There is a lot more to NASCAR than just driving around a banked oval at a high rate of speed.

NASCAR teams have helped raise awareness of everything from Autism and Diabetes to childhood hunger and bike riding.

One of the most visible marketing tools in sports is a decal on a NASCAR car or truck.

At Kentucky Speedway’s NASCAR tripleheader weekend, a program focused on providing a quality Kentucky workforce was one of the recipients of that exposure.

The Northern Kentucky Chapter of the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) and Mubea North America sponsored driver Garrett Smithley in both the NASCAR Truck and Xfinity Series’ races.

KY FAME is a partnership of manufacturers that have teamed up to address the shortage of technically skilled workers needed in advanced manufacturing.

Smithley, a regular on the XFINITY circuit, also benefited by getting extra laps on the new Kentucky Speedway surface and configuration by driving in the Truck race a day earlier.

“The primary goal this weekend was to run the XFINITY, but to get some extra seat time, I also wanted to run the truck series,” Smithley said. “Having Mubea come on board made that possible.”

Smithley, whose mother’s family is from Kentucky, considers the commonwealth a second home. He said it was “really cool” to support an organization like KY FAME and a company like Mubea.

“It’s a chance to help develop the future workforce in Kentucky and hopefully the “United States,” Smithley said. “It’s so important to have a trained workforce and that’s exactly what KY Fame is doing. They are giving kids an opportunity when they get out of school to be successful and have a good life.”

Dennis Dio Parker is co-founder of KY Fame and Assistant Manager, Toyota North American Production Support Center. He said, because the NASCAR tripleheader weekend has such strong support in Kentucky, the sponsorship provided a great opportunity to help raise awareness about the program to its target audience.

“Toyota is a problem-solving company and we perceived a problem because there aren’t enough skilled people to hire and we also need a better talent level. When looking at the problem, we realized the answer was to develop a career pathway that would have best practices at every step and that was the birth of the AMT program, the Advanced Manufacturing Technician program. We brought in a group of employers to be partners with us in this and that’s what KY FAME is.”

Smithley, 24, is in his first full season on the XFINITY Circuit.

Originally from Pennsylvania, moved to Georgia as a youth and began racing Bandoleros and Legends cars as a teenager.

A first generation race car driver he credits his parents R.K. and Bethanie Smithley, and his brother Kurtis Smithley for supporting his dream.

“My dad was a big fan and that’s what got me into it,” Smithley said. “They’ve always been super supportive, but they’ve been realistic. It’s tough because you can’t just rely on your talents, you have to be business savvy, you have to go out and find sponsors, plus, you have to perform out on the track.”

Smithley got picked up by the Richard Petty Driving Experience and did a development program with them in 2010.

“They offered me a job in Charlotte and, as most race fans know, to get into NASCAR, you have to live in the Charlotte area,” Smithley said. “I made that move in 2011 and worked there ever since. I still help them out whenever I can because I wouldn’t be where I am today without that experience.”

He had no idea that a relationship he developed there would lead to a sponsorship at Kentucky Speedway.

Drew Farris, Training Manager at Mubea North America and Northern Kentucky FAME Chapter Vice President, met Smithley through his work with the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

“I met Garrett there and his work ethic and people skills are amazing,” Farris said. “We were trying to find a good advertising and recruitment campaign for KY FAME and I threw Garrett’s name out because of that.”

The Mubea apprenticeship has been successful in its own right, but the company recognizes that the strength of the industry is more important than the success of any one company, so they strongly support KY FAME’s efforts to build a quality workforce.

Mubea sponsored the truck but, at the company’s suggestion, Smithley agreed to wear the KY FAME driving suit.

Northern Kentucky companies with decals on Smithley’s XFINITY car, in addition to Mubea, included Zotefoams, Bosch, Safran and L’Oreal.

“A friendship is building with Northern Kentucky and Garrett Smithley Racing,” Farris said. “He thinks of this as a business and he’s concerned about taking care of the sponsor first, but we’re also a family company and Garrett is a part of our family now.”

Article and photos by Mark Hansel, Managing Editor,  NKyTribune

© 2016 Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education