Ron Miles (left), vice president, Distribution White-Rodgers relaxes with Chip Barmeier, president of Mechanical Supply, a St. Louis-area wholesale and supply company. Miles and Barmeier were attending a reception for White-Rodgers distributors and contractor customers during a Richard Petty Driving Experience in July.

MADISON, Ill. - The Richard Petty Driving Experience wheeled into the St. Louis area to the delight of nearly 100 White-Rodgers contractor customers. Emerson Climate has scheduled numerous successful NASCAR driving experiences with the Richard Petty group over the years, and certainly during 2010, but the White-Rodgers crew made sure this event would be one to be remembered.

The general meeting commenced with an evening reception that consisted of a brief product introduction, but a lot more time was devoted to “rookie drivers” talking track smack to anybody who would listen.

HVAC contractors and distributors from Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, and Iowa came to the Hilton St. Louis Downtown for a presentation that primarily focused on how Emerson Climate Technologies can help contractors be more efficient and build their bottom-line profits. Ken Perkins, the evening’s pit crew boss for the White-Rodgers team, said, “We are going to spend a little time talking about how we can work and help each other, but mostly we want to hear what you folks are going to do on the track tomorrow.”

Perkins did talk about the First Choice Rewards program offered by White-Rodgers. The program also includes other Emerson Climate Technology companies. The purpose is to help contractors become more successful and profitable as they promote and sell Emerson Climate products. Contractors can redeem program points for a choice of HVACR tools, software, hardware, golf clubs, or vacation packages, to name a few.

As the reception moved into the later hours of the evening, some of the racing bravado and smack talk was recorded on film (see this week’s Video Spotlight at Following are a few of the comments heard from the hot shot drivers:

“I’m going to be driving as fast as I need to get the job done. Well, there is a little competition going on between me and some of the guys at the shop, so whatever it takes.”
- Shaun Tarrilion
Scott-Lee Heating
St. Louis, Mo.

On the front row (left to right), Zach Silverstein of Academy Air, Joel Sigman of Sigman Heating and Air, and Jim Smith of Jansen’s Heating & Air, anxiously await driving instructions. The entire group attended about 90 minutes worth of entertaining education by the Richard Petty Driving Experience team before getting behind the wheel of a NASCAR race car.

“As fast as that thing will go with the pedal all the way down.”
- Andy McKean
AllYear Heating
Olathe, Kan.

“I’m gonna go fast. I’ll probably be in the middle of the pack, but I’m gonna look good.”
- Dan Haire
Jim’s Heating and Cooling
Washington, Mo.

“I should be able to top 140 mph. I’d like to get about 160 but that might be pushing the limits. I’ve done that in a car on the road, so I figure why can’t you do that much on a track with all that extra horsepower?”
- Joel Sigman
Sigman Heating and Air
Belleville, Ill.

Greg Polce (left), director Distribution Marketing White-Rodgers and Flynn McCormick of McCormick Service, Urbana, Ill., were caught talking some race track smack just prior to suiting up for the NASCAR driving experience. Approximately 50 people took part in the Rookie Driving Experience, and a like number participated in the Ride Alongs at the track.

“As fast as the car will let me go. It depends on how they’ve got it dialed up; but with that track, probably about 120 mph.”
- Clark Arras
Arras Air
Imperial, Mo.

All the race talk was in good fun and the attendees at the White-Rodgers event enjoyed the Friday night reception, as some even shared a few good HVAC stories among themselves.

Steve Miles of Jerry Kelly Heating and A/C, a St. Louis company, did take a break from the race talk that filled the hotel to offer kudos to the White-Rodgers team. “We have worked with White-Rodgers and have been pleasantly surprised at how attentive they have been to our needs, and what we tell them about our business.” He told his fellow contractors, “You can count on these guys to do what they tell you they are going to do.”

Mike Kuhlenberg said, “They do a great job. It’s the best thing that’s happened to our business in a long time; they are a great group to work with.”

(left to right) Aaron Godwin, and his father Geoff Godwin, vice president marketing White-Rodgers talk racing strategy with Craig Johnson, president White-Rodgers. They were at the Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., awaiting the start of the Richard Petty Racing Experience.


The Richard Petty Driving Experience consists of two parts: the Rookie Driving Experience (eight laps) and Ride Alongs (three laps).

The Rookie Driving Experience is the driving program; after about 90 minutes of instruction nearly 50 participants took turns behind the wheel of a NASCAR vehicle. Speeds are determined on an individual’s ability to handle his or her race car at high speed. Top speeds on Saturday at the Gateway International Speedway in Madison sometimes hit 140 mph in the straightaway. The White-Rodgers participants followed a professional driver in a pace car, who flashed signals to the trailing car which was required to maintain a three-car distance. If the rookie drivers could maintain the proper spacing behind the pro driver, then the track speeds increased. Red meant slow down, and green meant speed up. Surprisingly, the green light was flashing much more often than one might have thought. The straightaway speeds for all drivers generally looked fast, but the high speed turns took a little getting used to, and many drivers tended to brake too soon before going into the turns, thus reducing their average speeds.

The Ride Alongs were not intended for the feint of heart; track speeds actually topped 140 mph, as the pro drivers had no inhibitions about burning rubber low into the turns of the mile and a half Gateway track, commonly referred to in NASCAR-speak as a short track.

At the end of the day, the fastest of the rookie drivers was recognized for his efforts. The fastest lap time of the day was posted by the unassuming Clark Arras, at 121 mph, just one mile different than his projected speed.

Publication date:11/01/2010