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Handful of sponsor changes; TBA at Coyne on Road America entry list

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This weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America, Round 10 of the 17-race Verizon IndyCar Series season (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) will again feature a few different liveries on the 21 cars entered.

Three of the four Team Penske Chevrolets will switch liveries compared to last race at Texas. The switches are as follows:

  • Simon Pagenaud goes from white, black and silver DXC Technology car to bright fluorescent yellow for his No. 1 Menards Chevrolet.
  • Josef Newgarden, who raced against Juan Pablo Montoya’s orange and white No. 2 DeVilbiss Chevrolet last year, will now be in the orange and white DeVilbiss Chevrolet here this year. He has had the black and silver hum by Verizon colors most of the year.
  • Helio Castroneves’ white and blue AAA colors now shift to black and white for REV Group aboard his No. 3 Chevrolet.

“It’s a great race, especially for our main partner Menards because it’s where they’re based at. We’re going to have Menards back on the No. 1 Menards Chevrolet, and I’m really excited about that,” Pagenaud said.

Additionally, Scott Dixon’s No. 9 NTT Data Honda has a slightly revised white and blue livery, with red trim:

The yellow GEHL and D-A Lubricant colors return to Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, as they were for this race last year. Rahal ran a red and black car similar to Mikhail Aleshin’s at Texas.

“It would be fun to get a win there with GEHL being a local company and supporter of mine since 2006,” Rahal said.

JR Hildebrand’s No. 21 Chevrolet takes on the Direct Supply blue and white livery this race, same as it was for Newgarden last year.

“This is one of the events on that calendar that you circle at the beginning of the year and look forward to until you get there. I’m so glad that the Verizon IndyCar Series races at Road America again and that I get to be a part of it. I can’t wait to get out on track in the Direct Supply car this weekend,” said Hildebrand, who makes his first Road America IndyCar start this weekend. He’s raced here before in Formula Atlantic.

Alexander Rossi is back in the yellow and blue No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda colors rather than the red and blue colors he had at Texas.

As for Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 18 Honda? It’s still listed as TBA. While team owner Coyne said at Detroit he expected Esteban Gutierrez to be in the car at Road America, the team has not yet made this formal.

The full entry list is linked here.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’

Photo: Chris Estrada, NBC Sports
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NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”