Auto racing's sights, sounds and smells trigger something in people that makes them more in tune to what they drive.
And dealers around the country, particularly those located near racing venues, are taking full advantage of such emotional responses.
This month, in the Indianapolis area, several dealers are using the excitement generated by the Indy 500 to boost floor traffic and sales.
"Last May, we got a lot of recognition and sales ticked up," recalls Dennis Reinbold, president of Dryer & Reinbold, Dryer & Reinbold Infiniti and Dryer & Reinbold -BMW-Infinity.
The recognition came from Mr. Reinbold forming Dryer & Reinbold Racing to put a car in the 1999 500-mile extravaganza. He also invited Indy driver Robbie Buhl to his Infiniti dealership to sign autographs for special invited customers.
Mr. Reinbold wasn't too concerned that Mr. Buhl would try to get those Infiniti customers to visit Robbie Buhl's Smart-Mercury in nearby Danville.
"We were keeping a close eye on him," Mr. Reinbold says with a laugh.
In fact, the relationship between Mr. Buhl and the Reinbold organization was so good that the two camps joined forces for the 2000 Indy Racing League season. The new team even won the first race of the year, theIndy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway.
Despite Mr. Reinbold's interest in Indy car racing, there is scant evidence of it -yet - in hisstore, at least compared to Mr. Buhl's store in Danville, which features two race cars and mannequins wearing driving suits and helmets.
"It's a matter of us being new," says Mr. Reinbold. "We haven't collected a lot of things."
Mr. Reinbold notes, however, that the BMW store will be re-modeled in the next year. Planned additions include a cafe with the racing theme.
Although he's personally new to racing, his family is not. The "Dryer" in the Dryer & Reinbold name comes from his grandfather, Pop Dryer, who built race cars in the '30s, '40s and '50s.
Pop Dryer also sold cars. That makes Dennis Reinbold a third-generation dealer.
Even though the people who own the cars that race at Indianapolis this month tend not to get national notoriety, they do get hometown attention.
"Locally, there's a lot of talk about who owns the cars, who campaigns the cars," says Mr. Reinbold explaining his business rationale for going racing. "We're in (racing) for the long term. We want to grow it and there are a lot of goals we plan on meeting."
But dealers don't have to own or drive race cars to benefit from racing. Lomberto Perez, president of AutoCity Buick-Pontiac-GMC in Homestead, FL, is one example.
Last November, he was the host dealer for the Pontiac Grand Prix Racing Roadshow at the Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Winston Cup event at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
This year he will host the Pontiac racing exhibit at his dealership the weekend prior to the NASCAR event.
"We'll probably have a good turnout," says Mr. Perez. "NASCAR is big in this area."
It costs the dealer $2,000 to bring the show to the retail location, all of which is co-op reimbursable from GM.
Mr. Perez's NASCAR Winston Cup exhibit is one of 150 that Pontiac-GMC sends to dealerships in the eastern part of the country. Dealers get the exhibit for eight hours.
"It's all based on selling cars," says Bob Lawson, account manager at TMG Sports Marketing in Rochester Hills, MI. "It's a great tool for these guys."
The exhibit was done in cooperation with the Grand Prix brand team. It includes two full-size stock car replicas and a Grand Prix pace car.
TMG provides dealers with ad slicks and radio commercials to help promote the dealership events. Mr. Perez says he plans on promoting the racing road show in all of his advertising for a full month beforehand.
He also works on promotions with local radio stations around the CART and NASCAR Craftsman Truck series races at the Homestead track.