Categories
XFINITY

ASHLEY ASKS…… Tony Loiacono

Being able to put together good marketing in racing has always been a question asked by all involved, and a new approach may be the right solution for some. For the first time in NASCAR history, a trade using crypto currencies on the blockchain will sponsor a racecar.

A new form of crypto currency, CONO, will be featured on Brandon Brown‘s No. 86 Chevrolet for the Powershares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway. He’ll also feature True Timber, Kappa Live and The Dan Marino Foundation through the partnership.

Recently, CONO’s Founder Tony Loiacono spoke about the sponsorship, CONO, and more with POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: What does it mean for you to partner with Brandon Brown for Daytona?

TONY LOIACONO: It means that – I look at it from the fact that I’ve been involved with trades for awhile. I believe in concept in trades.

This young man who has done some wonderful things growing up. I call him a young gun. I tell him, “Brandon, you’re a young gun and you have some unique things that you’re going to bring to this sport.” The young man has a background where he started in karts and was a champion in dirt car racing, as well as the American Kart Association. He has run up front in the fourth position in running at Daytona before. He’s got the ability to stay focused. He’s just a wonderful young man. He reminds me of a young man that provides something that I can call defining success throughout the young tenor of his life. I think that is something, and the reason we got involved with Brandon.  

PS: Why do you feel NASCAR is the right fit for CONO?

TONY: Well, first of all, they’re the most loyal fans there are. There’s nobody more loyal than them.

Second, we believe there’s a unique opportunity to provide the fans with something new. The crypto currency side of the business is new and refreshing the attention of the young generation. Right now, NASCAR has a quite an older demographic and that older demographic is not the sustainable in the long time. So I look at it that I love the sport of NASCAR and believe in the opportunity to get the younger generation involved.

To be candid with you, they can own part of a car. We can encourage the younger generation to get engaged by being part owner of a car. There’s nothing better than to have a personal partnership with a driver and car. Our strategy is to allow to the consumers that get involved with CONO to participate regularly by earning points while sharing, and engaging on social media – that’s the real part of what we are. We want to enjoy people for enjoying a sport, while at the same time providing something where they feel more personally involved.

Lastly, and most importantly from my standpoint, is about defining success and trying to encourage people to see the personal side and behind the scenes side – and in this case, Brandon Brown. 

PS: How’d you come up with the idea of CONO?

TONY: I actually started it with EquiFax and Cisco, and virtual currencies in 2010. We did proof of concepts of using digital currencies in the hyper-grid, testing how to use the currencies to motivate and engage consumers.

PS: For those who may be going what’s crypto currency, what’s the basics of it?

TONY: It’s designed to work as a mechanism of exchange. It provides the ability to create and trade a valuable item, no matter what the item is. It could be your points that you have from American Airlines, your Club Card that you trade in points, down to trading with Bit Coins. So our strategy is to look at what we can tokenomics of providing the ability to let people trade for almost anything of value. So, crypto currency simply stated is an alternative currency and allows us to provide opportunity for public transactions.

PS: Looking three to five years from now, what do you see for the future of CONO?

TONY: Right now, the blockchain is like railroad tracks with loose transactions. I’m going to give you a summary, but I think it will help you. Today, when you want to transfer money from me to you, you have to go to a bank and do a wire transfer and that fund will be transferred. In the future, transactions will be between people. So the blockchain is like a set of railroad tracks between people that gives you a historical ledger, a secure way to transfer tokens. That railroad track as it continue to be used to move transactions, trade value on a regular basis, little cities will be born with that.

So now we have railroad tracks like when they were laid at first, but just like the 1800s, they weren’t all connected. Well, what’s happening is crypto currencies and business as a whole are building off of the block train because of the security and strength of a historical transaction ledger, along with the ability to be anonymous.

