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August 6, 2009

Loyalty reigns supreme: Mopar fans upbeat despite Chrysler troubles



HEBRON -- The economy is struggling and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, but Mopar Nationals President Jim Bielenda doesn't see those factors hurting this weekend's event.

Tens of thousands of fans still are expected at National Trail Raceway this weekend for the 29th annual Mopar Nationals. In fact, the biggest crowd in recent memory -- about 60,000 people will be in attendance -- is anticipated amid what seems like dark times for the Mopar name.

"I would say (the economy and Chrysler going bankrupt) doesn't come into play or it actually helps us," Bielenda said. "For Chrysler loyalists or enthusiasts, this show is almost like a rallying call.

"We'll all gone through our ups and downs with Chrysler, so this won't be a downer."

Much like Mopar weekend is unlike any other weekend at NTR, so are the legions of fans who will pack the facility all weekend.

Preregistration is up across the board for the event, and Bielenda expects about 3,000 cars for either show or racing to be on hand. For the ultra-popular swap meet, Karen Vandervelden, the vice president of Mopar Nationals, said almost 1,200 spots have been sold, which also is up from previous years.

"Everything seems to be up, so we're pleasantly surprised," Vandervelden said. "We must be doing something right.

"I think people are picking and choosing what events they're going to, and this is an established event. They know what to expect, and we're having a lot going on."

Vandervelden agreed with Bielenda in thinking the recent Chrysler situation or the economic struggles wouldn't affect the vibe of the crowd.

Mike Fornataro, NTR's sales and marketing manager, said a Mopar fan already has plenty of experience in dealing with less-than-ideal situations in the car industry through the years.

"(Mopar) has been to the precipice more than any other manufacturer," Fornataro said. "They've had different ownerships, different brands affiliated with them. They're not like any other company, and their products reflect that.

"The people definitely go to the beat of their own drummer, just like the company."

It all adds up to a massive family reunion, one this year that also will feature "Big Daddy" Don Garlits and "Big" Willie Robinson as special guests.

Several Mopar prototypes will be on hand, along with thousands of classic muscle cars that always are prominent at the show.

It's that balance of old and new that has been attractive to Mopar fans for years.

"It's a cool vibe. The people that are into these unusual cars, they're still into the new unusual cars," Fornataro said. "There's a heck of a mix with cars like the Challenger and the 300, and it's neat seeing it all together."

Many of the nostalgic muscle cars now have a resale value of more than $100,000, which is another draw for Mopar enthusiasts.

Racing takes place all weekend and the swap meet and midway will be open all weekend.

Most importantly, it's a chance for the fans to reminisce.

"You see people you haven't seen since last year," Bielenda said. "It's a chance to see what they've been doing and what they're working on now."

Said Fornataro: "They're not like the fans of other brands. You can't set out to create something like this. It just happens."
Additional Facts

29TH ANNUAL MOPAR NATIONALS

# WHEN Friday through Sunday

# WHERE National Trail Raceway

# COST $20 for one day, $30 for a two-day pass or $40 for a three-day pass; children 10 and younger are free

# FYI Gates open at 8 a.m. each day and close at 7 p.m. Friday, and 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. "Big Daddy" Don Garlits is a featured guest for the weekend.

Article Link:Loyalty reigns supreme: Mopar fans upbeat despite Chrysler troubles | newarkadvocate.com | The Newark Advocate
 
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