Cleat Geeks

New Life in the Fast Lane

Melissa Collins works at your child’s school. She is that nice secretary that greets you and your children all hours of the school day from 6:00 am to 3:00 pm. She has been there since 1991 only missing significant time in 1993 and here lately. She always has a warm smile and an uplifting greeting, but she is forced to resign.

Melissa Collins was rushed to the hospital after complaining of severe stomach cramps late one evening in 1993. She and had to have emergency surgery resulting in three large polyps removed along with half of her large and small intestines. The disease is called Crohns Disease. There are no known medications or medical procedures to cure Crohns Disease. About half of the people who contract the disease will have to have surgery performed. 1 in 5 people who have the disease are admitted into the hospital every year and the disease resulted in approximately 35,000 deaths in 2010.

After missing a little bit of time Melissa returned to work and performed her job duties admirably for the next 10 years. But toward the end of the school in 2003 she was starting to miss more and more time battling this crippling disease, and she was forced to resign from the job that she loved and ultimately file for disability.

A woman who had been working with the public all her life answering phones and greeting children and adults alike has suddenly become a prisoner in her own home. She was numb, and numbing soon transferred to boredom and boredom soon gave way to full blown depression. Then, while at home, she found social media, specifically Twitter. She had been a huge race fan since even before her emergency surgery in 1993. She quickly discovered that racing superstars actually talked to their fans on Twitter. They actually held real conversations with their fans.

A gruesome disease that lead to a life-altering disability actually lead Melissa on a path to a rewarding new detour on her racetrack of life. Best of all you or your company can, through her non-profit, help pave the way for some of racing’s biggest names and up and coming stars. And I was fortunate enough to be able to conduct an interview with her recently.

Michael Ballentine: How long have you been a racing fan?

Melissa Collins: My love for the sport started in 1981, so for 34 years.

MB: What type of racing is your favorite? Why?

MC: Truly I love all racing series, but if I had to choose one it would be NASCAR. The reason for that choice would be because it’s televised and more convenient for me to watch, since I have Crohns disease which limits my ability to go to races.

MB: What or who made you want to get involved in sponsoring race cars?


David Stremme one of the available drivers you can sponsor through Sponsor A Driver.

MC: A few years ago I saw that a driver, David Stremme, needed or wanted more followers on Twitter to be more attractive to potential marketing partners. He was going to give away a Hot Pass to someone if he reach a certain number of followers. I began to tweet everyone to follow David. Needless to say he reached that number and I was given a Hot Pass to Bristol. That was the best race ever. Being in the Pit area with the opportunity to see the race and all that the crews do before, during and after, was an experience of a lifetime. But the most important thing to me was knowing that reaching out to race fans helped me achieve the goal which also helped David attain his goal as well.

MB: Your website and some of your Twitter and Facebook posts says you are looking for “out of the box” sponsors. What do you mean by that?

MC: There are the usual sponsors like Lowe’s and Home Depot, but we try to think of any draw or connection we can create with any large corporation, local business or organization to make the arrangement mutually beneficial. Like; theaters, work clothes, travel agents, and even fans sponsoring a young kid in a go cart.

MB: What if you sponsor a driver, and that driver does not even make the cut to be in the race?

MC: That’s just part of the racing experience. But not making the race doesn’t stop the ability to use the opportunity to promote your company. There are other benefits besides the race itself. The Photo advertising of your car logo, the driver and team’s ability to promote your company on social media, the advantage of having the opportunity to have the driver and car come to your place of business for local meet and greets…. It’s like having your own personal spokesperson.

MB: What if I am a new business and I only have a few hundred dollars for advertising?

MC: The options are endless. We have drivers on our list that only need $1,000 to race for the entire season at their local tracks. Or if you prefer, you could do an in kind product sponsorship if the product is something that the driver could use with a tie in to the race. You could also do a lower quarter panel decal with a NASCAR driver that has little or no sponsors each race. All of these options are minimal in terms of dollars but maximum in terms of exposure.

MB:Can you sponsor a driver for only one race? Do you have to sponsor a driver for a season?

MC:You can Sponsor a Driver for a Single race. You can make a two race deal, or the full season. Every driver can work with any company to benefit each other. Everyone thinks there is no way they can afford for sponsor a top level driver, that;s totally untrue. There is not a driver in and series that will turn down funding to make them more competitive. I will say, your money is more beneficial to the underfunded drivers in that series. They struggle have the equipment and funds that of the corporate sponsored teams. Those higher series underfunded drivers are where any company can get started and move up with that driver as they grow.

MB: Are you married, do you have other people who help you on a daily basis?

MC: I am Married, but he works and pay the bills. Melinda Sewell and I became friends on Twitter, Long distance. She lives in Kansas and I live in Kentucky. Over the past year, Melinda has took the lead to help make our non-profit. She got us licensed and has became the one person that I depend on. If not for her, I would be overwhelmed and doing this would be too stressful. If it gets me stressed, my conditions and symptoms worsen. Since she has been managing the org. I can just shut off the computer when I feel it’s getting more than I can handle, knowing she can help anyone and answer any question they may have.

MB: How many tracks have you been to? What is your favorite track that you have experienced a race at?

MC: I have traveled to the close races around the state where I live. 4 tracks each year, depending on health and finances. The Best Track in the entire NASCAR series has to be Bristol Motor Speedway. The racing there is intense. We go to both Spring and Fall races at Bristol. We camp in the Red Barn Campground beside the track with friends. The track is so fan friendly. You can see the drivers making appearances on State Street ( They block off a entire street in town and have drivers, company displays….) for the Fans to meet and greet, there is nothing like Bristol.

MB: Are you “In the drivers seat” of your own life?

MC: Mentally I choose where my life goes, Crohns just tells me when.

MB: Where can people find out more information on sponsoring one of the drivers you represent?

MC: They can go to our website at or our Twitter account at




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