One thing I want to add – these transactions are now between people, rather than the banks, and the railroad tracks are like a bullet train. It’s so fast and so quick and so accurate. So instead of a steam engine going down the tracks, it’s a bullet train. It provides the ability to move transactions safely, and secure.

Think about this – we’re helping the Dan Marino Foundation spread awareness about autism and empower people that have it, as the foundation speaks of. But instead of having to use administrative dollars to make these money transactions happen, you can start cutting it from a 96% that goes to the charity to 99% because of the cost of transaction fees becomes less and less. I see an opportunity with supporting charities; it’s a big thing of what we’re doing. We’re building awareness of how to use the blockchain transactions and allow point transactions or our tokens as a value exchange.

It doesn’t matter what it is. So as I move forward down the next five years, I think it’ll become like what a paypal is on the CONO side.

PS: You have a big background in advertising. What sparked your interest to get involved in that industry?

TONY: Actually, I’ve worked for Verizon Innovation Centers and Cisco. They call me a translator. Technology is so difficult to understand today. They are hundreds of different types of technology that have entered the marketing teams from the stand point of availability to use. The problem is understanding everything. So I became the translator in taking what the IT Department talks about with all of the technology words, and I turned it into simple speaking. We’re a place where we trade valuable items – that is. I take it and make it so you can understand, like I did for you with the railroad tracks. But there is limited number of consumers that understand the blockchain and what even bitcoin is.

I’m coming into this industry and doing exactly what I did with Upper Deck. In 1989 when I came to Upper Deck, the trading cards were only sold in hobby stores. I came into that company and we took it from $14 million when I came in to over $302 million in three and a half years because I focused on the consumer. I see the opportunity in blockchain, and the crypto currency in the same way that it was in 1989 with Upper Deck. We have the ability to instead of trading cards, to trade crypto currencies. We need to educate the consumer on why this is safe, secure, and a new way to make transactions.   

PS: For drivers looking for sponsorship – coming from the other side as someone who works in advertising, what’s your advice to them?

TONY: I’m a brand and content guy, been for years. Whether a Fortune 500 company or not, they’re all looking for branded content. I think there is an opportunity in NASCAR like never before. Give the NASCAR fans to share about. In today’s world of social media that everybody has a television in their hand, they want to know the behind the scenes. They want to know why I should care about this driver. What are we doing to personalize it? Let me know him a little bit more than I can just see on TV, because now I can communicate with my fan base instantaneously through several different mediums.

That’s what the audience is looking for. Give me a reason to care for Brandon Brown. I’m going to give you a reason. We don’t want to be between the news; we want to be in the news sharing the wonderful things about Brandon – integrity, and looks for reasons to be a hero someday to someone. We believe there’s an opportunity to personalize the behind the scenes of every driver.

I’ll give you an example of something else that I feel is important. My marketing side has seen me in trades my whole career. I started out Heads and Tails, my agency, and we have that name all based on a coin. I believe in the trading concept as a whole. One of the campaigns with Michael Jordan was called “Trade Jordan” in 1992. Michael was on the block to potentially be traded. David Falk, who was his agent, came to see and we signed an eight-figure deal with Michael Jordan in 1991.

We said we wanted to do something different to bring attention and not be in the hobby stores, but rather the mass retail. So what we did is Michael was going to be traded and at that particular point, we went into Chicago in this market, and we put billboards all over Chicago. It just came up and said “Trade Jordan” – that’s all it said. For the first five days, that’s all it said. The radios all started going, “Who wants to trade Jordan? Who wants Jordan?” On Wednesday night, we went and changed that billboard from saying just “Trade Jordan” to “Trade Jordan. Only in Upper Deck” and showed a picture of Michael dunking a basketball. It turned the corner. It made the consumer that we were doing something creative and fun, and our sales with basketball skyrocketed.

