Dan Wheldon would have been 35 today

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Throughout the life of two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon, he gave the IZOD IndyCar Series and its fans many things – chief among them being an exciting style of driving in the cockpit and a charismatic yet kind-hearted personality out of it.

But as today marks what would have been his 35th birthday, one can’t help but think of another gift he helped give to the sport. The Dallara DW12, which earned its name after Wheldon’s tragic death in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, has served as a phenomenal boost to the series. Wheldon and Bryan Herta Autosport developed the car early on, helping to identify key weaknesses that IndyCar and Dallara would work on leading up to its official debut in the 2012 campaign.

Sadly, Wheldon would not be able to completely see the project through. But through his and BHA’s efforts, the DW12 would eventually become track-worthy. And there can be no argument that it has provided some of the best racing on the planet over the last year and a half. IndyCar’s on-track product has been stellar, which should give its fans hope even as the series continues its current battle to reclaim the public presence it once had.

Indeed, while we wish Dan Wheldon was still here, his presence is still felt in a very positive manner.

Happy Birthday, Lionheart. From all of us.

Verizon confirms IndyCar title sponsor role exit after 2018

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As perhaps expected, Verizon has confirmed Friday it will end its role as Verizon IndyCar Series title sponsor following the end of its fifth year in 2018.

Reports surfaced shortly after this year’s IndyCar season finale at Sonoma Raceway that Verizon was re-evaluating its role within the series.

Indeed, as it was before becoming title sponsor in 2014, Verizon will remain a partner with Team Penske despite not also carrying the series title sponsor role.

In a statement, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles thanked Verizon for its support in this overall series role.

“Verizon has been a super sponsor and will continue to be so through all of next season. We appreciate that they reached their decision in a timely way so that we can thoughtfully and deliberately go back into the market for 2019,” Miles said in a statement, via Sports Business Journal.

Roger Penske also issued a statement, also via SBJ, saying, “We want to thank Verizon for the support they have provided the IndyCar Series and the role they have played as they helped us grow the sport as the title sponsor for the past five years. Verizon has helped the series reach new fans through their world-class activation and technology, including the Verizon IndyCar Mobile App. While they will no longer be the Series Title Sponsor after 2018, it is exciting they will still be in the sport through their relationship with our organization.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series has built a wave of momentum over the last few years with its competition level, parity and enthusiasm for some revived events, with Gateway Motorsports Park and Road America standing out as highlights being brought back after an extended hiatus.

The good news for INDYCAR (sanctioning body) is that there’s a new Dallara universal aero kit that’s been busy with testing the last few months and is now in the hands of manufacturers for manufacturer testing, and the series announced long-term extensions with Dallara, Chevrolet, Honda and Firestone earlier this year. New series champion Josef Newgarden has also been busy in a number of media events and appearances since the Sonoma season finale.

With this confirmation, INDYCAR has a new entitlement sponsor to find and a new TV contract to sort, with both existing contracts up after 2018.