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THAT SAME BRASH resourcefulness has surfaced with Harding Road, which took shape following a helicopter ride with David Gravelle, now Smith’s Harding Road partner, over Texas Motor Speedway one NASCAR race weekend. Gravelle was fascinated by the abundance of brand marks, which were stamped on everything from the infield grass to race-car hoods to the tops of the car haulers. “He was totally enamored of how all these brands were playing in the sport and how all were wreaking value from it,” Smith says. Gravelle was hooked.

“Our critical distinction between [existing Indy teams] and what we do is that we’re not a pack of old racers,” Smith says. “We’re here to build brands. It’s a very inexpensive way to build brands.”

To make the jump into IndyCar racing in 2008, Harding Road contracted with Conquest Racing, a former CART/Champ Car team, fielding a car with Brazilian Enrique Bernoldi in the cockpit. The team struggled from the outset, eventually placing 22nd in the final standings, with 14 starts and six finishes amongst a field of 39 drivers.

In 2009, Harding Road will go it alone. The team just inked a sponsorship deal with p.i.n.k. Spirits Company to feature p.i.n.k.’s ultrapremium vodka laced with caffeine and guarana, a stimulant prepared from a Brazilian shrub. Smith says the team plans to run a limited schedule; as yet, the driver is unnamed.

To leverage his racing gamble, Smith and company are developing an interactive business model that will allow them to blast customized IndyCar technical, personality, and lifestyle content to subscribers. The goal of their strategy is to create a motor-sports social-networking and news platform to connect with fans via customized video, broadcast, and written content. Smith plans to base the team in Dallas by developing an interactive racing shop with full public access, exploiting the city’s rank as the fifth largest media market, which eclipses that of Indianapolis, the traditional home of IndyCar racing teams.

Smith doesn’t plan to get rich from racing, at least not directly. He’ll be happy if his velocity exploits break even, he admits. What he hopes to do is use racing as a vehicle for consumer outreach, adding value to the companies accrued through Invexsis.

“It connects people on a visceral level,” Smith says, recounting the rush he got from colliding with defensive linemen. “When you stand next to the engine when they start it, it just gets your blood pumping. To think that the machine that these guys had in pieces just five minutes ago is going to go out there and run 219 miles per hour … It’s just an indescribable experience.”