High-Octane Conversion

Retailers start new brand engines with VP Racing Fuels concept.

By  Steve Dwyer, CSP Reporter

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‘Green Flag’ Time for VP Racing Fuels

Alan Cerwick, president of San Antonio-based VP Racing Fuels Inc., wasn’t sure if the VP retail initiative would come to fruition—at least on his watch, at least with his hands-on involvement. 

The initiative is VP Racing Fuels’ decision to jump into the branded retail business to create what company execs call a “super-retail brand.” The initiative features two core branded centerpieces: VP Racing Fuels canopies, dispensers and backlit signage outside the store, and Winner’s Circle c-store—a name aligning closely to the racing motif that’s long been the company’s calling card.

On the fuel side, VP offers high-margin, niche fuels as a way to attract new retail customers to the mainstream fuel business, pulsed by its VP101 unleaded (street legal) and premium race fuels for off-road or on the track.

Cerwick, a longtime veteran of Valero and Koch Industries, wasn’t certain he would be a part of the ambitious vision, but after ironing out some wrinkles, he says all systems are go. 

“[VP founder] Steve Burns and I had come to an impasse at that time on some matters, and I did not think the deal would get done,” he says. “I asked that if I could not do this with VP, could I do it elsewhere?’ The answer was no. I could not find any brand as uniquely positioned as VP was.

“The VP business has been built on the strength of 40 years of experience, and it would have been hard to create a new racing fuel brand that has this kind of stamina.”

That stamina might soon be on steroids. The brand has 35 to 40 sites nationwide that will be rebranded by the end of last month, and another 175 sites in the pipeline as potential branded partners. Of those, Cerwick hopes to get “60% to 80% commitments.”

VP has strict standards regarding retailer performance. “You have to have a reputation that is in alignment with our image standards, because we turn away people seeking to brand with us,” he says.  

As for the corporate expansion, the first stage is getting “those first 1,000 stores up and running and putting products on the shelves,” he says. “We might end up with 2,000 to 3,000 c-stores and a couple hundred quick lubes when it’s all said and done. We also have product distribution NAPA Auto Parts, Cabela’s and others.”

From a geographic standpoint, Cerwick says, the company is mobilizing in the state of Washington, Wisconsin, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania—all with the intention of building a “consumer” brand.

“This is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to invest in themselves, and take control of their future,” he says. 

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