Save Mart’s “Big Red” hot-rod shopping cart carried owner Bob Piccinini and his son at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 last month, wowing the crowd
In the annals of giant shopping carts, “Big Red,” Save Mart Supermarkets’ customized hot-rod cart, may be the first to come with its own engine.
And not just any engine, but a Watson Racing Chevy 540 that has 520 horsepower capable of propelling the 3,000-pound shopping cart up to 60 miles per hour in eight seconds.
Save Mart, a 240-store chain based in Modesto, Calif., created this cart to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its sponsorship of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race now called the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Save Mart owner and racing enthusiast Bob Piccinini, along with his 15-year-old son Dominic, rode in the cart during the pre-race “driver parade” on the day of the 219-mile race, June 26, at the Infineon Raceway track in Sonoma, Calif. (Kurt Busch was the winner of the race itself, collecting $293,300.)
The racing cart dwarfs a conventional Save Mart shopping cart, standing 12.5 feet tall, 8.25 feet wide and 11 feet long. Complete with an audio system, the cart accommodates a driver and two passengers sitting in the upper front basket. For authenticity, the cart also carries large replicas of Save Mart reusable shopping bags filled with ersatz produce and packaged goods.
“It’s really a race car with a shopping basket on top,” said Steve Junqueiro, president of Save Mart. “It’s a real crowd-pleaser.” Since its debut at the race, Big Red has appeared at a July 4th parade in Sonoma and at the California State Fair. “We’re getting a lot of requests for parades and openings,” he said. “The word’s out.”
Save Mart’s 20-year sponsorship of the Sprint Cup Series event is one of the longest-running NASCAR race sponsorships. Last month, the chain signed a new five-year agreement to continue as co-title sponsor of the event. Other food retailers known to sponsor NASCAR races include Kroger, Food Lion and Bashas’.
In addition to sponsoring the race, Save Mart makes NASCAR the focus of a 12-to-14-week “victory lane” promotion in its stores featuring numerous CPG suppliers, many of them also sponsors of drivers in the race. “It’s grown into our premier promotional event,” said Junqueiro.
Along with shopper contests, stores create a variety of racing-themed displays during the promotion, which this year boosted sales of promoted products by 6% to 10%, Junqueiro said. “This was our best year ever for store execution.”
As part of the promotion, Save Mart also arranges driver and show car appearances at stores. In 1992, the first year of the sponsorship, legendary driver Richard Petty was dropped into the parking lot of a store in Vallejo, Calif., by helicopter as 15,000 people clogged nearby roads to see Petty and his No. 43 STP Pontiac.