Monster Energy reflects on "unbelievable" Daytona 500

Mitch Covington was ecstatic with Monster Energy’s debut during Daytona Speedweeks.

Monster Energy reflects on "unbelievable" Daytona 500
Mitch Covington and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series girls
Car detail of Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Mitch Covington, Vice President of Sports Marketing at Monster Beverage Company
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Steve Phelps, Brian France, Mark Hall and Mitch Covington
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford passes Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet for the win
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Race winner Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford celebrate
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, celebrates after winning the Daytona 500
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, celebrates after winning the Daytona 500
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
A detail view of the helmet of Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, after winning
Mitch Covington
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford; Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet; Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet; A. J. Allmendinger, JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane with team co-owner Tony Stewart after winning
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford

The vice president of sports marketing for Monster —NASCAR’s new Cup sponsor, and a primary sponsor of Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 41 Ford — was thrilled with the company’s launch at Daytona International Speedway.

We got to know Kurt and we just fell in love with him. He’ll do anything for a sponsor. He’s a real professional.

Monster Energy's Mitch Covington on Kurt Busch

After two weeks and four races that culminated with Kurt Busch being crowned Daytona 500 champion, Covington admits he was at a loss for words to describe Monster’s coming out party.

“There was a lot of talk about not seeing as many signs in the parking lots and banners, but that’s not the way we do things,” Covington said. “I know there was an expectation there — that it would be painted green. There were a lot of expectations, to be honest. But we were extremely happy with it. Our guests had a great time.

“To win the race, that was beyond icing on the cake, man. That was unbelievable. I was watching the race with (NASCAR chief operation officer) Brent Dewar, (NASCAR executive vice president and chief marketing officer) Steve Phelps and (NASCAR senior vice president) Jill Gregory. We’ve been arguing over signs and everything else for a week. I said, ‘If Kurt Busch wins this race, I’ll give you a week off over arguing over my damn signs. But it was a home run.”

Wanting to be involved

Covington says Monster isn't content just writing a check to NASCAR. That's not the company's style. Covington said Monster wants its athletes to feel like family. He was thrilled when Monster’s CEO Rodney Sacks and CMO Mark J.Hall flew into Daytona at the last minute to experience the Great American Race.

“It was a big treat to have them here where they could feel the electricity and feel what it’s really like at the track,” Covington said. “I think the fan activation in the midway exceeded expectations, certainly by the look at the crowd when I got to go out there.

“We brought in (New England Patriots tight end) Rob Gronkowski, and I think he hit it out of the park for us. He’s another guy that hits it out of the park for us when he doesn’t have to — I think he worked to about 5:30 this morning (Monday). I think he put in a 24-hour day for us (laughs). I think he’ll be a fan of NASCAR from now on. You can tell when a guy is having a good time.”

And what about the Monster Girls? Covington acknowledged the sponsor's trophy girls initially received mixed responses. But he promised, “It’s only going to get better. They had a good time, too. You could tell by the way that they warmed up to the crowd. There’s been girls in racing probably as long as there’s been racing.”

The start of a beautiful relationship

Monster first crossed paths with Busch during his redemption tour. After parting ways with Roger Penske at the end of 2011, Busch had signed on with Phoenix Racing in the Cup Series. But brother Kyle offered Kurt a ride with Kyle Busch Motorsports for the spring Richmond race.

“Kyle called me when Kurt lost his job on the 22 car,” Covington recounts. “He asked, ‘Can you let my brother drive the Xfinity car?’ And I said, ‘Of course, I can let your brother drive the Xfinity car.’ We knew how good he was. We didn’t even know Kurt at the time. We had never met him. But he won us our only race that season. We got to know Kurt and we just fell in love with him. He’ll do anything for a sponsor. He’s a real professional.

“He was in a lot of hot water at the time for different things. But that’s not the Kurt we met. Everybody likes a comeback. Everybody likes redemption in America. We have the ultimate redemption story. Someone said, I think in USAToday, that Kurt Busch was unsponsorable. I picked up the phone and called Kurt and I said, ‘It says in the paper that you’re unsponsorable. I want your next race — full paint out.' It was at the All Star Race in Charlotte. We flew in, painted the car black and Kurt Busch was sponsorable."

Why they sponsor Kurt

Monster Energy announced during Champion's Week in December in Las Vegas it was sponsoring NASCAR’s premier tour, and Covington insisted he expects drivers to show their true personalities. Good or bad, Busch has never had a problem with keeping it real. Covington admires athletes that remain genuine.

“We have over 1,000 athletes right now, and there’s no one more professional,” Covington said. “Kurt has the heart of a racer. He’s emotional about it. Kurt races up on the wheel every lap. We tell our other athletes if they want to find someone to pattern themselves after — especially the young ones — go spend some time with Kurt Busch. If Kurt Busch could train all of our athletes, that would be a great thing. He just won us over.”

Covington appreciates the time Busch invests with Monster. The driver has never complained about an appearance. It’s not unusual for him to drop in at Monster Energy headquarters in Corona, Calif., to spend the day and catch up. As one of Busch’s biggest supporters, Covington sees a humble individual — and one that’s determined not to give up.

“We took Kurt to the Monza Rally two years ago to race," Covington said. 'It was at a pretty rough point for Kurt at that time, and we just wanted to get him away from the press he was getting here and relax. The people who were filming the race came to us and said they were going to ask Kurt about his issues in the States. I was paying for the production. I said, ‘Anybody that asks Kurt Busch any questions would be escorted off of the property because he didn’t come here to talk to the press. He came here to have a good time.’

“That’s what we did. We spent a week in Italy, had a great time and really got to know Kurt. You can tell a lot about a person in the bad times. It would have been easy for a lot of people to quit under those circumstances. But he didn’t. He told me, walking down in the rain on a street in Italy, ‘I’m coming back.’ He has a lot of heart. And nobody deserves this more than Kurt Busch.”

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