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The Ellwood Story
Mark Niemi
212 Decals.com
  As I walk the paddocks of the CMRA race events I kind of feel like I've been invited to a private bike show. Row after row of racing eye candy swims before me...
 I love looking over the mechanical craftsmanship and obvious modifications that separate these machines from street bikes. One after another, side by side, sitting on the stands are stock new model rides and all out high performance rockets. With their fairings covered with the meticulously applied decals and their tires in warmers waiting for action.... you walk by them but you can't help but see the custom craftwork in the designs and the quality of the finish in those decals.... in the paint work and in the way they make the bikes look like they are moving at speed even when standing still.... 

          
                                                   


   Oh yeah, you can see the excellent graphics highlighting the owners, the team sponsors and the companies that make those amazing parts that let these machines fly. But did you ever take a moment to ponder over who makes the look and feel of those images possible? Who is behind the print, the paint and the vinyl?


        
                  


  This past weekend one of the best riders on the CMRA circuit put on a great show for the fans... Brandt Dillon was on the podium both in the sprint and the endurance races. His racing success has proven he's a heck of a competitor on the track. Since his entrance to the series Brandt has commanded attention not just by the way he rides but also in his attention to detail in preparation and with his friendly demeanor. Ask anyone and they will testify to to his willingness to lend a fellow racer a hand if needed! But this isn't just the story of a fast rider who happens to be a nice guy.
   Lisa and Brandt Dillon have put thier mark on the CMRA in more than one way. A multi talented duo, the couple have more than a just little to do with just about every bike out there on the grid.

                                                 

   212 Decals.com has become a major force in the CMRA. That did not happen by accident. With their hard work, attention to detail and more than a little good old fashioned customer service the couple have turned a neccessary means to an end into a well respected club racing business.
  So join us now as we we get a chance to hear how a good thing got better. Brandt was kind enough to give Soonerbillz the straight scoop on Lisa, the racing and 212 Decals.com
  And he doesn't spare the details... inside the grid


 
....So here we go......
 
 
SBZ- Brandt could we start with you telling us a little about Lisa and yourself?

  
  Lisa & Brandt Dillon 

Brandt- Lisa and I married on August 29, 2012.  I have 2 girls from a previous marriage.  Other than racing motorcycles some things her and I have done that we enjoy very much are fly fishing, snow skiing and traveling. Right now she is in the process of finishing up her MBA at University of Houston.  From a guy like me, who barely graduated High School, I'm amazed at all that she is able to accomplish.  She is an engineer at an Oil Company during the day, MBA program at night, 30 ish hours a week with 212 Decals and still manages to find time for me and racing.  I'm scared to complain about the 40 hours I have to work! haha

SBZ- That's excellent! Sounds like you both are enjoying life!
 Are you both longtime Texas residents?

Brandt- Yes we are both long time Texas residents.  Ironically we both grew up in the Cypress area (suburb NW of Houston) and just recently bought a house in the same area. I used to travel these same roads as a teenager some 25 years ago.  They were 2 lanes back then.. now they are freeways.
 
SBZ- Yes I know what you mean! Not to date myself but I can remember hunting off Cypress/N. Houston! LOL
So how long you have been racing?

 Brandt- I raced the Grand National mx and TT circuit, some Mickey Thompson stuff, Texas Arenacross, etc  on a Quad from 1987-1991. I entered my first motorcycle road race in April of 2009 at TWS. I dragged Lisa around for a year or so.  I guess she got sick of sitting on the sidelines and started racing herself in 2010.

SBZ- Were you always into motorsports?  How did you get into racing?

Brandt Dillon at NOLA  

Brandt- When I was growing up all the neighborhood kids had dirt bikes, go karts, 4 wheelers and stuff.  I was always a better rider than the other kids.  One day I went over to one of my friends house and he showed me a plaque that he had won at this place called Good Times MX Park outside San Antonio.  It said something like 2nd place, Texas State Championship Series or something.  I went running home and told my dad that my friend was a Texas State Champion but I could kick his butt up and down the bayou and that I wanted to race! The rest is history.

The funny part was when I later found out that the trophy my friend won was a left over.  He really wasn't a Texas State Champion and there was only 3 people in the race.
 Anyways when my parents separated around 1991 and that was pretty much the end of racing for me until 20 years later.  I had no idea how much money my dad was spending on my quad racing until I began paying my own way!  We were doing it way bigger, back then, than what Lisa and I do.  But it's still so expensive the way her and I race that I can't even imagine how much money my dad spent.  

