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February 19, 1999

My piece the other day about Perry's own John Klein and his present role as sports editor of the Tulsa World now merits a followup. Since then, John has devoted one of his excellent personal columns to another element of Perry pride -- the Ditch Witch company -- so I want to tell you about that, if you haven't already seen it. Starting on the first page of the World's sports section on February 12, John wrote about the forthcoming Daytona 500, a major event on the NASCAR calendar, and the fact that the Charles Machine Works, Inc., manufacturer of Ditch Witch, is now a player in that major sporting event.

The race itself was run last Sunday before a throng of more than 200,000 at the Daytona Beach, Florida, track, plus millions of viewers on CBS television. Leading up to that finale were two 125-mile qualifying races to determine the position of each of the entrants in the feature event. Ditch Witch is an associate sponsor of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac driven by Bobby Labonte, which finished No. 1 in the first qualifying race. The prize money in that one amounted to $45,931, and the ranking put Labonte on the inside of the second row for Sunday's race, directly behind Jeff Gordon, NASCAR's reigning king, who won the pole in front-row qualifying earlier. Gordon won the Daytona event last Sunday with an average speed of 200 mph, earning an eye-popping prize of $2,172,246, which includes a $1 million sponsor bonus. Labonte finished 25th and averaged 198 mph, worth $149,451. They don't race for peanuts in those NASCAR spectaculars.

John wrote about the Ditch Witch company's participation as an associate sponsor. Labonte's Pontiac is part of the Joe Gibbs Racing Team, owned by the former Washington Redskins coach. Mr. Gibbs has visited the Ditch Witch factory in Perry and has appeared at some dealer meetings, all of which have made a favorable impression on customers, dealers and employees of the Perry company. At Daytona, Kurt Andrews, Ditch Witch marketing director, and 10 others from the home office played host to about 150 customers in corporate suites at Daytona International Speedway during the big event.

John's column quoted Andrews: "In some cases corporations want the sponsorship because of a retail reason. But we don't sell soap or gas, we sell trenchers. In our case, the worth is in the time we can spend with customers at events like these. We couldn't be happier." For its sponsorship, Ditch Witch gets a 10x18-inch logo decal on the side of the car and a very visible spot on the racing uniform. Look for the emblem on Labonte's car and uniform next time a NASCAR race is on the tube. And keep an eye peeled for some of our Ditch Witch folks. They're likely to be there.

Another article in that February 12 edition of the Tulsa newspaper tells about a new book by University of Oklahoma wrestling coach Jack Spates. Titled "Mat Snacks, Wrestling Stories to Feed the Spirit and Tickle the Funny Bone," the book is scheduled to be released this month. According to the book jacket, it includes outstanding stories by another Perry product -- Danny Hodge. He, along with Dan Gable, John Smith and others, contributed articles to the collection. It will be sold primarily through a website, at tournaments and clinics, Spate said. The 204-page paperback will sell for $12.95 and can be ordered by calling 1-888-275-5808.