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Andy Collins: ProFormance’s Trackside Safety Connection

For 39 years Armadillo Racing has supplied Northwest motorsport drivers with everything they need for safe, successful track driving.

If you’ve spent time at Pacific Raceways, have moved up from the ProFormance One-Day High Performance Driving Experience to Afternoon Lapping, or have gone for your competition license, chances are you’ve yearned for a helmet, some driving shoes, or just some non-nonsense advice on safety equipment. And chances are you got exactly what you needed from Andy Collins.

Since 1983 Andy’s company Armadillo Racing has been serving the Pacific Northwest’s sports car and drag racing community with parts, fuel, tools, accessories and a comprehensive line of safety equipment for drivers at every level. Andy is ProFormance Racing School’s go-to guy for solid, no-nonsense, no-hard-sell advice on what you really need for safe driving on the track or strip.

Fueling Success

With colleague Tim Julian at the shop

A long-time driving enthusiast, Andy started with autocross, and then worked as a turn marshal to stay close to Northwest racing action. When the need arose for someone to sell fuel trackside, he took on the task, and soon began selling parts as well. He considered it a good hedge in case he lost his engineering job.

Andy’s first mobile showroom offered one pair of Simpson racing shoes. Today Armadillo Racing has more options than they can fit in their building: parts, racing suits, some 40 helmets, fuel and lubricants, and more.

Partnering with ProFormance

Armadillo Racing’s Bremerton Headquarters. Mural by Nicki Collins.

For the last 25 years Armadillo Racing has been a teaming partner with ProFormance Racing School. The official safety equipment supplier for the school, Andy keeps a display in the ProFormance building. He also coaches Competition Licensing students about safety equipment for drivers. ProFormance Chief Instructor Don Kitch, Jr. explains why the relationship has been long term: “ProFormance does not do business with racing boutiques. We do business with racing people who are trackside and have the knowledge, equipment and supplies to get you through your weekend.”

Knowledge in particular is vital. “The helmet for an open wheel formula car might be different from what you’d wear in a sedan,” Andy says. “Say you’ve been wearing an open face Bell helmet, and now you want a Roux full face helmet, because it’s got a built-in microphone. Well, a Roux doesn’t fit the same way as a Bell. Or you want a Bell full-face helmet, but they don’t always fit the same as an open face. Sometimes I’ll bring 4 or 5 helmets out so they can make sure they get the right one.”

“ProFormance does not do business with racing boutiques. We do business with racing people…

— Don Kitch, Jr.

Beyond Expertise: Service

Knowing what the customer needs is part of the formula. Getting it to them when they need it is essential too, even if that requires jumping through hoops. In this Amazon era everyone waits to the last minute to order things, so there are stories of delivering a helmet to Pacific Raceways at 7 a.m. in the rain. The reason: “I love my clients to death, and want to make it easy for them. I hate to tell you how much gear I’ve sold in Safeway parking lots.”

The Perfect Price Point

It’s no secret that racing can be pricey as sports go. Andy considers it his mission to make sure that customers don’t spend more than they need to. “All of our pricing is MAP – Minimum Advertised Price. You’re going to pay the exact same price as everyone else in the world. There’s no reason to go elsewhere.”

Racing Families: Andy and VP Ana Collins with the Unsers

Saving customers money means finding out what they really need, not what they think they have to buy. If you’re refueling at Lucky Dog, for example, you need a racing suit, but you don’t need to spend six hundred dollars on an SFI-5 suit. Armadillo can put you in a Proban suit that meets SFI standards for a quarter of the price. “We want people out there racing,” Andy says. “I don’t want somebody to say I took all their money and they can’t go racing.”

On rare occasions someone will ask Andy for the most expensive helmet he’s got. “What they mean is, they want the safest and lightest helmet for what they’re racing. The carbon fiber helmet that’s designed for open-cockpit racing is expensive. But the fiberglass helmet, designed for closed cockpit racing and only slightly heavier, is a good option. I’d hate for someone to spend all their money on safety gear and find that they can’t afford tires or the entry fee.”

Taking Care of People

“If you’ve been to the races, and you know racers here, you know our philosophy is no different from theirs. They’ll stay up all night helping a competitor put an engine in a car so that they can beat him on the track, rather than win because the competition couldn’t make the race.”

We do the same thing. Someone might ask, “Do you have a set of brake pads for a Volvo?” If we don’t, I’ll say, “Wait – go see Gary Small at Small Engine Services. He has a Volvo, and there’s a good chance he’ll have the pads.” Sometimes people ask for something I’ve just sold. I tell them who I sold it to, and maybe they can loan it to the customer.”

Andy feels the same way about doing business with ProFormance. “I don’t think I’ve had one unsatisfied racer in 39 years. If something screws up, with fix it. Don Kitch is the same way – he makes sure people are taken care of. If they’re unhappy, he makes them happy. And both of us, because of our long-time involvement in sports car racing, are doing everything we can to grow the sport.”

The Future: Bigger and Better

When the new Motorsports Park arrives at Pacific Raceways, Andy Collins will have a showroom there, granting him a bit more elbowroom in which to go on fulfilling his destiny: making sure that every driver at ProFormance goes on to the track with exactly what they need – no more, no less.

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