Kaulig leads an invigorating new team to NASCAR’s highest level
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – LeafFilter is basically a screen that keeps leaves and debris from clogging your gutters. It’s also the company that helped Matt Kaulig create a professional sports team from the ground up.
Kaulig went from selling home improvement products to selling LeafFilters and now owns the company with annual sales of approximately $1 billion. He is also the newest team owner at NASCAR’s highest level.
During an interview with The Associated Press, he waved at the two Kaulig Racing trucks parked in a makeshift paddock outside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum last weekend.
“I think we’ve just been blessed with a great product and a great group of people working for us,” he said. “Now I look at (branded) LeafFilter all over everything we have here at the Colosseum, one of the biggest sports venues.
It was a meteoric rise for the former Akron quarterback, who earned a business degree and spent his first eight years out of college in sales. He quit in 2005 when he stumbled upon LeafFilter and, at age 32, went all out to grow the business from the garage of his home in Ohio.
Kaulig now owns a business with 140 locations in the United States and Canada.
When it came time to advertise its gutter guards, Kaulig dipped into its marketing budget to branch out into NASCAR sponsorship. LeafFilter in 2015 sponsored 24 races for an Xfinity Series driver, but Kaulig wondered why he was paying someone else to advertise his company.
“We get to the track and being around the garage, being around other owners, really learning the business of NASCAR and being an entrepreneur, I was like, ‘I think I can do this,'” he said. Kaulig said.
And did he ever.
Kaulig Racing debuted a full-time car in the Xfinity Series in 2016. By the end of its sixth season, Kaulig had 14 wins and three consistent Xfinity title contenders. AJ Allmendinger came out of semi-retirement to drive for Kaulig and help the organization grow.
The expansion meant the Cup Series races. The team competed in 10 top races last season and Allmendinger picked up a victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Kaulig called the Brickyard win the greatest sporting achievement of his life.
This year, Kaulig Racing will be looking to win the Xfinity title with three full entries, but the team has also made the move to the Official Cup. Justin Haley will drive the #31 Chevy full-time while Allmendinger will share the #16 with Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson.
Kaulig will have two cars next week stuck in the season-opening Daytona 500 because it has charter teams that must guarantee a spot in the field at every race. Kaulig’s two charters were purchased from Spire Motorsports, a deal announced in June to the shock of rival team owners.
Denny Hamlin just a year earlier paid around $4.5 million to land a charter for his 23XI Racing team; Kaulig is believed to have paid more than $10m each, but declined to discuss how much he gave Speyer.
Either way, the Kaulig deal changed the brokerage scene dramatically, as teams in need of charters were now negotiating for something that had almost tripled in price overnight.
Kaulig smiled when asked to disrupt the market.
“They only go up in value, so the sooner you buy them, the more they go up,” he said. “But you have to have a charter. If you want to race, which we do, you have to buy the charters. We had the opportunity to buy two, and if there was an opportunity to buy two more right now, we probably would.
Kaulig, who is in his late 40s, is still a leading quarterback on the team. He watched the game at the Coliseum, full of energy and full of motivation as he mingled with his two teams before the race while rocking the Super Bowl-style ring he wears almost every day. It commemorates Kaulig Racing’s first win, a victory for Ross Chastain in the 2019 Xfinity race at Daytona.
Kaulig didn’t know Chris Rice before meeting him in NASCAR, and the team president is now one of his closest friends. The duo helped rekindle Allmendinger’s passion for racing; he won six races last year and missed an Xfinity title race.
Allmendinger refers to the 22-year-old Haley as his little brother, and Kaulig is very proud to develop Haley over three seasons at Xfinity as a Cup driver. And he can’t wait to get Gragson 14 Cup started this season.
“It must be fun, we said that from the start,” Kaulig said. “People ask ‘Why are you doing this? Why would anyone? It’s a Sunday and you’re going to do this for 37 more weeks this year?’ So it has to be fun or we don’t have to be here, it’s different for me because I don’t have to do that, I have other jobs, I have other ways of earn money.
“But we can do it, we can race it and we can make it a business,” he said. “So there’s a fun side to competition, a fun side to business, and we want everyone in it to enjoy that with us.
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