It was typical September day, and Susquehanna Speedway owner Scott Gobrecht just finished a meeting with the employees of his family-owned business, Golf Cart Services.
Gobrecht checked his phone and noticed he had a missed call from Dean Berkheimer, one of the owners of BAPS Auto Paints and Supply and a major sponsor at the racetrack.
It was an unexpected call. Gobrecht and speedway general manager Kolten Gouse just finished a lunch meeting with Berkheimer, Sharon Hogue and Austin Hogue, and it seemed like all topics were addressed.
Gobrecht dialed Berkheimer up, and then came the shock. Like a two-ton sledgehammer to the chest. So much so, that the speedway owner teared up … and it wasn’t in a bad way.
Berkheimer was letting Gobrecht know that BAPS was on board to purchase the naming rights to Susquehanna Speedway. Two months of ironing out the logistics on a five-year deal with a five-year option followed, and BAPS Motor Speedway was born.
The landmark deal makes the Newberrytown facility the lone dirt track in the East with corporate involvement through naming rights and only the third in the entire country. The other two are Lucas Oil Speedway and Kenny Schrader’s Federated Auto Parts Speedway at I-55, both of which are in Missouri.
“I feel so blessed,” Gobrecht said. “It really puts us in a good spot with the five-year commitment from a company like BAPS. It gives us the stability that we need to do things over the next couple of years.
“We can plan for things knowing we have that commitment year one through five. We can do things for our race teams, our employees, and our fans.”
The funny thing about the conception of this partnership is that Gobrecht, originally, thought BAPS was scaling back its involvement at the speedway in 2018.
That was the initial tone of the lunch meeting. But after Gobrecht and Gouse laid out their future plans and vision for the speedway, Berkheimer and Sharon Hogue brought up naming rights.
“When they came to the table, they weren’t going to do much more than they did in the past, and maybe even go back a tick,” Gobrecht said. “Once they saw some of the things we had in the works, it’s like the flood gates opened.
“The notion of the naming rights came out, and we sort of talked about a number, and they said, ‘let’s think about it.’ It wasn’t more than an hour or two, and they called me. I called them back, and Dean went through what he wanted to do for 2018, and at the top of the list was changing the name to BAPS Motor Speedway.”
BAPS is a third generation, family-owned company with over 50 years in the paint distribution business. In 1979, the company shifted its focus from a residential painting business to an automotive paint and supplies distributor.
Berkheimer and BAPS have also been involved heavily in racing through sponsorship of races and cars in central Pennsylvania. That combined with servicing body shops in the industry led to a deal that made sense.
“I looked at the different classes at Susquehanna Speedway, and with those classes, the owners of those cars already own body shops or are affiliated with body shops in some sort of fashion,” Berkheimer said. “They all purchase materials from me.
“We came up with a dollar figure that the people who own body shops and own race cars spend, and they buy $2 million worth of products from us a year. We really wanted to give back to them, and I have a great relationship with Scott. That’s how this was formed.”
But it goes deeper then just servicing customers. Berkheimer and his family believe in what is going on at the speedway.
Gobrecht and Gouse just finished their second year at Susquehanna and have made great strides in putting the speedway back on the map.
After purchasing the facility two years ago, Gobrecht and Co. went to work on a laundry list of improvements, including a new grandstand, fencing, and a new sound system, to name a few.
But it’s Gobrecht and Gouse’s vision and innovation that sealed it for BAPS, a company that preaches integrity, teamwork, innovation, and service to others as its core values.
“Their vision is one of the biggest things that struck something with us,” Berkheimer said. “Scott and Kolten’s vision of what they want Susquehanna to be is a vision that we really like. It’s our vision of what we want our business to be like.
“These visions mirror each other, and they are trying to be the best they can, and they are doing a super, great job at it. The relationship has really connected.”
Said Gobrecht, “What Susquehanna and BAPS do is very much based on community first, and the more we do together, the more we realize the symmetry there. BAPS is turning out to be a truly fantastic partner.
“I think it’s important to emphasize ‘partner,’ because Dean isn’t just a sponsor or someone who bought the naming rights to the speedway, he is a partner. BAPS is a company we want to be involved with for years to come.”
Just because this deal has been finalized doesn’t mean Gobrecht and Gouse are going to sit tight or bask in success. Not by a longshot.
The management team is focused on making BAPS Motor Speedway one of the best dirt tracks in the East. There are more announcements in the coming days, and with BAPS on board, more plans in the future.
“From a standpoint of naming rights, we’re up there, but we still have a lot to do,” Gobrecht said. “From a capital improvement standpoint, we’ve got a lot we want to do. From an event standpoint, we are still trying to make our schedule bigger and better each year.
“We are working with our race teams to give them things we haven’t given them in the past. We want to make BAPS Motor Speedway the best it can be, and we are going to work hard to do just that.”