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ODP, NASCAR announce finalists in small business sweepstakes

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Office Depot has announced the two small business finalists in its annual “Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot” sweepstakes.

The two finalists are Kacie Howard, owner of HuckleBerry Pets, in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Sara Mortensen, owner of Bales Mold Service Inc., in Downers Grove, Ill. They will be officially introduced during a special press event this Friday, Sept. 2, at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Howard, 32, and Mortensen, 27, will be joined at the press event by Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala and team owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, and Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Fnord.

Stewart and Biffle will each feature one finalist’s logo on their respective race cars during this weekend’s nationally televised NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, AdvoCare 500 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Sunday, Sept. 4, 7:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN). Howard was randomly paired with Stewart, while Mortensen was matched with Biffle. 

The small business featured on the highest-finishing driver’s car at the end of Sunday’s race will be named the 2011 “Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot” and receive the use of the “Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot” logo for one year. Additionally, if Stewart or Biffle win the race, the small business featured on the winning car will walk away with $1 million. As finalists, both Howard and Mortensen receive a $10,000 small business makeover from Office Depot and a VIP experience this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“I’m excited to reward small business owners for the hard work and dedication they put into taking care of business every day,” said Stewart, who is a successful entrepreneur with 13 small businesses of his own. “Greg (Biffle), his 3M team and I are proud to have the finalists represented on our cars this weekend, especially knowing that we can deliver a $1 million prize for one lucky small business owner with a win. It’s going to be a fight to the finish!”

Stewart is the defending winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Labor Day Weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway and has three career wins while competing in NASCAR’s top series at the 1.54-mile track. Biffle is still searching for his first win at Atlanta, but has notched three top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts there.

“Office Depot and 3M have come together and given small business owners an amazing opportunity with the ‘Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot’ sweepstakes,” Biffle said. “As a small business owner myself, I have a real appreciation for what it takes to build a successful small business, and it means a lot to me to be involved in this promotion. I’m looking forward to getting to know the two finalists this weekend and doing everything I can to get to Victory Lane.”

Howard started HuckleBerry Pets in July 2010 with her husband, Chris. The business specializes in manufacturing comfortable, stylish and durable pet beds using orthopedic mattresses that help support a pet’s muscles and bone structure. 

If Howard were to win the $1 million prize, she said she would set her sights on expanding her business.

Mortensen’s father, Steve Bales, and uncle, Mike Bales, founded Bales Mold Service Inc., in 1978. Bales Mold Service, Inc., represents the cutting edge of engineered coatings and finishes, and continues to be at the forefront of developing technology to service varied industries. In November 2009, Mortensen’s father passed away and the company was handed down to her and her sister, Stacey Bales. 

The “Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot” sweepstakes finalist prize package includes the following: 

  • A $10,000 small business makeover from Office Depot (if applicable, the $1 million payout would negate the $10,000 small business makeover)

  • VIP race experience for two at the Sept. 2 to 4 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway 

  • Use of the “Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot” logo for one year, including on company stationery materials (to be printed by the Copy & Print Depot at Office Depot).