High Speed Chase


Attorney Brian Surgener (right) and his two sons, Wyatt, 7, and Mason, 9, spent time with race car driver Derrike Cope.

Photos by Steve White

Attorney sponsors racing team at MIS

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

The roar of engines, smell of exhaust, cheers of the crowd, the view from the pit – all are fantastic memories for attorney Brian Surgener and his family after attending the June 13 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn as guests of honor of the No. 70 team.

An attorney in Jackson and Lansing, Surgener has worn another hat since the fall of 2006 – that of president and founder of the award-winning Jackson Coffee Company, with three locations in Jackson. In that role, he partnered with DCR racing for this NASCAR race and was the primary sponsor of the No. 70 Chevy Camaro driven by former Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope.

Watching the race from the pit box with the DCR crew chief, Surgener and his family were thrilled to watch the car race around the track sporting the Jackson Coffee Company logo on its hood and sides, and the names of Surgener’s sons, Wyatt, 7, and Mason, 9, on the passenger and driver’s sides, respectively.

“Being up close with DCR racing was an experience of a lifetime,” Surgener says. “Some families spend their vacations at the beach – we just spend ours at the racetracks being a part of NASCAR nation.”

The family rented an RV and stayed at the infield from Thursday through Sunday of race weekend. A major downpour on Friday night did not interfere too much with race activities, other than forcing the cancelation of the first Xfinity practice.

According to Surgener, whose Jackson Coffee Company is the official coffee supplier for the MIS annual Spirit of America blood drive each September, the race was loud, but not as loud as NHRA racing.

“We all wear headsets like the crew wear so the noise is barely noticeable,” he says. “You feel the vibrations more than you hear the cars.”

The only disappointment came when the No. 70 car failed to finish due to the transmission breaking.

“Things breaking are just a part of racing,” Surgener says.

Jackson Coffee Company received a huge response by sponsoring a NASCAR team says Surgener, who previously sponsored race cars at a local track in Mason but nothing to the level of a full NASCAR sponsorship. 

“It’s extremely expensive, but worth every penny of the cost. We’ve already seen a return on advertising dollars locally.”

A cum laude graduate of Cooley Law School, and an attorney for close to two decades, Surgener’s first encounter with NASCAR was when a law firm he worked for represented the estate of Clifford Allison; the son of NASCAR champion Bobby Allison, a stock car racing driver who was killed in a 1992 crash during practice for a NASCAR Busch Series race at MIS.

“It was a products liability case against the builder of the car, NASCAR, and other component manufacturers,” Surgener says. “I spent four hours with Bobby Allison, in Hueytown, Alabama, and after that I became hooked on the sport.”

Avid NASCAR and NHRA fans, Surgener, his wife Tara Fry, and the two boys will attend the Kentucky Motor Speedway later this year and then travel to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C. Last year the family camped in the infield at both MIS races, and attended NASCAR races at the Chicagoland Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway, and NHRA races at Norwalk, Ohio, and Chicagoland.

Mason’s favorite Sprint Cup driver is Kyle Larson.

“He’s such a fan that he had a one-on-one meeting with him last year that was covered by a Toledo television network,” Surgener says.

“After our MIS weekend with DCR, Mason says I might get Father of the Year Award from him. He then says there’s still time for me to lose the nomination,” he adds with a smile.    

Surgener owns two race cars: a 1967 Camaro with 850 horsepower nitrous oxide set up, and a 650 horsepower Hennessey Camaro rated at 204 MPH. 

“Both are street legal, but we mainly take them to car shows,” he says.

Does Surgener have his own dreams of racing?

“I’m too old and it’s too dangerous,” he says. “I only get to feel the rush of what it would be like to drive a real NASCAR when I do the Richard Petty Driving School each year, doing 18 laps at an average speed of 160 mph. I find it a bit claustrophobic to get in and out of the cars – the seat is very snug around you.

“I would love to get my kids into local car racing, but my wife is dead set against it.  Probably for the better.”

Surgener limits his law practice nowadays, and managers and staff run the coffee business, freeing him up to spend more time with his family.

“One of my greatest joys is taking both my children to school every morning,” he says.

“It takes a lot of courage to move out of the legal career and do other ventures,” he adds. “I would encourage other lawyers who are considering changing career paths to do it. You can always go back to law, and you’ll find yourself much happier fulfilling your inner dreams. Do it before it’s too late.”

    For Surgener, sponsorship of a NASCAR race team was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“My children will always remember it – they’ll also remember it was the reason there was no money for them to go to college,” he says with a smile.