 SBZ- So Lisa races too! That's great! 
   It must be nice to have a partner who loves the sport as much as you do. Did she always like bikes and racing? 


Lisa Brandt

 Brandt- Lisa always had a 600cc machine riding on streets and stuff but she really got into racing from being at the track with me all the time. She started racing on a Kawasaki EX250 doing the Saturday sprints. We also enduranced together one year. I couldn't finish a race without crashing that thing.  Now Lisa races a ZX-6R.  it's enjoyable and it really makes our relationship work. Of course everything is twice expensive but man it's definately worth it!

SBZ- Who do you credit for you racing success?

Brandt- Ty Howard was the guy I turned to for coaching.  I picked Derek Wagnon's brain some too.  There just really isn't anyone around here that comes with a resume like Ty's, that teaches.  Jimmy Caraballo was the guy who got me to the track after he saw how I liked to ride on the street. Which was insane. As far as the progress I have made it really just comes from always wanting to do better and understanding that the top level club guys here put their pants on one leg at a time, just like me. I used to be scared of them.  I work for a motorcycle school in my spare time and the last thing I want to do is embarrass the school so I try really hard to do well in races.  Being on the 212 Decals big bike endurance team with teamates Eddie Thornton, Bill Guthrie, and Dirk Anderson has really helped too.  After a 45 minute stint on that animal, an 8 lap sprint is child's play!

SBZ-  What are your thoughts on your race results at MSR Houston. Any particular thing you feel good about or wish you had done differently?

Brandt- Until I can routinely battle for wins I measure a lot of my success on how fast I can lap.  Prior to this year my personal best at MSR Houston had been a 1:35.8.  I went :34.4 on Sunday so I found a lot of satisfaction in that.  I felt like in Superstock A that I might could have put a wheel in there on the #34 that last lap but I didn't.  I've just now got to where I can run with the leaders on occasion but I still don't know what to do when I find myself there!  In Formula 1 and Superbike A I never had the opportunity like I did in SSA.  I've got to learn to take the opportunities when they present themselves.

SBZ-  Very good... Can you give us an idea as to what you find most important or enjoyable aspect of being a racer in the CMRA? Do you compete in other clubs?

Brandt- Lisa and I love the camaraderie on race weekends.  We enjoy seeing the people that we only get see 10 times a year. It's really cool to be around people that share the same passion and understand why we do what we do.  Ever tried to talk to someone about motorcycle road racing? They just look at you with this blank stare. It's useless. Ha! Lisa and I look at the race weekends like a vacation.  We leave on Thursday evening and stay at the track all weekend.  I don't race with any other clubs.  Not that I am opposed to it, it's just a scheduling issue.  I did complete in an AMA Pro Racing Superbike race at NOLA last year as a bucket list kind of thing.
 
SBZ-  Thinking forward, what are your long and short term goals racing wise?

Brandt- I'm ready for the September 2013 round.  I'll be 40.  I'm coming for John Orchard in Formula 40. He won't read this will he? Seriously though... I don't really have any long term goals except to turn faster laps than I did the previous year and to keep having fun.  I'd like to get a little more serious with our 212 Decals endurance team.  I think we could do really well with a few equipment upgrades.

 212Decals.com Endurance Team
Bill Guthrie, Eddie Thornton, Dirk Anderson, Brandt Dillon, Lisa Dillon 

SBZ- Gotcha... Formula 40 does offer some fine racing and there are more than a few good riders that run in that class! I imagine you have really put the scare into John's head with that! wink wink...So what are some of your thoughts on the CMRA, where it is presently and where you would like to see it go?

Brandt- I get a lot of positive emotions when I think of the CMRA.  I'm so proud of the competition in our club. The genuine concern for one another is awesome. I crashed at ECR in the rain, broke my arm and Walter Walker came and found me to make sure I was ok. Walter was instrumental in getting me to NOLA for that AMA round. I think those couple of events with Walter really made me start to see the club as family.  People don't mention it enough but I think if there ever were an Outrider World Championship that Ryan Rutkowski would dominate.  Have you ever witnessed the speed that guy can get to a downed rider on his little XR? It's amazing!  He knows the fastest line, every time.  The club had over 700 sprint entries at MSR Houston, I'd like to see the club build on that momentum.  Hopefully, we can get to a point where we are comfortable taking bigger financial risks in terms of track rentals.  This year, the club added NOLA to the schedule. Hopefully having a presence in Louisiana will bring some of those guys to Texas for some racing.  I'm not privy to the clubs finances but I trust the Board of Directors to make the best decisions for the club .



SBZ-
So let's turn to 212 Decal.com and your interests there. How did you come to start 212 decals? What is the history behind it's inception?