I see some of those components in engaging people. People like to trade and be involved in something they can engage in. Now, we’re trying to bring that age down of the NASCAR consumer, so let’s do something that shows these younger audiences that they can be part of a car. They can actually have tokens that are featured on the car, to build awareness and excitement and engagement.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement

Categories
Trucks

Brandon Brown Hoping for Strong Martinsville Run

Martinsville Speedway is a home race for Brandon Brown in a sense and he’s hoping for a strong showing in Saturday’s Alpha Energy Solutions 250.

The Woodbridge, Virginia native will be making his third Martinsville appearance and 22nd NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start on Saturday. He had a fast truck in Friday’s lone practice session, posting a lap of 20.721 seconds on scuff tires.

“I feel really good about this weekend,” Brown told Popular Speed.  “We brought the backup truck that I always call Wise.  It’s got a lot of experience.  It’s a little older truck but it still holds its own.  That was shown yesterday in practice.  The first run out of the gate, the first 28 cars, we were sitting seventh for quite some time.  Fighting there in the top-10.  Our timesheet didn’t show what the truck had because we never mocked up for a sticker run like a lot of the other drivers did so, I think we ended up 24th overall on the timesheet.

“We were consistently running where a lot of people were setting their fast laps and I think that’s going to be crucial today, especially with the really long final segment, trying to squeeze out everything you can, staying out as late as you can fuel wise and tire wise to try to get a chance to take home some checkers.”

Along with a quick truck, Brown has a lot of support after a social media campaign kicked off during the week.  The Twitter handles for 680 fans are represented on the bed of his No. 44 Brandonbilt Motorsports truck.

“We did a huge push this week on social media,” Brown explained.  “Honestly, we started the tweets and all our social media really because we were doing a fundraiser for Relay for Life.  We were trying to build a little bit of a following on the page so we decided that it was time to give back to the fans and really show some love since they’re showing love for us.  So, we decided that we would draw a lucky handful of names out of people who retweeted and favorited and followed our page and a lucky 680 names were picked and are laid across the bed of the truck this weekend.

“It really blew up huge.  We had a couple big names who supported it.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. retweeted it, Michael Waltrip, Bristol Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway.  A couple big Twitter accounts helped on that push.  I’d like to thank them.  Other than that, it was great to get a lot of great feedback and responses on that.”

Brown has run periodically in the Truck Series for the past three seasons, with a career best finish to-date of fourth last February at Daytona.  He is also running some NASCAR XFINITY Series events, with a best finish of 23rd in four starts.

“We’re definitely looking to start running XFINITY now,” Brown said.  “The truck efforts have been really good and it’s been really fun but the goal is to eventually move out so we’re just starting out part-time with one car.  We’re partnered up with King Autosport and Mario Gosselin this year to try and make some starts, get some seat time, race against the drivers, feel it out, feel out the series and what it would take.  I think we’ve been really successful with that so far with Atlanta this season but we’re getting ready and preparing for Richmond International Raceway which is another home Virginia track for us.

The XFINITY effort won’t take Brown away from trucks, though, with plans for more races.

“I know our next actual race we’re going to run is Charlotte in the trucks,” Brown remarked.  “We do have a test session coming up at Charlotte which I’m excited about because it will be our first time getting to go out and just test, feel things out and study.  Really looking forward to that and building into a program that could possibly turn into full time.”

Beyond NASCAR, Brown hopes to return to Martinsville for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, an event he has attempted four times previously. As of now, he has not found an open seat, despite past success at Old Dominion Speedway and Southern National Motorsports Park, but is still hoping to compete in the $25,000-to-win race.

“I was really trying to,” Brown commented.  “I was reaching out to a lot of people to see if anybody had an open seat.  It’s hard, everyone wants to be out here because now it’s going to be run under the lights which is huge, it’s historic for this track, so I think everybody’s that’s anybody is going to be here.  I’m still holding out hope that there’s a possibility that we can get into it.  I guess we’ll really see who has an open seat.”

