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Donnie Downs, president of solution provider Plan B Technologies, didn’t think much of NASCAR racing.

“I never thought I would be involved in NASCAR,” he recalls. “I considered it to be a redneck sport.”

Things have changed. These days Plan B Technologies, a Bowie, Md., solution provider focused on networking, security and virtualization, is an unabashed sponsor of NASCAR racing. Its logo will be all over car 52 on Saturday, Sept. 20 at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. About 100 Plan B Technologies customers and family members will be joining Downs to watch the NASCAR Nationwide Series race and hang out at the solution provider’s hospitality tent.

This is the fifth year Plan B Technologies is sponsoring the car, and it’s not all fun and games, despite the obvious entertainment value. As the engines rev, tachometers needles rise and the crowd cheers, business goes on under that hospitality tent. Downs estimates Plan B Technologies got $1.5 million in storage deals from last year’s race.

So why the change of heart about NASCAR?

It all goes back about a half-dozen years when Downs chanced into an old friend, a guy he used to play basketball against in high school. The friend is Donnie Neuenberger, the driver of car 52. Neuenberger is a Maryland celebrity. He hosts a radio show, as well as a TV program on ComCast SportsNet, “Behind the Wheel with Donnie Neuenberger.”

After bumping into Neuenberger, Downs went to a NASCAR race and noticed the parade of corporate logos on the track.

That’s when the light bulb went off. If Home Depot and Lowe’s can sponsor a car, why couldn’t Plan B Technologies? It could, and Downs went to work on making it happen.

Solution provider Plan B Technologies of Bowie, MD, is a prime sponsor of racer Donnie Neuenberger’s car 52 in this weekend’s NASCAR race at the Dover International Speedway.

Well aware that marketing is often a daunting challenge for solution providers, Downs figured he had hit on something that would make his company stand out. And at more than 100 MPH, to boot!

“Whenever we do marketing, we want to do something unique,” Downs says. “Since we are a small organization, we don’t have a ton of money to throw at marketing, so we have to be very strategic in the way we do these activities.”

Putting the Plan B Technologies logo on Neuenberger’s Ford gets the company name out there, and the hob-knobbing that goes on with customers and prospects on race day is extremely valuable in building relationships, Downs said. To maximize the relationship side of the equation, Downs this year also got some vendors involved as associate sponsors. So in addition to his company’s logo, car 52 will also sport the NetApp and VMWare monikers.

Katie Mish, marketing manager at Plan B Technologies, says the company also bought radio ad spots in the local market about its NASCAR connection.

In addition, Plan B Technologies had 500 1:24-scale models of Neuenberger’s Ford build to ship to customers as a token of appreciation and to hand out at events. Downs says it’s not unusual for him to walk into a customer’s office and see one of the toy cars sitting on a desk, prominently displaying his company’s logo.

He likes that.

His old friend, Neuenberger, doesn’t mind the visibility either.

“It’s refreshing to work with a sponsor who understands the marketing power and technology that impacts each race,” he says.

Neuenberger adds he is thankful for the sponsorship, crediting it with making his racing team a better team. “We’re looking forward to improving on our top 20 finish from last year,” he says.

And so is Downs. He’s gearing up to shake hands and talk sports with customers on Saturday. “It’s a good time,” he says.