Brandt- A friend and I started a motorcycle message board, similar to the CMRA board, several years ago.  As we were growing the website we needed decals, shirts, caps etc.  We were dealing with various graphics shops and it got to be expensive.  Plus, it's not easy explaining to an average sign shop that you need sponsor logos for the lower on your GSXR 1000.  They don't know what you're talking about.  We felt like there was room for a decal business that only marketed to track day riders and racers.  So we bought our first cutter, did business with ourselves and marketed the company on that message board that I owned. Lisa enjoyed doing the work, I enjoyed selling.  Eventually it grew to where we bought a couple of printers, a heat press, some sublimation equipment and built our office. When I got rid of my interest in the message board we changed the name to 212 Decals, Lisa's race number.

SBZ-  Speaking of Lisa can you give some thoughts on what she means to the business and where it would or would not be without her, both as a partner and wife

       

Brandt- Lisa is the brains, sales, production, purchasing and accounting for 212 Decals.  There absolutely is no 212 Decals without Lisa. I won't accept any "attaboys" with the decal business. It's all her.

SBZ- Well I can say that I have seen more than a few "thank you's" to 212 on various forums and all the racers seem to know that Lisa is responsible for thier bikes looking so good!
 You mentioned that the business was born from a former message board.
  So jumping to the present do you still find the CMRA and other forums important in getting the word out on your products.




Brandt- There is no doubt that the Vendor Marketplace section of the CMRA board is very important.  Most of our business comes from Message Boards and other social media outlets. 

SBZ- Can you share what Lisa and you found were some of the hardest obstacles in making it all work?

Brandt- The biggest issue is time.  It started as a way to save some money and a hobby that Lisa enjoyed.  Now it's gotten to the point that we've hired some help and actually have to stop taking orders a week out from the race weekend because it's just too much with work, kids, school, etc.  We hate telling people no and sometimes it puts a strain on us trying to get orders together at the last minute. 

SBZ- Sounds like growing pains...something successful enterprise always are faced with eventually!
 Speaking to the public about 212Decals.com ... in a nutshell can you tell us what is it, what does it offer that is unique and what can a customer expect from 212 when they deal with Lisa and you. What separates 212 Decal from other like kind companies?

Brandt- 212 Decals is a small custom decal and clothing company.  We sell decals, screen printed, sublimated and embroidered shirts and caps.  We do other promotional items like reservoir socks, key chains and pens but the decals and shirts are our bread and butter. A 212 customer can expect and will recieve a quality product at a very affordable price delivered in a timely fashion. We are motorcycle enthusiasts first, just like our customers. I'd guess that we give back, in the form of giveaways and class sponsorships a much larger percentage of our revenue than most in a similar business, that I believe separates us from the rest mostly.  Maybe not?

SBZ- Tell us about the process and how the decision to become a CMRA class sponsor came about. How is it working out? Anything surprising that you did not expect?

Brandt- The decision was really a no brainer.  Lisa and I believe strongly that we have to support and give back to those that give to us.  The decal business helps us afford to go racing.  Without you all buying decals from us finances would be much tighter and we know this.  You gotta give it away to keep it.  Furthermore, people remember who gave back to them. I know I do.  The club needs class sponsors.  If you're a business out there that profits from racers and track day guys you should really consider the $1,650.00 it takes to sponsor a class.  If for no other reason than to give back to your customers.

SBZ-  What are the future goals for 212 Decals.com?  Your final thoughts

Brandt- We'd like to get up to speed with the graphic designing and eventually turn the business over to someone who can run the day to day operations.  But if none of that ever happens, Lisa and I are excited and grateful to continue to be able to provide quality stuff, at affordable prices so we can continue to enjoy our hobby and support the sport financially.

SBZ- Thank you Brandt!

 Inside the Grid
  What a great time I have had reading Brandt's responses. A top notch rider telling us that he never stops learning. A devoted husband and father who has shown us how to juggle both the racing and the business and still feels he has to give to recieve! I can't say how much I appreciate Brandt for taking the time to talk to Soonerbillz.com
When I started thinking about giving Lisa and Brandt a chance to tell a little about themselves and the 212Decals.com enterprise in my head it was just going to be a simple yes and no thing with a maybe little detail and friendly banter. Never did I think it would become such a far ranging and informative interview. The detailed answers Brandt offered are so telling and honest. It really is refreshing to see a great racer and business person in one package. I am sure CMRA is very proud of the association with 212 Decals.com and recognizes how lucky it is to have folks like the Dillon's "Inside the Grid"




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