At the 2001 company Christmas dinner, Strobe President, Willard West, announced that he and Strobe Data had made a sizeable donation to something called “Team Seattle” to benefit Children’s Hospital. When the applause died down, he added, “Oh yes. We also expect to win the Rolex 24 hour race at Daytona Raceways.”
The thunderous silence following this unexpected coda reflected the unanimous conviction that Strobe’s car-crazy CEO was suffering from a serious case of champagne overdose. Coyly inviting the assemblage to check out the Team Seattle web site, West toasted the successes of the preceding year; and shortly after, Strobe employees and family members rushed home to consult the Internet.
Sure enough, the Team Seattle web site did indeed exist. The site confirmed that Team Seattle was a fund raiser for Childrens’ Hospital, requesting pledges based on the number of laps its cars completed, and that two Saleen race cars were entered in the Daytona race! A collective sigh of relief was heard in the Puget Sound area when Strobe employees realized that Willard West had not completely lost his marbles.
In the two months before the February 2002 race, small groups of the Strobe family found time to attend the Team Seattle open houses to sign Children’s Hospital donation pledges and sit in the cock pits of the two gleaming white cars. The Strobe Data “glitch” with perched Falcon was prominently displayed on the cowlings with “West Family Charitable Foundation” plastered across the spoilers.
Well, disappointingly, those pretty white Saleen cars didn’t win in 2002. They finished (a major accomplishment, we were told), but they didn’t win. So, who cares. They’d raised over $100,000 for something we all believed in and we’d all had a bang- up time rooting for them. The Wests even flew down to Florida to take part in the race festivities and came back with “lotsa pictures”.
Was that the last of it? We may have thought so, but the Wests had other ideas. At the 2002 Christmas dinner, as the Strobe family once more lifted champagne glasses, it once more listened to an announcement about Team Seattle.
Back to the Internet where once again a well crafted web site appeared with pictures of two white cars – Nissan/Lolas this time.
Some of the glamour had worn off by now. Fewer Strobe employees found the time to climb into the cockpits, although pledges were still made. The Wests debated about the flight to Daytona. In the end they decided to go, but with less enthusiasm than the year before. Conventional wisdom in the automobile racing fraternity didn’t totally rule the cars out of the winner’s circle, but they weren’t expected to be among the top finishers.
When the local sports pages reported that Team Seattle Number 5, headed by veteran Vancouver, BC race driver, Ross Bentley, had finished 1st in the Sportsracing Prototype II Class , 7th overall, and that Team Seattle Number 15 had finished 2nd in class, those who had not paid particular attention to the race were sorry they’d not tuned in on ESPN to watch some of it. Everyone in the company eagerly awaited the pictures the Wests had promised. And how splendid they were, those blown-up snapshots of two triumphant little white cars with the Children’s Hospital and the Strobe Data logos splashed along their sides!
Children’s Hospital benefited to the tune of something over $125,000. The racing team received accolades, money, Rolex watches, trophies. Strobe Data’s reward was considerably less tangible, but perhaps, just as satisfying. Their underdog entry surprised the racing fraternity and sports writers. The Team Seattle perseverance and excellence somehow reflected on the whole company. Like the “little white cars that could”, Team Strobe was reminded that even a small company in a small corner of the US can, with concentration and integrity, be a world-class winner and make a difference.