The aim to increase global market share is driving China’s biggest maker of construction equipment to the auto-racing circuit in the United States.

Sany Heavy Industry Co, which has designs on displacing Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc as the world leader in manufacturing cranes, front-loaders and other equipment, is the major sponsor of the No 7 Chevrolet SS in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

It is a first for a Chinese company to sponsor a car in a NASCAR event, said Tommy Baldwin Jr, whose North Carolina-based racing team owns the No 7 Chevrolet SS, which will be adorned with the logo of Sany America Inc for 14 races through the fall.

"These races are televised nationally and are broadcast around 150 countries, so there is great potential for brand exposure," said Sany America marketing director Joe Hanneman. The series, which got underway in February and continues through mid-November, counts construction workers among its legion of fans.

"Research shows that for folks who work in construction, NASCAR is the number one recreational activity spectator sport," Hanneman said. "So there is a real strong correlation there with the folks who buy and operate our cranes and excavators. So it’s really a natural tie."

Although Chairman Liang Wengen said in November that he sees Sany, based in Changsha, Hunan province, achieving annual sales of $47 billion within 10 years, Sany’s current figure is about $12.9 billion, well behind Caterpillar’s $65.9 billion.

The Chinese company is ranked as the world’s sixth-biggest maker of construction equipment and has been finding it tough to establish networks of dealers in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

"The brand exposure is going to help us," Hanneman said. "I don’t know that our NASCAR sponsorship is necessarily related to our work in the field versus competitors. But overall it is part of it – we need to get known in North America. It’s an ongoing process and I do think this sponsorship helps in that regard."

The idea of the sponsorship, announced in January, is to provide a unique experience for the company’s dealers and customers, who will be allowed onto the infield at racetracks and close to the pit during races, Hanneman said.

"You can really get a sense, close up and in person, for what a great spectacle racing is," he said. "It is just a great environment for our sales folks and our customers to come together and have a good time. And it helps build relationships."

On Monday, Baldwin gave Sany employees and guests and local officials at the company’s US headquarters in Peachtree City, Georgia, a chance to see the car and meet driver Dave Blaney.

Baldwin, a former crew chief and the son of auto racer Tom Baldwin, said Sany is learning how to use its sponsorship as a tool to please clients and win new customers.

"The good thing about our sport is you can touch the car, you can feel it," he said in an interview from North Carolina, where he was preparing for this weekend’s race in Virginia. "Other sports, you don’t get to meet the players in the clubhouse, you don’t get to be on the field. In this sport, you get to do all that."