Few companies are as synonymous with American culture as Speedway, now owned by the Red Ventures group. In fact, if you mention the name “Speedway” to a random person, it’s likely they will think of American cars, motorsport, and big oil companies.
While it’s true that the Atlanta-based company has had a long and storied history, it has also become a bit of a brand, inspiring people, companies, and countries. That’s largely because of its iconic catchphrase, “Whatever happens, trucking will be there,” which was popularized by its owner, the late (and possibly greatest) Bill France, who owned the company from its inception in 1937 until his death in 1970.
The company eventually became part of the Red Ventures group, which acquired it in 2016 for a whopping $78 million. Now, with a new corporate image, a whole new board of directors, and a slew of rebranding initiatives, it’s poised to make the move from just another oil company to a lifestyle brand.
The History Of Speedway
Speedway was founded in 1937 by Bill France, who wanted to create a company that was not tied down to the traditional trucking industry. He wanted to become America’s trucking business, and started by investing in trucks and equipment. Soon after, he hired his cousin, Leroy Jenkins, to help him run the business.
The company grew quickly, employing more people and establishing itself as a major player in the transportation industry. Soon after World War II, the company got into the trucking logistics business, delivering supplies for the government. After the war, it continued expanding, eventually purchasing a controlling interest in another trucking company, White Motor Corporation, which it later sold for a profit. In the process, it became the fifth largest trucking company in the country. In 1948, France established a separate holding company, Bill France Industries, Inc., to take advantage of an updated tax law.
Over the years, it’s remained one of the biggest companies in the industry, operating in nearly every state, with a headquarters in Atlanta, and thousands of trucks and trailers on the road every day. Its slogan, “Whatever Happens, Trucking Will Be There,” is still used today, and it’s not hard to see why.
Since the 1970s, the company has remained a steady presence in the industry, evolving with the times, but keeping its heritage. In fact, its headquarters now feature a large “W” sign, for White Motor Corporation, which it purchased in the 1950s. Also, to recognize the oil industry’s role in creating supply chains during World War II, France built a distribution center in Houston that was later named in his honor—the William E. France Logistics and Transportation Center.
These days, Speedway is known for its sponsorship of motorsport events, most notably the NASCAR and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. It also sponsors the ARCA Racing Series, the IndyCar Series, and the FIA World Endurance Championship, among others.
The company is also known for its generous employee benefits, offering tuition reimbursement, profit sharing, and free legal and accounting services. It became one of the first companies to provide matching funds for employees’ 401k retirement plans. Finally, to show how much it values its employees, Speedway gives its “penny pinchers”—newly hired employees who have been with the company for at least a year—a choice of either dinner on Fridays or, if they work during the lunch hour, a free salad buffet.
Since the sale to Red Ventures, it appears that France has been busy, establishing multiple holding companies in order to take advantage of various economic cycles and capital opportunities. The goal is to eventually float the companies on the stock market and purchase major stakes in other companies, establishing the former Bill France Industries, Inc., as a major player on the nation’s roadways.
Forbes currently lists the company’s stock price at $32.50 per share, which is quite the bargain for anyone considering buying into a company that was once valued at more than $150 per share. Even better, with dividends and stock buybacks, it’s a lucrative investment, with a current yield of over 5%.
The Current Employment Landscape
With all the changes, it’s not surprising that Speedway has experienced some growing pains, having to rebrand itself and create a new corporate image in order to match the ambitions of its new owner. One of the first things France did was to replace its human resources department with an organization called People Associates Inc., which functions as a talent agency for the company, connecting employers with top-notch employees.
Last year, it bought out its White Motor Corporation stake, and began a major rebranding effort, establishing itself as a lifestyle brand, complete with a new logo and color scheme, and focused on Americana, motorsport, and oil industry nostalgia. It is now working to solidify its position in the North American market.
While it was once synonymous with American jobs, it appears that the future of racing, and of job security, may depend on how well the country’s automakers and motorsport partners perform in the coming months and years. After several years of decline, American auto manufacturing experienced a resurgence in 2018, buoyed by industry-leading fuel economy and reliability standards, and an improving economy.
And in motorsport, the Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR Cup Series experienced record-breaking viewership in the 12 months leading up to September 2019. The latter saw average viewership increase by 27% year over year, and the former increased by 23% compared to the year before. Finally, the average paychecks for employees in the automotive industry grew by 5% in the third quarter of 2019.
The takeaway here is simple. If you’re looking for a reliable and profitable investment with a major brand behind it, consider buying the stock. While there are no guarantees in investing, it’s always nice to know that a company you’re invested in is dedicated to paying back your investment along with a decent return.