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Overton enjoying company's NASCAR exposure

NASCAR New Hampshire Auto Racing
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Driver Denny Hamlin, wearing a hat bearing the Overton's 301 logo, reacts as he is handed a lobster after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Overton's 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., on Sunday, July 16, 2017.

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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, July 30, 2017

NASCAR fans in Greenville have seen plenty of a recognizable local brand on the track this summer.

Today marks the second time in three weeks that Overton’s, the watersports and marine accessory dealer founded in Greenville in 1976, is the title sponsor for a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event. In addition to the Overton’s 400 that will be run today at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, the company also sponsored the Overton’s 301 race run two weeks ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, as well as a Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series race in that time.

Overton’s has also been featured on the No. 38 Front Row Racing Ford driven by David Ragan on four occasions this season, and will be on the car for today’s race at Pocono.

Involvement in NASCAR is nothing new for Overton’s, which sponsored cars on multiple occasions in the 1990s and early 2000s when it was still owned by its founder, V. Parker Overton. The foray into sponsoring events, though, is a first for the company.

Gander Mountain, which had owned Overton’s since 2007, filed for bankruptcy in March and was purchased in May by Camping World Holdings. When the deal was made for Overton’s to sponsor the Xfinity Series and Cup Series races in New Hampshire earlier this month, Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis — star of the CNBC reality show “The Profit” — reached out to the company’s namesake and asked him if he would be interested in traveling to New Hampshire to serve as grand marshal for both of those events.

As a result, Overton, his wife and son were part of a group that traveled to Loudon, N.H., to serve as the company’s dignitaries for the weekend.

“(Lemonis) asked me if I would go up and be the grand marshal for him to kind of put a face with the name,” Overton said. “It was a great weekend and it’s nice that you’ve got a local, hometown company getting this kind of publicity.”

As grand marshal, not only was Overton tasked with giving the command for drivers to start their engines before each of the races, but he was also on hand for the pre-race driver’s meetings and post-race Victory Lane celebrations. He also got to meet and visit with Ragan before he drove the Overton’s branded car to a 29th-place finish in the Overton’s 301 Cup Series event.

Though Overton has not owned the company in more than a decade, he still owns the real estate on which its headquarters and distribution center sit. That meant venturing up north to promote the brand made business sense, but it also struck a personal chord to see the company with which he shares a name on such a big stage.

“It was mixed emotions, because you owned it and when you own something like that, naturally, you want to continue to promote the brand,” he said. “That was the main reason that I did it was to promote Overton’s.

“At the same time, I’m the landlord. I’d be crazy not to promote my own name,” he added, laughing.

Among the weekend highlights, Overton said, were getting to catch up with team owner Joe Gibbs, who is a personal friend, as well as shaking the hand of each driver as they were introduced prior to the races.

Then, of course, came his main responsibility — giving the famous command, which he decided not to do alone prior to the Cup race.

“They want you say, ‘Drivers, start your engines,’” he said. “On Sunday, I told them, ‘New Hampshire, Overton’s thanks you for your support,’ and then I went on to say, ‘Please, say with me, drivers, start your engines.’ Then, it was like a choir, because I asked the people to say it with me, and it was like a church choir in the background because you could hear the people all yelling it. That was pretty cool.”

Gibbs’ teams swept the weekend, with Kyle Busch winning the Xfinity race and Denny Hamlin getting his first win of the season in the Cup Series race.

Overton was present for Victory Lane festivities on both days, which put him in the crowd that saw Hamlin now-famously scurry away when he was expected to receive the 25-pound lobster that is presented as the winner’s trophy.

“He didn’t want to take it,” Overton said, laughing. “Some of the guys were betting on whether or not he would even take it. Denny did not want to hold that lobster.”

Though Overton will not be in Pocono for today’s event, he noted Overton’s is simply part of a handful of Greenville businesses that draw attention on a major scale.

“We’ve got several companies that get national exposure,” he said. “We’ve not only got Overton’s, but you’ve also got Grady-White Boats here in Greenville, and you’ve got Metrics Pharmaceutical, which is now called Mayne Pharma, that is known all over the world. We’ve got several companies around Greenville like that that get that kind of exposure all the time.”

Contact Jordan Anders at janders@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 or follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.

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