There's a good chance that many of you have seen the Mr. Gasket Racing Services tractor-trailer at NHRA National Events, or possibly at another large automotive happening. Granted, it's a flashy rolling billboard, but that's certainly not its sole purpose. We were cordially invited inside this giant rig at the season-opening Winternationals. During our visit, we pulled out drawers, looked inside some cabinets, poked around, and learned about the hands-on services offered by this long-standing partner of performance.
Unlike the company's formative years when gaskets were sold from the back of a station wagon, racing support services has become an important extension of Mr. Gasket's marketing and sales program. Aside from the spacious rig we're showing you here, two 45-foot "gooseneck" trailers are also on the road-one to service East Coast events, and another stationed out West. In addition, two privateer contract-haulers are on the go, offering even more support to various car shows and smaller events nationwide. This important program is the responsibility of Ollie Volpe, a racing industry veteran who receives an admirable amount of respect in our close-knit community of speed
The man who's supporting Ollie (and racers nationwide) is Shaun Umphries, a very talented technician, who also happens to be a licensed Alcohol Funny Car driver. Shaun takes care of the actual hands-on racer services. And thanks to Gary Brown, tractor driver and Product Sales Specialist, this traveling road show makes all of its commitments across the USA, and always looks good doing it.
To give you a brief history on some of the Mr. Gasket brands, Mallory has been in business for 77 years, and its founder personally sold points and condensers to Henry Ford. Also, Hays Clutches first became a winner in drag racing back in 1953, helping Calvin Rice put the power to the pavement. Besides those popular names, the family is also comprised of ACCEL/DFI, Erson, Hurst, Lakewood, and of course, Mr. Gasket.
Throughout the season, Product Managers of the various Mr. Gasket brands travel on a rotating schedule, attending four to six events, interacting with enthusiasts, visiting racers, and answering questions about the products. Please note, the trailer does not carry inventory of street-type accessories (like valve covers and such), however, you will find many items of interest, all of which are available for sale to the general public. At times, visitors may even benefit from "show specials," inventory closeouts, or new items being offered for the first time.
This interaction with the parts-buying public also helps spawn new product ideas. Following each event, Product Managers prepare a written report, pointing out the products that show the most interest, along with a "lost sales" list, which demonstrates the need for additional items to stock onboard.
In the back of the trailer, Shaun Umphries can be found testing all styles of Mallory and ACCEL distributors, magnetos, ignition wires and control boxes, as well as fuel pumps. A fuel pump exchange program is available, too, as all pumps are serviced at Mr. Gasket's headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio. Got shifter problems? No problem! Whether you need bushings, clips, sticks, or handles, it's all in stock. And as the company name implies, you'll also find a complete inventory of racing gaskets, including numerous custom part numbers designed for specific "racing-only" applications.
With its fully computerized inventory onboard, every last gasket, fastener, and ignition part sold is downloaded at the Cleveland headquarters, and fresh new parts are shipped to a pre-determined location in preparation for the next stop on the traveling road show. Here's another bit of interesting info to keep under your hat. Shaun Umphries even performs installations for racers, as well as participants at select car shows.
It's not unusual to find him watching a racer leave the starting line to troubleshoot a problem, nor is it strange to see him helping a guy who just finished driving hundreds of miles to attend a major car show. Feel free to stop by the trailer to see the latest products. These guys service everything they sell-and that's good to know.