EVENTS & PROMOTIONS;NOSTALGIA ON WHEELS;REPLICAS OF '55 FORDS, CHEVYS RUN RED DOG 'ROUND FLORIDA

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Race or pep rally? Florida car racing fans can make the call in late May at the opening of the '50s Racing Classics Series, where every car bears the Red Dog beer name.

Miller Brewing Co. sponsors the new series, in which 20 amateur drivers in each race will drive $20,000 three-quarters scale race cars styled like '55 Fords and Chevrolets.

"Red Dog is the exclusive beer sponsor, but we're happy to have Goodyear" and other automotive sponsors, said Dan Holsen, Miller's Florida marketing manager. Red Dog's status as a uniform sponsor, he says, allows Miller more effective media clout.

The Red Dog name will adorn the side, hood, windshield visor and front fender of each car. The remainder of each car is available to any automotive product marketers the drivers sign, he said.

Orlando-based Kenny Wallace Motorsports Bar & Grill is another series sponsor whose name will appear in certain races.

UNUSUAL FORMAT

Sole-sponsorship races are still unusual-but not unheard of, say racing experts.

"Hooters has created races as sole sponsor, and it may become a growing trend as more sponsors seek uncluttered exposure for their brands," said Ernie Saxton, a sports marketing consultant.

"We definitely made the cars sponsor-friendly and fan-friendly," said David Williams, a Florida entrepreneur and former racer.

Mr. Williams has discussed sponsorship opportunities with Ford Motor Co., and Mr. Holsen said Pizza Hut is interested.

Miller and agency Signature Sports, Panama City, Fla., will promote the 15-race series in Florida through radio spots, racing magazine ads and weekly papers, Mr. Williams said, in addition to outdoor and TV campaigns.

The sponsorship isn't the only unorthodox aspect of these races. Tickets for each race's 5,000 to 7,500 fans will run between $15 and $20-a far cry from the $100-and-up grandstand seats at officially sanctioned events like the Daytona 500, Mr. Holsen said: "It's affordable entertainment."

Kate Fitzgerald contributed to this story.

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