Pride in Ownership

In late February or early March of 1973, I received my first ever copy of National Dragster in the mail. It was the 2nd part of the Winternationals results and it had Steve Woods’ BB/GS Prefect on the cover. Think it might have made an impression on me? I know I still have it, somewhere.
These days I don’t have time to read every edition of ND, but I wish I did; ND has evolved into a great magazine with fantastic photography and interesting features. One of my favorite parts is the ‘Featured Flyers’ section, which highlights a race car of note from a recent event. And one reason I like it so much is that often the Featured Flyer is a car that I insure. I think I have as much pride in the fact its a client’s car as the client does from owning the vehicle.
You didn’t ask if I’m surprised, and the answer is that I’m not. If anything, I think that even more of my many client’s cars should be featured. While many are regular, ‘working’ cars, just as many are metal sculpture; showpieces. I think this contributes to the fact we’re able to insure these cars against so many risks of loss for a very reasonable amount of money. The fact is that most cars are family members, just like people and pets. They’re kept in trailers that could double as operating rooms or live in garages that look like sets for a car-themed TV show. They’re unique and to an extent irreplaceable. And while they’re insured, their owners simply do not want anything to happen to them. That’s the biggest single factor that helps keep us safe from thieves, crazy drivers on the highways, and an often-upset Mother Nature. It also differentiates us from most other forms of motorsports where its expected you’re going to have a run-in with a wall from time to time (but don’t worry, it will ‘buff out’.) And once again, it contributes to the sense of pride that I get from being associated with the sport of drag racing.
So when you read your ND and see that section and you see your friend’s car there, ask them if they know me. Odds are they just might!

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Summer is no time for slackers!

All over the country, we’re in the heart of racing season.  Even though I’m not racing, between announcing and trying to sell insurance at the track I don’t have many free weekends for a while, and most of my friends who are still racing are busier than I am.  Its crazy when you have several long weekends in a row at the track; there’s barely time to do laundry, much less do your job and all the other stuff that goes with a ‘life.’ 

And its easy to cut corners.  Not check the air pressure in the trailer tires, not do all your normal security measures, not check the hitch and safety chains and wiring.  And all are a recipe for disaster.  The roads in most of the country are a disaster from the horrible winter we had, and your rigs are taking a real beating.  These roads are like severe tire shake on an alcohol car.  Rather than check things less, you should check them more often.  Once you’re at the track, especially, take some time and go through things.  And when you go home, make sure everything is secure in the trailer, and check it often.  We already had a loss this year where a car got loose in the trailer, damaging both.   And that was down South!

A special note on golf carts.  First, consider installing an automotive ignition switch with a real key.  Carts use universal keys and its easy for someone to take yours for a ride.  Second, every cart should have a master kill switch, just like a race car.  Batteries have caught on fire, and carts have accelerated in the trailer, causing damage and fires.  They’re a necessity at the track but they’re as dangerous as a wolverine in your trailer, so do yourself a favor and de-claw yours!

I hope everyone is having fun and I’m looking forward to meeting more people than ever.  I’m hoping to go a bit West later in the year and see some of my Midwest clients in their natural habitats.  Keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates to where we’ll be.  Be safe out there!!

