LeAnn Rimes to sing national anthem for Indianapolis 500

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Multiple Grammy Award-winning artist LeAnn Rimes will sing the National Anthem for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced Thursday.

“To sing the national anthem at one of the most prestigious racing events is truly an honor,” Rimes said in a release. “The adrenaline at the Speedway is felt around the world and I know I am one of millions who is so excited to hear those six legendary words ‘ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.'”

Added IMS President Doug Boles, “The pre-race pageantry of the Indianapolis 500 is one of the most exciting traditions in sports and a highlight of those activities is the singing of our national anthem. We are looking forward to LeAnn Rimes’ performance and hearing her amazing voice as we pay tribute to our great nation and the men and women who have served to defend our freedoms.”

Pre-race for this year’s Indianapolis 500 will likely stir emotions for fans, as it will also mark the last time Jim Nabors will sing “Back Home Again in Indiana.”

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.