At 13, Patrick Womack rode his bike to the nearby Porsche dealer on a Sunday and dreamed through the darkened windows about the high-performance machines inside.
Womack is 50 now and works on the other side of the glass -- running a BMW dealership in Westmont, Ill. Yet the boy who once dreamed of fast cars is now doing what he can to fan that passion in a new generation.
Early this month, Laurel BMW of Westmont took a dozen cars out of its large showroom to make room for a huge aluminum track and hundreds of shouting, clapping, enthusiastic Boy Scouts and parents.
On March 1, the suburban Chicago dealership sponsored and hosted the Pinewood Derby for about 60 local Boy Scouts of Pack 10 to race model cars. The daylong event was paid for entirely by the dealership and included BMW hats, stickers and other gifts for each Scout participant, as well as food and appearances by celebrity racing guests.
All in, the day cost the dealership -- owned by AutoNation -- almost $10,000, including nearly $3,000 to purchase an official Pinewood Derby track. Yet the cost was secondary to spending a day getting kids interested in autos and racing, Womack said.
"My goal is to make an impression on these younger kids and to get their heads out of the phones and the iPads and whatever. I really think that we need to do more to get the interest of these kids into cars and racing," said Womack, Laurel BMW general manager.