The Alpha Energy Solutions at Martinsville Speedway will go green at 3pm EST and can be seen live on Fox and Fox Sports Go.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andy.marquis@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Martins Motorsports, Brandonbilt Motorsports Form Partnership

In an effort to make their program stronger, Martins Motorsports has formed a partnership with Brandonbilt Motorsports for the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races.

“It just makes a lot of sense for everyone involved,” said team owner Craig Martins. “I got to know Jerry Brown pretty well last year, and talked about partnering up for this season. It’s a couple of small teams working together.”

For Martins, it allows them to relieve some of the financial stress for the full year as they had been finding it difficult to find funding for the full season.

The team already confirmed that Brandon Brown will be behind the wheel of the No. 44 Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway, with “select other races to be determined on the schedule.”

Brown confirmed to PopularSpeed.com last month that he would be running Martinsville, Charlotte, Eldora and Martinsville this season in the truck series, along with 10 XFINITY Series races, for Brandonbilt Motorsports. Whether they’re included in this deal is yet to be seen.

“I’m really excited for that,” Brown told POPULAR SPEED in January. “I think it’ll be very good for us because the truck races that they’re planning on are all tracks that I enjoy, especially Martinsville. I’ve never had any luck there; I’ve always had a black cloud over me for some reason. But it seems to be one of the tracks I enjoy, want to have success at – but it’s been an adventure each there. I’m excited for those as I don’t think the competition has backed down. I think it’s just new names to fill the numbers, but still, there will be strong teams to compete against.

“I’m excited to race against Myatt Snider. I saw that he’s moving up. I used to race against him in late models, and he was always a driver I respected and always clean and fun to race against, very competitive. So I’m very excited for that, and I really feel with all the things that we took from last year and learned, we’ll be able to run well in the truck series.”

This past season in the truck series, Brown entered 13 races, posting five top-20 finishes, including a fourth-place finish in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

“Racing in the truck series is as competitive as it ever has been because of a lot of big young talent, and big funded teams in there,” he said. “It was pretty tight racing all the way through. It didn’t matter where we were; you had to earn your positions. I think there was a lot of finishes that we had that I was disappointed in because I really feel my team performed better than the finish. Like I said, we have to minimize on our mistakes.”

Despite the arrangement for Brown to run Daytona, Tommy Joe Martins also confirmed he will be in the field for the event as well.

“I got an offer that was too good to pass up,” Tommy Joe said. “Still haven’t released the details on it, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to do that this week. Really excited for this opportunity, and I think my fans will be as well.

Not going to lie, it’s going to be weird seeing Brandon in the 44. Not sure how good it’s going to look in those teal colors. And it’s going to be strange not hearing Kevin Eagle’s voice in the radio – we went through a lot together last year. But I know Brandon is a good driver. He ran a great race down in Daytona last year. He’s going to give them a shot for a great finish. I know the guys are looking forward to working with him.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Brown Looks to Rid of Mistakes, Focus on Communication in 2017

After a solid season in the Camping World Truck Series, Brandon Brown is set to make the next step in the career as he will run a partial XFINITY Series schedule in 2017.

“I think that it’s going to be fun,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I’m really looking forward to it, actually. It’s going to be a pretty difficult step, especially this year with a lot of Cup teams actually starting their own XFINITY programs or expanding on them. A lot of good talent out of the truck series is coming up to this level, so it’s going to be interesting for sure. I’m very much looking forward to it. I think it’ll be a fun challenge, and set the platform for it to be much sweeter to have success.”

Currently, the schedule for Brown and Brandonbilt Motorsports consists of Atlanta Motor Speedway (March 4), Richmond International Raceway (April 29), Dover International Speedway (June 3), Pocono Raceway (June 10), Kentucky Speedway (July 7), Bristol Motor Speedway (Aug. 18), Richmond (Sept. 8), Kentucky (Sept. 23), Charlotte Motor Speedway (Oct. 6) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 18). Out of the races he is set to run this year, he states he’s most looking forward to getting to Dover due to the short track feel and the fact it’s more about the driver versus the equipment.

