Sponsor news and notes from the Brickyard…

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Panther Racing has been runner-up at the Indianapolis 500 in four of the last five years, but the two-time IZOD IndyCar Series champions are hoping that a “super” change to its No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet will help them finally break through at the Brickyard.

As the National Guard teams up with Warner Bros.’ upcoming Superman flick Man of Steel to create the “Soldier of Steel” recruiting campaign, J.R. Hildebrand’s machine has swapped its traditional ACU camo for a dark blue hue. In addition, the famous “S” shield has been placed on the nose and the likeness of actor Henry Cavill in full Superman costume adorns the side pods.

“There’s a pretty seamless connection between these [National Guard] soldiers and Superman; they’re both just ordinary citizens serving their community,” said Hildebrand in a release. “So for us being able to compete in an iconic event like the Indianapolis 500 in Superman colors is just another way to highlight all the unbelievable things the National Guard does for this country.

“For us, the soldiers have always been the real superheroes.”

Insurance company GEICO is on board with Tony Kanaan and KV Racing Technology for this month’s “500.” It marks the sixth consecutive year that the company will be backing a KVRT machine.

“KVRT and GEICO have worked closely together over the past six years and we’re excited to have them back again this year,” team co-owner Jimmy Vasser said in a statement. “This gives us the opportunity to maintain a relationship that is extremely important to us as a team.”

So far, Hydroxycut and Itaipava beer have served as main sponsors on Kanaan’s No. 11 Chevrolet this season. However, at the most recent IZOD IndyCar Series race in Brazil, Vasser told writer Marshall Pruett that he was looking for more sponsors to back the former series champion during the summer portion of the schedule.

MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

Photo: Juncos Racing
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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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