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Ahead of the pack Featured

6:44am EDT June 28, 2002
Once relegated to pockets of the Deep South and Indianapolis, auto racing, especially stock car racing, has swept the country. This year's NASCAR Daytona 500 race attracted a record 35 million television viewers, surpassing last year by more than 3 million.

No one is happier about this than Bruce Hanusosky, president and CEO of High Tech Performance Trailers.

Hanusosky's company designs and builds the semi tractor trailers that carry race cars from track to track. High Tech's competition, Featherlite Inc., a publicly traded corporation, controls 65 percent of the market, but posted an $8.8 million loss last year. High Tech claims 20 percent of the market and its sales climbed 17 percent last year.

"Our competitors are going away and we're taking the front seat now," says Hanusosky. "Our business will grow substantially in the next couple of years."

Hanusosky has spent his life around cars and motor sports. He opened his first custom car painting shop out of his garage when he was 16, later expanding into engine repair and auto restoration. He was in the pit crew for the BFGoodrich off-road racing program, where he discovered a market for a more upscale vehicle trailer.

He launched High Tech Performance Trailers in Painesville with two employees in 1982, when auto racing was still a fringe sport in Northeast Ohio.

"The banks, they didn't want to deal with us," Hanusosky says. "They thought it was too specialized. Money was a tough thing in the beginning."

Luckily, Hanusosky had built a relationship with a bank through his years in the auto repair business. The bank's funding allowed him to land his first client, BFGoodrich, which is still with him today.

"We were just very sensible with money in the early years," Hanusosky says. "We were credible enough to get good financing to do what we wanted and keep building the business."

Once Hanusosky proved himself with BFGoodrich, landing clients like Michelin, Bridgestone, Yokohama, and racing teams like Penske, Rahal was easier.

"People found out about us by me being out on the road," Hanusosky says. "I spent the majority of my time visiting racing venues all over the country. I started the whole sales program."

High Tech has more than 50 employees and designs and builds 30 trailers a year, with an average cost of $275,000.

"People trust us," Hanusosky says. "People trust that the equipment we sell them is good. We have never gotten off that track. And that has really made this company what it is today." How to reach: High Tech Performance Trailers, (440) 357-8964