There is also the possibility of adding the XFINITY Series season opener at Daytona to the schedule, but Brown admits they’re “on the fence about it” in waiting to see if their speedway car will be ready.

“With a lot of these cup teams that are moving up, it’s not as easy,” he said. “A lot of these builders have decided they’re going to cater towards the cup teams a little more, so it makes it harder for us to find decent cars that won’t put us out of the sport, money-wise. I’m still in the same spot. I’ll know definitely sometime early next week or next weekend.”

Brown made his XFINITY Series debut last year, posting 29th place finish at Richmond International Speedway. He then followed it up a 25th at Kansas Speedway and 31st at Talladega Superspeedway. Brown says he learned a lot during those limited starts, enjoying the XFINITY Series driving style wise as they put it back into the driver’s hand, versus being very aero-dependent as the trucks are.

“I did learn that the competition in the XFINITY Series, though very comparable to the truck series, the way the guys race in the top-five in the truck series is how the XFINITY Series from first to 20th,” he said. “Minimum mistakes if any, all the teams are on top of their games, so it shows we have to be as well. Going to Richmond, just learning how these guys handle their driving style and how these guys race each other and respect for each other, it was a lot to take in during a weekend but super beneficial.”

This past season in the truck series, Brown entered 13 races, posting five top-20 finishes, including a fourth-place finish in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

“Racing in the truck series is as competitive as it ever has been because of a lot of big young talent, and big funded teams in there,” he said. “It was pretty tight racing all the way through. It didn’t matter where we were; you had to earn your positions. I think there was a lot of finishes that we had that I was disappointed in because I really feel my team performed better than the finish. Like I said, we have to minimize on our mistakes. There were a lot of races where we had to deal with mechanical issues – radio failure, battery failure – and you have to come down pit road and change a battery, it takes some time. I lost two or three laps at Bristol because we lost the battery.”

With those thoughts in mind, Brown is keeping the goals in check going into this year. He says they’re looking to minimize mistakes while focusing on communication.

“I feel our program is very strong and people know easily we’re a top-20, top-15 car,” Brown said. “If we could just get rid of those few mechanical mistakes that cost us a lap through the race, I feel we can have even stronger results.”

Despite the change in series, there will be familiarity around Brown with crew chief Adam Brenner returning for another year, along with a bunch of the crew members.

“It’s very beneficial in many ways,” he said. “There’s some downsides, but there’s more positives that’ll help it work. Being familiar with Adam and working with him – he knows my style, I know his and we know how to communicate to each other. In situations that are stressful, we know how to figure it out in a very efficient way. So working with him as a crew chief – he’s a very good leader – it’s very helpful to have a familiar face when things get a little harder, or you know stress comes about, or when it gets to the stressful part of the weekend in just trying qualifying to race.”

With the XFINITY Series schedule in place, Brown isn’t set to leave the Truck Series totally behind yet, though, as he will run four truck events this year – Martinsville Speedway (April 1), Charlotte (May 19), Eldora Speedway (July 19) and Martinsville (Oct. 28).

“I’m really excited for that,” Brown said. “I think it’ll be very good for us because the truck races that they’re planning on are all tracks that I enjoy, especially Martinsville. I’ve never had any luck there; I’ve always had a black cloud over me for some reason. But it seems to be one of the tracks I enjoy, want to have success at – but it’s been an adventure each there. I’m excited for those as I don’t think the competition has backed down. I think it’s just new names to fill the numbers, but still, there will be strong teams to compete against.

“I’m excited to race against Myatt Snider. I saw that he’s moving up. I used to race against him in late models, and he was always a driver I respected and always clean and fun to race against, very competitive. So I’m very excited for that, and I really feel with all the things that we took from last year and learned, we’ll be able to run well in the truck series.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.