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Team E, Tampa Bay's only IndyLights racing team, gets radio show

TRINITY

Neil Enerson might as well invest in a lifetime supply of glass cleaner.

"Every morning the handprints are there," he said as another passer-by slowed to crawl speed to stare at his storefront windows.

What's behind the windows drawing all the gawkers is a sleek, shiny race car, with open wheels and a blue finish — viper blue to be exact.

It's the home of Team E, the only Firestone IndyLights racing team in the Tampa Bay area. And starting this weekend, it became the home of Race Day on Fox Sports Radio, a weekend show hosted by 39-year-old Odessa resident and Clear Channel veteran Rob D'Amico.

The show airs from 6 to 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday on 440 Fox affiliates, XM Sirius satellite radio Ch. 142, American Forces Network and Foxsports.com. The show also will get video exposure as it will be live streamed on SpeedTV.com starting Feb. 14.

"It's really a match made in heaven," Enerson said. His team got the show after someone told D'Amico about the existence of a local team. He then approached Enerson, and the two hatched a plan.

Enerson says hosting the show will go a long way toward putting Team E (the "E" is for Enerson) on the map and hopes that will also put it on the radar of sponsors. The team has the support of BergHOFF, a kitchenware dealer that has a store beside the race shop on State Road 54 in Trinity. BergHOFF leases the space to the team.

"We can give them a lot of value," said Enerson, who takes the car out to community events and also uses his race shop to host events.

Enerson, 52, who grew up a race fan in Indianapolis, has had the team since 2007 after he pumped about $1.4 million of his own money into the venture. He still owns a natural gas transport company that services fledgling residential subdivisions.

Enerson got into racing seven years ago when his son, R.C., began racing go-carts at age 5.

He met Bobby Wilson, an experienced driver who was tuning carts for his son. That prompted more discussions and eventually action.

The investment paid early dividends.

In only its sixth race in 2008, Team E won the Milwaukee Mile. Four races later, the No. 17 car took second at the Nashville Superspeedway. (The guitar trophy stands in front of the race shop window.) Team E and Wilson set the fastest race lap ever for an IndyLights car at Indianapolis, topping out at 191.466 mph, which broke the previous record by almost 1.5 mph.

The victories earned Team E the Firestone IndyLights New Team of the Year award for 2008. IndyLights is the Indy car racing equivalent of Triple A baseball.

Enerson sat out the 2009 season but plans to get back in this year. The first race is St. Petersburg's Grand Prix on March 28.

He's invested in a full-scale catering station for sponsors, pit cart with six flat-screen monitors and a posh transport system.

Enerson loves his toys, but treats them like business equipment.

"A race team has to be run like a business," said Enerson. "The successful people put together a business plan."

He would like to see more teams in the area and wants the state to pursue tax incentives for basing teams here, an established practice in Indiana.

He sees racing as a natural fit in helping diversify Florida's economy because of the state's mild year-round climate and the presence of so many forms of racing.

"At this time of year, the cars (up North) are in storage," he said.

Fast facts

On the Web

To learn more, visit www.racedayonfox.com and www.teameracing.com.

Team E, Tampa Bay's only IndyLights racing team, gets radio show 01/23/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 25, 2010 12:13pm]
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