This article was originally printed in the PERFORMANCE RACING INDUSTRY magazine in September of 1996. We would like to thank PRI and their editor John Kilroy for allowing us to reprint parts of this article on our web page.
They're racing down in Louisiana, and CLAUSEN RACING is capitalizing on the boom! Within a 3 1/2 hour drive of the Clausen family's retail store in Independence , there are 25 race tracks, with several proposals for new racing facilities being considered.
Not only are there more racers, but the racers are spending more, according to Floyd Clausen. "They're spending 35% more than they spent last year...easily."
"It amazes me some of the sales we make," said Clausen. "They're upgrading. They're buying better parts...And a lot of new cars are being built. It's surprising."
The growing sales for Clausen Racing, located about 50 miles north of New Orleans, are the result of a decision Clausen made about four years ago to sell racing equipment out of his grocery store. Today, the Clausens still have two aisles of groceries, but the rest of the 5,800-square-foot facility is packed with hardcore racing merchandise, with more in storage.
Involved in drag racing in earlier years as the owner of a race car and a engine, Clausen decided to get back into the sport several years ago but chose circle track racing instead. "I talked to a friend that I used to drag race against," Clausen explained. "He said, 'You know drag racing is more technical now.' He said it's not as much fun."
The friend recommended circle track racing, so Clausen bought a Camaro street stock car and went racing Friday nights at Baton Rouge Raceway and Saturday nights at Spillway Speedway in Loranger, both dirt tracks. "My very first time on the track, I said, 'What the heck am I doing out here?'"
After a few years of racing, including time in a late model, Clausen found himself with a supplier of driver safety suits during Daytona's Speedweek. "There's a need for safety equipment in the area. I went to a race one night where a car rolled over and the driver got out of the car and he had on a helmet, a T-shirt, short pants and he was barefoot," said Clausen. "And they said he won the points fund." Clausen made up his mind, and placed an order with RJS.
"I came home and told my wife , 'I guess we're going to start selling race parts too, because I just got a deal and I ordered a bunch of driving suits."
Soon, local racers asked Clausen to stock other product lines for them, and it wasn't long before the racing side took up the whole store. "Business has been unbelievable," he said.
Clausen Racing is a family operation. Floyd's wife, Giovanna, is in charge of advertising, jobber accounts and retail sales. "Ever heard of a right hand? Well, she's both," said Clausen. "She remembers everybody's name, their addresses, their mother-in-laws, and anything that has happened in the family...I told her she's the only person I know who gets orders and personal messages."
Floyd Jr. also works in the sales department along with his wife, Theresa. They also travel to race tracks and trade shows selling parts around the south.
In some ways, the secret to Clausen's success in racing may be no different than his success in the grocery business: inventory. "We keep a lot of inventory. "We don't keep one or two of an item. We keep eight, ten or 20 of them, so that when a customer picks one up, there's another one there," he explained. "If five people want the same thing in one day, you don't have to call anyone."
Whether you're racing a four-banger, a late model or a drag car, Clausen is likely to be your first stop for merchandise. The store also is a valued source of parts for local modified racers. Clausen also offers gift certificates and or prizes for several race tracks and regional traveling series.
"Our drag racing business is picking up on a weekly basis. We haven't advertised our drag racing line," Clausen continued. "Most of it is word of mouth right now, but it's increasing."
"The drag racers seem like they have a little more money to spend than a lot of circle track racers," noted Clausen. He acknowledged that drag racers have an advantage in stretching their racing budgets. They buy a radiator, and if they keep that car, they can run that radiator for three years. A circle track racer comes in buys it Friday, and Monday he might be back for another one. It's happened."
Lines carried by Clausen include MSD, Autometer, Moroso, Aero race wheels, K&N, RJS, RCI, Pro Shocks, AFCO , Longacre, Champion plugs, ARP fasteners, Rebco, McCreary, Hoosier, Mickey Thompson, Holley, Edelbrock, Weiand, Landrum springs, Ram clutches, Powermaster, XRP fittings, Competition Engineering, Comp Cams, Hedman Hedders, Appleton, Wysco, TD Perf. Products, B&M, Wilwood, TWM Racing, UB Machine, Motive Gear, SCE Gaskets, FEL-PRO, NOS, Barry Grant, Demon carburetors, Proform, Simpson, Hypertech, QA1 rod ends and more.
Clausen said he tries to spend time with the reps that call on him, such as Jack Rogers, of Bob Cook Sales. "They give us an awful lot of helpful ideas. And we go over sales strategies with them," he said.
Safety gear is particularly important in Clausen's merchandise mix. "If the dad and mom come in with the son or daughter, I just point blank tell the mom and dad, 'Listen, Don't worry about the motor . Don't worry about the tires. Worry about the safety equipment,'" he said. "that's my number one belief . I guess I've disturbed a few people."
"I've seen in the last three years people upgrading their suits, or at least buying new ones. Before we where here, I saw racers who had owned a suit for 10 years."
Clausen has sold 500 to 600 driver driver suits in three years, including custom suits. The store keeps a display of 100 to 150 suits. A dressing room and mirror are available, also.
Clausen Racing mails out advertising fliers at least three times per year. Part of the success of their direct mail has been the constant development of their mailing list. Clausen also produces their own print catalog for their customers.
One of the most successful events is a free racers swap meet. They hold one the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving , and at least one more the weekend after Mardi Gras. The swap meets are completely free for the racers. Clausen Racing furnishes the space, coffee, soft drinks, hot dogs, and port-a-potty. Racers come from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Florida and Georgia.