One of the most loyal of motor racing sponsors is oil company Valvoline, which is owned by the Russell, Kentucky-based Ashland Inc. The company is involved not only in petroleum but also in coal, chemicals, plastics and the construction business.The company can trace its roots back to 1917 when wildcatter Fred Miles started an oil drilling venture called Swiss Oil. It was a success and in 1924 Miles decided to expand and bought a small refinery in Catlettsburg, close to the town of Ashland. He renamed the business Ashland Refining. A few years later he fell out with his Swiss Oil backers and resigned. Swiss expanded buying refineries, small oil companies and pipelines and in 1936 decided to change its name to Ashland Oil. The immediate post-war boom saw Ashland buying up small oil companies and in 1950 it acquired the Freedom-Valvoline company. In the 1960s the firm diversified into chemicals and even retail marketing and began foreign exploration.There was a scandal in the mid 1970s when the company was subject to a federal investigation into illegal political donations and payments to foreign government. This led the company to become a target for takeover but that was avoided and acquisitions continued in the 1990s. The link with motor racing has always been strong not only because of Valvoline but also through its anti-freeze brand Zerex.