51 reason agreement came to be

State representative Leslie Waters is the sponsor of the Hinegardner's car, which bears her district's number.

Published November 28, 2004

PINELLAS PARK - Sandy Hinegardner noticed an advertisement on the back of a taxi. Leslie Waters has a connection to 51.

Who would have thought the disparate details would work so well together? But for six years, Waters, the District 51 state representative, has helped sponsor the No.51 open-wheel modified car owned by Hinegardner and her husband, Mike.

"It's been tremendous," Mike said.

"It was," Waters said, "love at first sight."

Waters, R-Seminole, said she and the Hinegardners got together after she attended one of Sunshine Speedway's Readers and Racers childrens' literacy programs and walked the car prep area with her husband, Al. Small talk led to sponsorship talk. That's when Sandy mentioned the display ad on the taxi.

"I said, "Did you ever think of a traveling billboard?' " Sandy said. "That's how she went with us. That's how I sold her."

"What I always told them is I'm always racing for victory," Waters said. "When you're a politician and running for re-election, it's always the finish line. That's the same thing a car driver does."

Waters pays $750 every three months during the racing season to have her name and slogans on the car, which is painted aqua. Waters. Get it?

With the track closed, Sandy said the car will race around the state, and she wants to extend the deal through 2006. Mike said the money pays for two sets of tires. Waters said the exposure has been terrific.

"Some folks that I haven't even met or don't know know that I come out here," Waters said. "I see them out in the community. It's a nice connection."

Waters said the alliance put racing in her blood, and she visited the track monthly after becoming a sponsor.

"I made sure I just didn't pay to endorse a car and never come out," Waters said. "I sit in the stands. I go down where the kids sit with the families. I like the family orientation, the excitement, the camaraderie. It's a great hobby. It's an expensive hobby."

Thanks to Waters, a little less so for the Hinegardners.