Gentlemen, start your engines—then check to see if the owner’s manual is in the glove compartment.

Last month, The Valvoline Co. signed a deal to become the first major consumer-products company to own a Nascar Winston Cup racing team.

Starting in 2001, the motor-oil maker will be an owner (with MB2 Motorsports) of the No. 10 team. The driver is veteran racer Johnny Benson, who will steer the Valvoline Pontiac Grand Prix.

A longtime sponsor of Winston Cup racing, the Lexington, Ky., company acknowledges the move was marketing driven.

“We’re doing something different here,” said Steven Kirchner, svp of worldwide marketing for Valvoline. “But we must continue to be innovative, creative, challenging and aggressive in our strategies to maximize the return on our marketing investments.”

Winston Cup racing has grown greatly in TV ratings and attendance, said Kirchner, with factors such as new network alliances, racetracks and marketing opportunities spurring growth. “What better way to be more involved than by becoming an owner?” he asked.