- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 10, 2004

Dressed in a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, his cap on backward, Alex Meshkin bears little resemblance to other NASCAR team owners.

That’s what Larry McReynolds thought when the former crew chief was approached last spring by Meshkin and asked to join Bang Racing, now a fledgling team in the Craftsman Truck series.

“I asked him, ‘Where’s your dad? Your dad must be the one who’s going to do this deal,’” McReynolds recalled.

Little did he know this was a 23-year-old whiz kid who six years earlier took some money his parents put aside for college and made a few million sitting at his computer trading stocks.

“I was able to [turn] it into a little bit of wealth and start my own company,” said Meshkin, whose Bang Technology Software affiliate is based in Bombay, India. He also heads a merchandising company and Nutzz.com, which rewards consumers for the use of products in a manner similar to retailers giving frequent flyer miles.

The two-truck team is costing Meshkin nearly $15million a year, and he expects the operation to be profitable by 2007. That’s the fast lane in a sport where sponsorship can be tough to maintain.

But super salesman Meshkin isn’t concerned. His teams, with series champion Travis Kvapil and former Cup driver and Craftsman champion Mike Skinner, are backed by Toyota and EBay among others.

Meshkin laughs when asked about his attempt to become a racer.

“I always wanted to be involved in racing since I was a little kid,” said Meshkin, who briefly campaigned a formula car. “I prefer the ownership side. I think I’ll just stick with what I do well.”

To McReynolds, who owns a small share of the team, Meshkin stands out because of his “passion” for the sport.

“Every other business I’ve been involved in, the excitement to me was when I could sell it to make money,” Meshkin said. “For this, I don’t care how much they offer me, I wouldn’t sell it.”

In fact, he plans to expand to the Busch series and eventually to Nextel Cup. The truck teams are just the foundation of his racing program.

Meshkin knew he wouldn’t have much credibility without bringing aboard a high-profile racing figure. So he targeted McReynolds, and was persistent when first rebuffed.

“I wasn’t really interested in talking to him,” said McReynolds, Dale Earnhardt’s former crew chief and a TV racing analyst. “Since I stepped off the pit box at the end of 2000, I’ve had 30 or 40 people come at me. I always had the feeling that they were looking for someone with a magic wand in their back pocket to wave over the race team and try to fix it. Even though I won 23 Cup races as a crew chief, I lost 447. So, obviously, I don’t have a magic wand.”

Finally, Meshkin sold McReynolds on the team and then sold him a piece of it.

“He’s an awfully good salesman,” McReynolds said. “And he knows how to go out and get those sponsors.”

With McReynolds as vice president of racing, Meshkin is able to concentrate almost solely on the business side of the operation. Part of that is pairing sponsors and trucks.

Skinner’s effort is backed by Toyota and Kvapil’s chief sponsor is Line-X, a spray-on bedliner for pickup trucks. Meshkin secured them and is confident his acumen as a salesman will eventually allow Bang to field about a half-dozen teams spread through NASCAR’s top three divisions.

“Our goal is to be the best and the biggest,” Meshkin said. “We’re not modest here.”

Fruition of his plan would put Bang at the level of Hendrick Motorsports or Roush Racing, the biggest operations in the sport. Meshkin believes that’s attainable because he expects to hold sponsorship by giving backers a fair return on their investment.

“That’s why sponsors come into the sport and are gone in a few years,” he explained. “We need to keep them by doing what’s right for them and the race team.”

Meshkin, now 24, says being young hasn’t hurt him in his marketing. Actually, he’s always considered youth an asset.

“Even when I started my first company as an 18-year-old,” Meshkin said. “People would look at me and figure, ‘I want to hear what this kid has to say.’”

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