Agricultural Marketing

Start Your Engines! The Gate 39 Media Agency Story Comes Full Circle on the Track and Anthem Ag Enters the Race

Kaitlin Vrsek

The winner ain’t the one with the fastest car, it’s the one who refuses to lose. – Dale Earnhardt 

Growing up, did you ever attend your local short track racetrack? Do you remember the smell of exhaust, the taste of a concession stand cheeseburger, or cheering on your favorite driver as they battled it out to the finish line?

short track, defined as an oval track less than one mile long (also known as a bullring) is an experience is unlike any other. The drivers put their blood and sweat into their cars just to lay “pedal to the metal” every Friday or Saturday night. You feel their passion and emotion as they round each turn. Your heart pounds when tires get within mere inches of each other, or a car goes spinning into the infield. You’re elated when the winner gets to the winners’ circle, crawls out and slaps their hand on the car roof in pure joy. It is a competitive environment full of energy and excitement.

Shane Stiles, President of Gate 39 Media, grew up watching his dad and brother race at Spartan Speedway (now Corrigan Oil Speedway) in Mason, Michigan: “We spent every Saturday night at Spartan Speedway. It was a family affair with my dad, Duane and brother, Justin, both racing.”

Duane Stiles and his 39 racecar

Duane Stiles poses with his “39” race car.

His family racing was also the inspiration for the agency name: Gate 39 Media.

“In 2001, in choosing a name for my new business, I wanted one that expressed a global theme, movement, and positive energy,” explains Shane Stiles. “I came up with ‘gate’ as the keyword, and ‘media’ for our traditional and electronic marketing as well as advanced technology solutions. The number 39 comes from [our race cars]. With ‘Gate 39 Media’ I was able to convey the theme, pay tribute to my family, and highlight the diversity of services we provide.” 

Shane may have moved out of Michigan, and his family is no longer racing, but you can’t take the racing out of his blood. And the legacy and energy of this racecar is still present with the growth of Gate 39 Media and its agricultural technology consulting division, Anthem Ag.

Joining the likes of Nutrien Ag Solutions, DeKalb Asgrow, BRANDT, and many more agricultural companies in the racecar sponsorship realm, Gate 39 Media and Anthem Ag have thrown their hats (and logos) into the short track bullring. For the 2021 season, they will be sponsoring the super late model team, Flying V Motorsports driven by Jeff Vrsek out of Carleton, Michigan racing the ARCA Menards Series East at select speedways. 

First race on the docket, the prestigious Money in the Bank event at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan.

A Day at the Track

Have you ever heard the term, hurry up and wait? I think it was coined while getting ready for a race.  

Jeff just so happens to be my husband, so I get to experience the early mornings and late nights with him. I swear, it takes years off my life watching him race! 

We left our house in Carleton, on the opposite side of Michigan from Berlin Speedway at 5 am EST – yes, you read that right, 5 am. On a Wednesday. Luckily, I preloaded the truck with energy drinks and my mug is full of coffee because it’s about to be a long day. Why did we leave so early, you may be wondering? Pit gates open at 10 am, so we need to be in line for a good spot to park the truck and trailer in the infield.

Pit and Infield of Race Track

Once we get parked, Jeff and his crew guys roll the car off the trailer and get to work.  

  • The race shocks need to be mounted because the car can’t ride in the trailer with them on. Just like the shocks in your personal vehicle, race car shocks move over every bump. If they were to be worn while in the trailer, that’s a lot of cycles on the shocks which need to be fresh for the high impact, high horsepower race.   
  • Tires need to be sized and mounted. Every racecar is setup for a certain circumference tire to aid in speed, aerodynamics, and grip on the track. It’s very important when choosing race tires to find a set that is close in serial numbers; the closer the serial numbers are on the tires, the closer the circumference of the tires are which will more closely match how the car is setup. It’s a mad dash to the tire barn as soon as it opens and with this race being six tires, the search begins.  
  • Fuel needs to be added and then the team pushes the car through the Tech Shed where the ARCA officials make sure the car meets the rulebook requirements.
  • With Tech Shed inspection passed, the car is back on jack stands to await practice and qualifying. 
  • If a car doesn’t pass tech, the race team is allowed to make adjustments so all rules are met. If again they don’t pass, the car is disqualified from competition.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice is a free-for-all. Go out as you wish, run as many laps as you wish, pull into the pits and make adjustments as you wish.

Jeff packed a set of tires specifically for practice. His plan is to run as many laps as necessary to check if the car is too tight going into a turn (can’t turn the steering wheel) or too loose (sliding everywhere around the track). It’s never a good day if your racecar which really likes to turn left, suddenly likes to turn right.

With two hours of practice, we learned a lot – and made a lot of changes. Jeff started practice on a set of used tires, which is normal. You want to see how the car is handling at first before putting a new set of tires on, which are quite expensive. With the old set, the rear end of the car kept walking out – think Tokyo drift style in Fast & the Furious – something you do not want to happen because the cement wall on the outside, hurts. The team was able to make adjustments and tighten everything back down to race ready machine.

Qualifying – Show ‘em What You’re Made Of

Qualifying is the process of each racecar going out on the track and running four laps. The fastest lap time is where the driver falls in the qualifying order.

Mother Nature played a little trick on us and qualifying was delayed thanks to a some thunderstorms which rolled through the area.

Jeff turned his 3 laps and qualified 20th:

  • Lap 1: 16:252
  • Lap 2: 16:443
  • Lap 3: 17:392

The fastest lap time was 15:837 in qualifying, so you can see how close those margins are.

However, just because you had the fastest lap time in qualifying, doesn’t mean you start on the front row. Many racetracks, including Berlin Speedway, will invert the qualifying order based on a roll of the dice.

Example: You were the 6th fastest qualifying car. The track rolls a dice which lands on 6, you get to start on the front row, the 5th fastest time starts in the 2nd position, 4th in 3rd, etc. and the person who had the fastest qualifying time starts in the 6th position.

We’re an hour from race time, the invert is called and Jeff is starting 20th.

The Most Famous Words in Sports… “Ladies & Gentlemen – Start Your Engines!” 

I’m going to preface this by saying that Money in the Bank is a prestigious race; There were teams from California to New Hampshire (not just coast-to-coast, but a NASCAR Camping World Trucks series driver arrived) who came to win the $20,000 race prize.

The first lap wasn’t even complete when the first wreck happened, right in front of our car. It was definitely an, “Oh, shhh….” moment but we skated through unscathed!

Starting back up, the majority of the race was relatively uneventful. A 150-lap race is a chess match, where we watch to see who is going to use their equipment up and when. We bide our time and watch how our lap times compare against the leader. Jeff was able to ride around and pass various drivers while staying on the lead lap.

A wrench was thrown with 11 laps to go and another caution happened which caused a restart. Packing the group back up always causes for excitement – luckily, all excitement avoided.

The Gate 39 Media/Anthem Ag super late model finished 17th, and most importantly all in one piece.  

The day started at dawn, the checkered flag fell at 9:45 pm and we are on the road headed back to the eastside of Michigan by 11:20 pm EST.

And while today is a day fueled by caffeine, it’s all worth it to see the Gate 39 Media and Anthem Ag logos on the track!

On to the next one – Flat Rock, Michigan for the VanDoorn Racing Development 100 on June 19th, and the Gate 39 Media and Anthem Ag story is getting very exciting…

Let’s talk about getting your marketing results into the winner’s circle. Discover how Gate 39 Media supportsagribusinesses clientsthroughinbound marketingandcustom agricultural technology solutions.

Contact Gate 39 Mediaor set up a call with me (Kaitlin Vrsek) to learn more. 

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