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Fri, 2 Nov 2007, 06:22 PM

Max Naylor and Jagermeister will Part Ways After Pomona
Courtesy of Rachel Kaizoji

Jagermeister Team Will Try to Go Out with a Victory to Close Out a Banner Season

If there were a Most Improved or Sophomore of the Year award in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Max Naylor would be a top contender, if not the hands-down winner. From his rookie season in 2006, no one could have predicted the type of success the Jagermeister Pro Stock team has achieved in 2007. No one except Naylor, and he has made believers out of many in the drag racing world.

Yet despite all their success, his team is preparing to part ways with the sponsor whose banner it has waved relentlessly for the past two years on and off the track. Jagermeister, imported by Sidney Frank Importing Co. Inc., the primary sponsor of Naylor's Hemi Dodge Stratus, will race its final event with Naylor at the Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif.

Known for their outrageous celebrity guests, rocking hospitality tent, and a record number of appearances at restaurants, bars, and other local businesses, Naylor and Jagermeister were a perfect match. With his boundless energy, irresistible personality, and enormous fan base, Naylor and his team promoted Jagermeister at every possible opportunity, spreading the love for the popular liqueur all over the country while giving race fans the opportunity to join the party.

When negotiations began for the 2008 season, Jagermeister was certain it wanted to continue with the team, but under different terms and with less support than in the past two seasons. Faced with the choice of downgrading his operation, cutting back on his famous hospitality area, or running a partial season, Naylor decided to decline the offer and seek a full sponsorship agreement that would allow his team to grow and build on its newfound success.

"We've had a great relationship with Jager and wish them all the best. I appreciate the opportunity they gave me and the chance they took on my team two years ago. When they signed with us, we were unproven, and I can't say enough about how much we've enjoyed working together. Their company and my team truly wanted to continue the relationship, but we couldn't come to an agreement that would give us all the resources we would need for the 2008 season, so we amicably agreed to part ways," said Naylor.

"I want to keep this operation first-class and don't have any desire to cut back or take anything away from my team or the fans. We are actively searching for a new primary sponsor, and I know we have a lot to offer to the right company," he added.

Naylor's 2007 season has proven his status as a true contender in the class. Qualifying at 20 of 22 events, he also boasts two No. 1 qualifying positions at back-to-back races: the historic Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis and the O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park, where he also set a track e.t. record. In addition to qualifying on a consistent basis, he has taken out some of the sport's biggest stars in elimination rounds this season, including an exciting win over Kurt Johnson's Hulk Hogan-themed Cobalt at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals last weekend.

The competition has taken notice, and Naylor's team is one that is no longer taken lightly. In only his second full season, his young team has learned quickly and shown its potential by outperforming many veteran teams. A former track owner and operator in New Buffalo, Pa., Naylor hired two of his former track employees to work on his team. His wife, Jane, a seasoned businesswoman with a marketing and customer-service background, took on the role of team manager. The rest of his team is made up of close and trusted friends he has known for many years who genuinely care about him and think of him as much more than their employer. Their mutual loyalty is evident, as Naylor's team has had a turnover rate of zero during the past two seasons.

After his team members left the track, you would rarely find them back at their hotel; they were constantly running to their next gig, promoting sponsors at local establishments, through concert appearances, and using practically every night of the race event to personally connect with locals. Naylor has said that one of his favorite parts of racing is meeting the fans and converting new ones along the way.

As Naylor and the Jagermeister Pro Stock team prepare to close out their season, they can look back on the breakthrough and whirlwind they have experienced and created. In only his second season as a Professional driver and team owner, Naylor has left an indelible mark on and off the track. Next season, fans looking for the Jager trailer may have a slightly difficult time finding Naylor in his new colors, still yet to be determined, but if sheer will, loyalty, and hard work are they keys to continued success, you can bet that Naylor will be back.

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