Locals in the spotlight for NASCAR ads
If the folks in the ads for the upcoming races at Atlanta Motor Speedway look familiar, there's good reason.
Jimmy and Jo Ann Hlavac and Frankie Meadows of Charleston are the main characters in the ads that are appearing on national television as well as such publications as Sports Illustrated and NASCAR Scene. The races are scheduled for this upcoming weekend.
The Hlavacs and Meadows are avid race fans who have been traveling to NASCAR races for some 15 years. Several years ago Jo Ann began a website, Laidbackracing.com which has received more than 1 million hits from fans seeking advice on tailgating and other info about NASCAR races.
She also has written a column on tailgating for NASCAR.com. Jimmy, a mechanic, is the MacGyver of the team, saying if something breaks he can fix it. Meadows owns Frankie's Tires in North Charleston.
'I was in the pits at Bristol this year and this guy recognized me,' Meadows said. 'He said, 'Hey, you're Frankie from Laidback Racing. I love your Web site.' Then he asked me about us doing an ad.'
The person who recognized Meadows was with The Tombras Group out of Knoxville, Tenn., which handles advertising for Bristol, Atlanta and several other tracks. The Laidback Racing crew seemed like a perfect fit for their planned ads.
'They wanted a testimonial from real fans,' Jo Ann Hlavac said. 'The year before they had used paid actors. Charlie Andrews (of The Tombras Group) pitched the idea to Atlanta Motor Speedway and the first time they saw it they sold the ad.'
In August, Beef and Pie Productions out of Austin, Texas, came to Charleston and spent two days shooting the commercial, which features tailgating scenes with the Laidback crew and friends. The commercials were shot at the Hlavacs' James Island home and at Frankie's tire store in North Charleston, where Meadows' pet pig Puck made a guest appearance.
The Laidback Racing crew received 14 tickets for both the fall and spring Atlanta races as payment.
'That was a lot of work. Gosh, I'll never bash another commercial,' Jo Ann said. 'They would do a retake 10 or 12 times. You could tell what was going to make the cut by how many times they made you do it.'