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Stormy Weather

Well, it’s finally springtime, and up here in Connecticut that means the snow has finally melted. It doesn’t mean the weather’s nice; we’ve had a few nice days but it’s been cold and rainy mostly; today is rainy and mid-forties which means it’s a great day to stay in and work. Inconvenient, a bit depressing, but nothing to get alarmed about.
There’s a bunch of folks in the southern part of the US that WISH they could say that. They’d trade a cold, depressing day in a heartbeat for their tornadoes and flash flooding. When weather ceases to be an inconvenience and becomes a threat to life and property, well, that’s the game changer. And in the springtime, unfortunately, this has been an altogether too frequent occurrence for much of the country.
I’m not here to discuss global warming or anything like that; what I know about meteorology I learned from my local TV weatherman so that isn’t much. But I do know a couple of things. The weather has been changing over the past ten years, and it has become more severe on a more consistent basis. Once-in-a-hundred years weather events now are frequent. And the insurance industry has been having a conniption and a half dealing with these changes as well.
The price of property insurance has been climbing a lot, both due to direct losses and the cost of reinsurance, which is insurance that insurance companies buy to protect themselves from catastrophes. Since the weather has been so unpredictable the pricing methods that have been used in the past no longer apply. One of my companies hired not one, but two PHDs in meteorology to help their property insurance pricing department. That’s a lot of serious ka-ching to do that, and it illustrates the gravity of the problem.
The good news is that if you have race car insurance through my program, the insurance protects you from all these acts of God. Flooding, hail damage, tornadoes, hurricanes, mudslides; they’re all covered. That’s the good news. But as I’ve said before, no insurance claim is fun, and they all cost time and money regardless of what insurance you have. So the best way to protect yourself is to let someone else have the loss, and be the one with the paid insurance and the safe stuff.
When it comes to weather, that means thinking things through and having a plan. There’s no one thing that will keep you safe from weather-related claims. The thing to do is think about what CAN happen. For example, some parts of the country are more susceptible than others to hail and tornado damage. If those are coming, what can you do? Can you more your car or trailer to another location ahead of the storm? Something as simple as moving a trailer away from trees which can fall and damage it can save you from a loss. Can you make the trailer easy for YOU to move it quickly out of harm’s way? If a hailstorm, can you move it under something that will keep it from being dented?
Some solutions are almost too simple. If you are experiencing windy conditions, roll up your awning and put it out of harm’s way. If it’s snowy, shovel off the roof the trailer so it can’t leak, or collapse due to the weight of the snow. But remember, you not only have to think about solutions, you have to implement them. Relying on insurance to cover preventable losses will work in the short run, but not the long run. The best way to keep your insurance costs minimal over time is to have the lowest number of losses that you can. That way, you’ll be protected, and you won’t pay an arm and a leg. Be careful out there!

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I rarely mention anyone by name but the terrible theft loss to racer David Tatum really had an impact on people. The reason wasn’t the loss itself; the reason is what the thieves did to David’s race car. The photos that were on the web were horrifying, and they were the race car equivalent of a dismembered corpse. If such damage had been done to a human, it wouldn’t have been published. But because it was ‘only’ a car, it was. But to us, our race cars are like people. When we speak about our cars, that’s the way we talk about them. And to see one horribly cut up like this one was really affected a lot of people.
God only knows why they took a sawzall to that car when they could have unbolted what they wanted. I’m no great mechanic but I can take stuff apart really quickly. I think what they did gives you an insight into the mindset of the thieves. They’re really bad people, and frankly, I have no doubt that they would do to a human what they did to that car. I really hope they get caught, and I hope David has his moment alone with those people armed with a rusty hedgeclipper. I’ve been in the insurance business for a long time and I can tell you when people lose a valued piece of property, like their house, or their race car, its truly as bad as losing a family member. You get mad, you get depressed, you don’t think straight. This is far from a victimless crime.
And yes, it certainly made my phone ring more than it usually does, and I’m really not happy about it. I’d much rather that David had his car back. Even if they recover the rest the damage is almost irrepairable. There’s just no postiive to this.
I’ll close with some thoughts I’ve shared before. Even when you have insurance, a loss like this is terrible. Insurance will help you recover, but you’re much better off being one of the folks that just pays the premium and has peace of mind rather than the loss. Be ever-vigilant with your stuff. Look at and research new forms of security for your shop and trailer. One thing I suggest is to climb up on top of your trailer and paint your tag number in large numbers. The thieves won’t know its there and it will make it much easier to catch them. And almost everyone that’s had a theft loss has told me after the fact they realized they’d been ‘cased’ beforehand. So if you get that uneasy feeling, don’t ignore it! Do something about it; call the local police, change your security/storage arrangements, make it harder for the thieves. Because you don’t want the people that did that horrible thing to that Nova around your house, your car, and your family. Be safe.

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The darkest hour

Racing starts here in six weeks. Right. Whatever you say. Hard to even think the thought with five feet of snow on the ground and freezing rain falling from the sky. A lot of people ask me about suspending coverage on their race car during the winter. Like, nothing can happen to the stuff in the middle of the winter. Or, can it?
Yes, losses can and do happen in weather like this. Some examples: the car’s garage can catch on fire. Most policies that cover the garage won’t cover the cars and car parts inside, especially homeowners policies. Also, the snow can make roofs collapse, whether it be trailer or garage roofs. One year, we had a trailer severely damanged when a neighbor using a snowblower blew a bunch of icy, rocky snow into the side of the trailer! And of course, winter makes it easier for some thieves, as people are more reluctant to check their property if you have to get COLD to do it! Also, the icy weather can make it easier for a vehicle to collide with a trailer (or building). Last, many cars have work done on them in the winter months; engines are at engine builders, cars can be at body or chassis shops….and away from the security of home. Yep, our race car insurance policy covers ALL the things mentioned here…and more.
So don’t let Old Man Winter lull you into complacency. As a race car owner, you have to be ever vigilant, and always protect what you love against loss. More questions? Give me a call!

