“Using the strengths of the Father to protect the gifts of the Mother” is the philosophy of Sacred Power Corporation, the largest Native-owned-and-operated renewable-energy systems integration and manufacturing firm in the U.S. Sacred Power’s co-founder, David Melton of the Pueblo Laguna tribe and American Indian Business Owner of the Year Award winner for 2011, has businesses in solar power, telecommunications, livestock-watering, home-electrification and all other facets of renewable energy. Melton has now embarked on another business venture, NASCAR. He has put together a truck-racing team led by A.J. Russell, the first Native NASCAR driver to compete at this level, and Rich Kuty, Jr., who serves as the team’s racing director.
When did you first say, “Hey, I want to own a racing team”?
I was at a trade show for [the National Indian Gaming Association]. We had a booth selling solar power. Out of the corner of my eye, I see this NASCAR truck. I’m a motor head, so I make a beeline for it, and there is A.J. Russell and Rich Kuty looking for sponsorship. I asked [Kuty], “How much does it cost to sponsor a truck?” and Rich said, “$50,000—at that level we will put your logo on the truck for one race.” I was like, Well, okay, at least I know it’s out of my realm.
But over a couple of years of talking, Rich finally says, “If you can provide solar for Frankie Stoddard’s house, I can get you in as a sponsor for five races in the cup series.” [Stoddard was crew chief for a racing team and swapped some sponsorships for the work on his house.]
The actual racing was really cool. At one point we had Dale Earnhardt Jr. on one side of our pits and Jeff Burton on the other side, and Kim Kardashian was walking behind us. It was pretty amazing. We started thinking as the year went by and as our five-race deal came to a conclusion, How can we stay in this world? Well, if we start a team, people will give us money to start racing. We said our tagline will be “Native owners, Native drivers, Native sponsors.”
Do you feel the Truck Series is a good fit, or are you hoping to move up to something else?
That is like the entry level [of] the NASCAR world. That is one of the top three series that NASCAR has. So we are going to start there. Cut our teeth—walk before we run.
It is an awesome experience to be there as an owner, not as a watcher or as a sponsor. We are really proud of A.J. and him representing our people out there. There were no other Natives in NASCAR, or any people of color, quite honestly. NASCAR really likes what we are doing, from a diversity standpoint, and they like what we are doing from a green standpoint.
We have fans all over the country clamoring for paraphernalia. We are going to open up a web page where they can buy stuff to support the team.
What does the future hold for Sacred Power Motorsports?
We call this extreme marketing. We get to meet the owners of the billion-dollar companies that sponsor NASCAR, and sell them on renewable energy. Here is a big thing: How many Native athletes are role models? There is Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams; Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox; Notah Begay, PGA—we want to say A.J. Russell, NASCAR.
They can be like the Mount Rushmore of Native athletes.
Yeah, that’s right [laughing]. We want to invite troubled youth into the pits, and tell them, People like you are doing this! Keep hope alive. We want to teach them the science and technology, the engineering of racing and solar and business and whatever else we can tell them. We have to fill that leadership role. We want to inspire.