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The Story Behind the “Saved By The King” Throwback for Josh Bilicki

(PC: Hershy Designs)

Paint schemes give NASCAR, its teams, and its drivers their identity. It’s a form of symbolism that many fans take to heart. Rarely does a design come along that holds a heavy meaning in this fashion to a driver or team, let alone a sponsor.

Under President Dan Block’s direction, Insurance King will run a special paint scheme at Indianapolis this weekend in memory of his dear friend Dustin Diamond, who played Screech in the 90’s hit TV show Saved by the Bell.

The actor passed away at the age of 44 in February after a battle with small cell carcinoma in his lungs. The on-track paint scheme set to debut this weekend marks a special moment for the relationship between Block and Diamond.

The friendship began with a simple Facebook message, with Block seeking a famous name to tie to his company’s commercials. He contacted Diamond to film a special commercial with the actor playing an adjusted character taking cues from his time on Saved by the Bell.

“When Dan approached me about the idea of this car, I was all for it,” Bilicki told TobyChristie.com. “I knew he had worked with Dustin Diamond in several parody Insurance King commercials, and they had become good friends. We started planning this at the beginning of the year before we knew Dustin Diamond was ill, so we had hoped to have him at the track with us. Dan did everything he could to help Dustin get his life back on the right track. Unfortunately, Dustin passed away not long after we started planning this race, so this is Dan’s memorial to Dustin, and I am just so thankful to be a small part of it.”

The car features that signature late 80’s, early 90’s look, something that Block had an input in when designing the car for his late friend. The connection between Diamond and Block sparked almost instantly upon meeting each other. Block wanted to go all-in with the marketing for Diamond during his time with Insurance King, even spoofing Diamond’s time on the iconic TV show.

“I remember doing my best Screech impersonation when presenting it, Block said. “He laughed and instantly repeated it back in his voice. He loved the concept and said it was well written. I knew that I couldn’t call him Screech but the noise we could use.”

Diamond would appear in multiple commercials for the company, marking what would be one of his last on-camera appearances.

One ad in particular even featured members of Block’s family, including his wife and his youngest son Dax. 

Block and Diamond’s relationship grew past business, approaching near connections of a family. When Diamond had spent time in the hospital previously, Diamond wanted to go to the local store and pick up NERF guns to play with along with Block’s family. It turned into nearly a full day of a NERF gun war at the Block residence. Thanks to his filming time, the man who never had a childhood was letting the child inside live more prominently.

“Dustin had gone to my kids’ hockey practices, came over for Thanksgiving with my family, would play nerf gun fights with my kids, he even stayed with me for an extended time while I was opening an office in Peoria IL. Dustin wanted work, and I did the best I could with creating work for him.”

Then, earlier this year, Diamond was diagnosed with extensive-stage small cell carcinoma of the lungs.

Block commissioned a special paint scheme, numbered 89, with “GET WELL SOON DUSTIN” on the sides. The actor got to see the concept and thought it was “really cool” to see his face on a car. He was never a major NASCAR fan, but the gesture brought some comfort in a time consumed by pain and uncertainty.

(PC: Insurance King)

Diamond succumbed to his illness in February, a life-changing moment that resonated with Block deeply. He lost not only a business partner but a friend.

So why Indianapolis for the scheme, and not a track such as Darlington or on the west coast?

“The reason we chose Indy was because our home office area code is 815,” Block said.  “Dustin frequently was in Rockford, IL filming ads and working on our marketing in the 815. This race also happened to be during the NBC broadcast, which is what Saved by the Bell is on.”

Many individuals who had an impact on the personal life of the late actor are expected to attend Indy this weekend, thanks to Block, including Dustin’s first girlfriend, Monique.

Monique saw the car for the first time from Insurance King, instantly bringing back memories for Dustin.

“It’s beautiful,” Monique said. “It takes me back to 1989 when they put together the opening titles with the theme song and graphics. Then, they played it for the first time for the cast, crew, and studio audience. Everyone on set that day was instantly energized. How can you not look at this and hear that infamous school bell?”

Diamond’s childhood best friend, Mark Bridge, will also join the Insurance King group for the race on Sunday to see the car in person.

“I think it’s a really nice tribute and happy to see someone doing something in his memory,” Bridges said. “I can’t wait to see it in person!”

Block wouldn’t want any other driver racing a scheme with this deep of a meaning, showing the connection between driver and sponsor is strong.

“Josh Bilicki does a great job promoting Insurance King as well as the great people at Rick Ware Racing,” Block said. “Our relationship with Josh goes back to him reaching out on Facebook. He found a picture of one of our company vehicles, and he created a paint scheme based on that company vehicle. I was so impressed because I knew that photo was embedded in a long comment thread, and that was the only place he could have found that photo. Because of that, we actually now have company cars that are wrapped to look like some of our paint schemes. Insurance King has a unique marketing strategy like the Bullshooter partnership where people can see Josh Bilicki and Insurance King NASCAR ads on electronic Dartboards all over the country. We love the national exposure from NASCAR and don’t see us leaving the sport anytime soon.”

Fans can see the No. 52 Insurance King Ford on track on Sunday, August 15th at 1:00 PM EST on NBC.

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