eight very successful campaigns from the perspective of how he marketed and managed the sponsorship exposure for his Top Sportsman drag racing team.

Flanigan, of Tonawanda, drives the NOCO Energy Corp. entry in the traveling Canadian Quick 32 Series as well as International Hot Rod Association regional events and selected local drag races.

He made it to four final round appearances this season, including the Canadian Quick 32 event at Toronto Motorsports Park, the IHRA Pro-Am event in Pittsburgh as well as two Quick 16 local races at Empire Dragway in Leicester.

“I guess I’m like the Buffalo Bills of a few years ago because I was in four finals and did a great job getting to them but couldn’t quite turn one of them into a win,” said a laughing Flanigan.

While seeking on-track success, Flanigan concentrates on another measuring stick that he considers the true definition of what his race program is all about.

“We were real successful at getting exposure for our sponsors again this season through a variety of non-traditional ways and I consider our marketing and sponsorship exposure success to be even more important that any success I could gain on the track,” said the 45-year-old Flanigan.

“We participated in getting our program out to the public at a number of non-racing events such as civic events like parades, car shows, many different community functions and even had the car at the Bills’ home opener this season.

“It’s all about gaining exposure and brand awareness for our sponsor. We bring our sponsor’s name to the consumers.”

Like any other driver, Flanigan takes his on-track racing very seriously and has won his share of races over the years but he focuses intensely on his marketing efforts. After being the NOCO team’s driver for these last few years, Flanigan was recently named the director of NOCO Motorsports and is responsible for overseeing both the racing and marketing sides of the team’s operation.

“Because racing is expensive to do, teams must rely on sponsors,” he said. “In this day and age, servicing a team’s sponsors means a lot more than just driving the car past the grandstand on race nights.

“You’ve got to get together a schedule of places to go out in the public and make those important marketing appearances in order to get your sponsor’s name in front of as many eyes as possible and create that brand awareness.”

While Flanigan cannot offer any area team a NOCO sponsorship, he says that he is willing to sit down with any local racer and discuss with him or her how to execute a good marketing and sponsorship plan that mirrors the one he has created and built with NOCO.

As for the racing, Flanigan knows that there is plenty of good drag racing competition out there, once you hit the road.

“The Canadian Quick 32 Series was hard competition to beat,” he said. “In a Canadian Quick 32 series event, the quickest 16 Top Sportsman drivers race against each other for the win. At the same time the 16 quickest Top Dragster teams compete against each other. After the winner is determined in each category, the winner of the Top Sportsman eliminations races in the overall final against the winner of the Top Dragster eliminations to determine the overall winner of the event.

“So there is a lot of hard racing that you have to get through to do well in the Canadian Quick 32 Series. When you consider that the average time that you needed to qualify for the Top Sportsman part of the program this year was 7.13 seconds on the quarter mile strip at about 200 mph, it wasn’t easy.

“I think the thing that was the best part of the final we made at the IHRA Pro-Am event in Pittsburgh was that while we didn’t win it, we did win the best appearing car at the event. That’s important.”

Flanigan will hit the road this weekend hoping for another chance at a final round victory when he competes in Norwalk, Ohio, at the “Shake-Down at the Summit.”

As usual, win or lose, he’ll find a way to make sure his sponsor’s name gets front and center.

The curtain will fall on the local asphalt stock car racing season on Saturday with the running of “The Shootout at the Bullring,” at Wyoming County International Speedway. The SST Modified 100, Super Stock 50, winged asphalt Sprint Cars and other divisions will highlight the 3 p.m. racing program.


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