By Katie Carson
The SEMA Emerging Trends & Technology Network (ETTN) recently had a chance to talk with Krista Baldwin, creative director for McLeod Racing.
How did you get involved in the automotive aftermarket?
My true passion is drag racing. Both my grandfather Chris “the Greek” Karamesines and my late father Bobby Baldwin were Top Fuel dragster pilots. When I was a freshman in college at Northern Arizona University, I attended a race and met Paul Lee, president of McLeod Racing. We started talking, and I explained that I needed an internship in order to graduate from college. He brought me on as a social-media intern for his Nitro Funny Car race team, where I worked for two years and was introduced to the world of the performance aftermarket. I enjoyed my time as an intern, so when I graduated from college, Paul offered me a full-time position to handle both the McLeod and Paul Lee Racing marketing duties.
What is your role with McLeod?
I am a creative director. I work on anything from ad creation to trade-show coordination to T-shirt sales. I produce press releases and deal directly with the media. I also am part of the on-the-road team where we display our product at race tracks and shows. It’s a lot, but I wouldn’t change it for the world because this is what I love to do.
What sparked your interest in becoming a creative director?
When I was little, I also knew I wanted to be a Top Fuel dragster driver. I made a promise to myself and my family that I would finish college and find a full-time job before I stepped into Top Fuel. I decided I wanted to learn everything I could about marketing and find a position in the field. Being a creative director is not easy at times, but I love it because I get to express my mind and present new and fresh content for the company.
What do you love about your company and what you do?
McLeod is awesome; hands down the best. I love that there are only 20 employees, so we are able to interact with each other on a daily basis. My team is amazing and we all work well together to produce great-quality products with our established brand. I also love that almost all of us are car enthusiasts or racers. Paul Lee is an NHRA Nitro Funny Car driver. Lana Chrisman, vice president, grew up with her legendary father Jack Chrisman and drag-racing pioneer cousin Art Chrisman. Joe Macasero, our import salesman, is a weekend warrior in his EG Civic, tackling the dragstrip and Time Attack tracks. It’s fun to be with people who have the same passion as you. It makes for work to be enjoyable.
What one aspect brought you the most success in your career?
Definitely one of the things that I’m proud of each year is the SEMA Show. It brings so much pressure to the company because it is the Show of all shows. This is the time to feature new product to thousands of our customers and distributors. Show planning literally takes a whole year. It’s one giant puzzle, and I am the one placing the pieces to make sure everything fits together. We always have back-to-back meetings during the Show with media and customers to discuss what we want to accomplish together for the coming year. It’s a ton of work, but completely worth it because it is four days of quality content being discussed.
How important are technology trends to you?
In dealing directly with technology to reach new customers every day, trends are extremely important. You have to stay on top of what is happening in the digital world to produce fresh content to bring to the company. Consumers are constantly evolving, and whatever will get them to shop for our products or learn about our brand is essential to a successful media campaign.
How do you see the automotive aftermarket evolving over the next 10–15 years?
The automotive aftermarket will be bigger than ever. Coming from the drag-racing scene, each year I see younger attendees who have an interest in the aftermarket. The next generation is going to help carry the aftermarket into the new era. As a millennial, I believe that we may do something completely off the wall and unconventional, but that’s what will set us apart. Just watch, the aftermarket will be booming with crazy new technology.
What would you like to see from the ETTN?
Technology is constantly changing. Sometimes it’s difficult to be privy to new trends and products. The ETTN does a great job of informing us of what’s new and what we should watch out for.
What is your daily driver?
A ’14 Dodge Dart. But my weekend ride is a 4,000hp, nitro-methane-injected A/Fuel dragster capable of reaching 275 mph in 5.2 seconds down the quarter-mile.
What is your favorite OE car or truck coming off of the line right now and why?
Not going to lie, I’ve had my eye on the ’18 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. A supercharged 700+ hp SUV? Yes, please!