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HOMESTEAD, Fla. – The excitement in their voices was unmistakable, the wide smiles on their faces both genuine and can’t-miss. Perhaps with the popularity of modern-time NASCAR it’s easy to take that enthusiasm for granted, but more than 60 members of the Entrepreneurs Organization of South Florida (EO South Florida) showed up at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race ready to immerse themselves in the sport and enjoy their time doing so. The South Florida group – the third largest chapter of the EO in the world – made its official NASCAR debut as the primary sponsor of the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford driven by Todd Gilliland over the weekend. And it felt like Gilliland and the team were winners even before he took the green flag.
“I still come to the race track with so much excitement every single week, so I appreciate people coming in here to see what we do, to see the behind-the-scenes,’’ said Gilliland, who has a pair of Top-10 finishes in his rookie year competing in NASCAR’s highest level. “That’s what I always tell people. People can think they know racing but until they come into the pits and see the haulers and pit boxes, the sounds especially, I love to show people through the garage for the first time, it’s such a fun experience.’’
That’s exactly what one of the organization’s longest-tenured members and perpetual leader Oscar Diveroli thinks. He and his son have attended a half dozen NASCAR races in the last year and admittedly were not necessarily NASCAR fans until they had the opportunity to see what the sport is about. To experience it. And now they are diehard, tried-and-true, insatiable fans – eager to convert other members of the EO South Florida organization too.
When we saw the sport first-hand, it immediately got in our blood, but more importantly than that, because we were exposed to the team and the drivers, had dinner with Todd, spent time with Michael McDowell, we got to see the human element. Then you’re sitting in the bleachers, you’re listening to the roar of the engines and smelling the burnt rubber smell of the tires, immersed in it. And it was such a fast bonding.”
Lil Roberts is the current president of the EO South Florida chapter and Homestead marked the first race she had attended. She concurred that the connection between the sport and the group is natural and seamless. As far as Roberts is concerned, both race teams and entrepreneurs possess many of the same important traits – something her membership can appreciate.
“To me, I think you have to have second order thinking in order to do both [race and be an entrepreneur],’’ Roberts said. “What that means is you can’t just look at the repercussions of what you are doing in that moment, you have to think about, how does that affect the moments that are ahead of that or some time period ahead of that. “Race car drivers have to have a tremendous amount of skill to know how they’re going to cut seconds and how a strategic moment they’re having right now is going to affect them in two laps from now. And it’s the same thing in business.” The opportunity to merge an innovative sponsor with the high-tech world of auto racing just made sense to all involved.
EO chose eight member companies to have their logo on the car at Homestead – ValidiFI, Direct Colors, Paw.com, Team Bennett, Gold Aviation Services, Streeme.TV, CloudHesive and GAINSWave. And the plan is to feature a new group should future opportunities with EO arise – either again with the South Florida group or perhaps with chapters elsewhere in the country. “It’s such a unique partnership in motorsports and in all of sports, really,’’ Gilliland acknowledged, adding, “To me, it’s part of the American Dream, doing something for yourself like this [being an entrepreneur], so it’s really cool to represent them,’’ And the feeling has been mutual.
“When you think about it, we chose Todd as our driver to sponsor because he exemplifies the same core values of EO: the incredible, insatiable appetite to learn and grow and how passionate he is,’’ Roberts said. “It was perfect. They have the same blood as entrepreneurs - both [team owner] Bob [Jenkins] and Todd. For us, we’re super excited. This is ground-breaking.” And perhaps just the beginning of what seems to be the ultimate win-win. “What I’m expecting is - all caps - FUN,’’ Roberts said of EO South Florida’s NASCAR debut. And judging by the smile on her face as she stood pit-side on Sunday, that’s exactly what she found.
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