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Be careful out there!

We pay many types of losses each year.  We are often surprised by what sometimes happens to our customer’s racing equipment.  One cause of loss that never goes away is theft of equipment.  No doubt about it; racing stuff is very attractive to theives.  There is a big secondary market for much of what we have and too many buyers who won’t question a bargain that’s too good to be true.  In the process a lot of hard work and detail gets tossed in the gutter.  Its sad, and infuriating.

As always, the basics of preventing theft claims don’t change.  First, never let your guard down.  At home, on the road, at the track….always be cautious and use safeguards.  Second, be a little paranoid.  If you think someone is following you or someone is casing you, they ARE.  Don’t ignore it, call the police, and take extra precautions.  Also, the more difficult you can make it for the thieves, the more likely they are to bother someone ELSE.  What they are doing is illegal and has the potentential for serious jail time, and they know it.  They don’t want to get caught, and that means not hanging around.

Its not always so dark and serious.  I’ll tell you about one of the funniest claims we ever had.  A client went racing with his Dad, who was about 70 at the time.  At the end of the day, the car (a foot brake door car) was parked at the base of the trailer ramp.  The son needed the license plate number, and asked his Dad to get it.  Well, Dad couldn’t lift the ramp because the car was blocking it, so decided the easy answer was to just move the car a wee bit.

Someone who was there described the black streaks that went up the ramp and through the trailer.  Dad wasn’t used to a high stall converter, and gave it a little too much gas.  He came out the front of the trailer!

Yes, folks, that was a covered loss.  Fortunately, Dad wasn’t hurt, and his son and I basically laugh at each other whenever he calls me because the recall of this incident is just so damned funny for us. 

It goes to show, you never can tell.

 

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Great Expectations – Great Results

I had a very exciting day on June 24th.  I was working doing announcing at the Lebanon Valley Divisional race, and I saw a number of my clients getting into final rounds.  The first one was Eric Lourie, who won TAFC on Saturday (for the second year in a row).  On Sunday, Art Gardner won his first ever Super Street final, followed by Anthony Fetch in Stock, Matt Schurman in Super Gas, and finally my old friend Kent Hanley in Super Comp.  That’s five Wallys! 

Two weeks later at the Jegs Allstar race in Chicago, five clients were there as well:  Eric Lourie as the TAFC Blocker, Mike Sawyer (SG), Joe Santangelo (SS), my old buddy from New England Dragway Justin Mason (SC), and Billy Russell in Top Dragster.  I was very happy for all my clients and friends; just about as happy as if I were going there myself. 

I started to wonder why so many top racers happen to be my clients.  After all, race car insurance is a good thing, but it doesn’t lower your ET by even .001, and it doesn’t make you more consistent, either, or prevent stuff from breaking.  I think the answer is explained by looking at what makes a racer sucessful at this (or any) level.

One thing I was taught early on in my career is that you can’t win if you aren’t prepared, both mentally and physically.   I learned that quality parts are cheaper in the long run, because they don’t break as much and don’t cost you rounds.  When you come up to race, your mind has to be focused entirely on your procedure; you can’t be worrying about the car breaking, or how or if you’ll make it home.  And especially when you travel distances to race, you first have to make it to the race track in one piece, and have everything with you that you need to compete effectively.

 All these sucessful racers didn’t just get where they are by luck or by having one ‘hot’ year; they all earned their titles and their points, most over the course of many years of racing and learning.  Preparation isn’t just having a good car or a good tuneup; its in the attention to detail, like having your trailer tires properly inflated, and having all your lights working.   Insurance is just one more detail these racers take to protect their investments from the ravages of the road and mother nature, and even plain bad luck (because losses can happen at home, even over the winter).  They want not just the protection, but also the peace of mind coverage gives them so they can concentrate on the real reason we do all this…winning rounds, and winning races.  Trophies, money, and win lights. 

So to all my friends and clients all over the Nation, good job, and continued good luck.  Keep it up, and I enjoy hearing about all your success.

Wild Bill

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