Business-to-business opportunities are not uncommon in the IMSA paddock, with many drivers and teams racing as a hobby rather than as a full-time job. IMSA Prototype Challenge drivers Dean and Brad Baker are no exception.
Away from the racetrack, the brothers are part of Kerr Industries, a vehicle-enhancement company with one of its services focusing on the upfitting of law enforcement, fire, security and EMS vehicles. As one can imagine, their work has become increasingly important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but the company has had help from another entity in the IMSA paddock – CTech Manufacturing.
A storage solution company – particularly aluminum carts, cabinets, drawers and toolboxes – CTech joined the IMSA partner family earlier this year. But its relationship with Kerr Industries dates back earlier than that.
"CTech is one of the great partners in the IMSA program that we have worked with over the years," said Dean Baker, crediting CTech’s well-engineered products and ease of working together. "It was an easy fit and their law enforcement segment compliments our vehicle wiring harness manufacturing and electrical integration very well. This is the backbone of our business and it is important to partner with companies that share our approach to success."
One can find CTech’s mobile medical cabinets inside the frontline vehicles that Kerr Industries continues to build and service despite the pandemic. Additionally, CTech is providing specialized service carts for medical facilities in addition to sneeze guards for businesses.
As CTech’s Business Manager/Vice President Dean Lee explains, it has been a relatively seamless transition with not too much of a learning curve.
"CTech elected to take some of its standard products, which have been used in race applications, and configured them to be used in the PPE market," said Lee. "It required limited engineering efforts to accomplish this, but these newly configured products have required additional effort to fit the market. Our goal has never been to be in this specific market. However, we are testing the waters on it."
But how did both of these businesses make their way into the racing world? As it turns out, it was a natural fit for both.
"We started building cabinets for race trailers for the racers," Lee continued. "Because of the high quality, some new trailer buyers were requesting our cabinets in them. So, many larger companies like Featherlite have added our CTech cabinets and motion-latch drawers as an option."
"In the early days, as a smaller company, many aspects of Kerr’s success were derived from ‘hands on’ experiences at the racetrack," Kerr’s Dean Baker described. "Many of our early employees were, and still are, involved in motorsports in some way. Some prefer road racing and others prefer ovals, but in all cases, success at the racetrack is a result of hard work, attention to detail, quick decision making and high-quality workmanship.
"These are the building blocks of our business and continues to this day. Getting involved in the IMSA LMP3 program was a great opportunity to get the Kerr brand out there with other manufacturers in an environment we are very comfortable with and understand."
Brad Baker ran with his brother – who finished ninth in the 2019 championship – in three of the six Prototype Challenge races last season, while Dean finished third in the 2020 season opener at Daytona International Speedway in the No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier LMP3 with Dakota Dickerson.
During this time, though, the Bakers have no reservations putting hobbies aside.
"COVID-19 has been a humbling experience for everyone," said Dean Baker. "Without the expertise and efforts of our frontline workers, I am not sure where we would be right now. While we have all suffered in one way or another, we cannot lose sight of the sacrifices many frontline workers have made to help keep us safe. It inspires us to do a better job knowing that many of the vehicles we are building will be used to continue their efforts."