Honda drops sponsorship for IndyCar at St. Pete (UPDATED)

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UPDATED (4:05 p.m. ET): Honda has issued the following statement regarding its decision to drop title sponsorship of the IndyCar Series’ Grand Prix of St. Petersburg after nine seasons:

“We continually evaluate our marketing promotions to assure that we have a portfolio of programs which reaches Honda’s broad customer base. The 2014 season will mark a strategic shift for American Honda in the allocation of its motorsports and marketing resources, in order to amplify its visibility at key events on the IndyCar Series schedule. We believe race sponsorships provide a unique at-track opportunity to reach racing enthusiasts and expose them to our brand and products. Moving forward, we will focus our efforts on the goal of providing the best fan experiences possible.”

In a Friday evening report from Danielle Paquette of the Tampa Bay Times, race president Tim Ramsberger seemed to indicate that the event was caught off-guard by the decision.

“To say we’re surprised is an understatement,” Ramsberger told the Times. “It’s a tough thing to experience but I don’t think it’ll damper the race. It won’t affect us going forward.”

Honda had been the race’s title sponsor since its first edition under Indy Racing League/IndyCar sanction in 2005; it had been a Champ Car race for its inaugural running in 2003.

However, both Ramsberger and St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster were bullish about the race’s long-term future in comments made for the Times’ report.

“Sponsors come and go,” Foster said. “No one’s married to Honda. We’re married to the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.”

In a press release, Ramsberger said he learned last week of Honda’s decision, but that the race is “grateful for their support over the years and are pleased by the way in which the event has grown during this time.”

The release also expressed confidence about the race’s ability to attract new sponsors that can augment the current support of the race from local and national partners, such as Firestone.

“They’ve all experienced first-hand the many benefits of the event both on-site and through the visibility of a global television audience,” Ramsberger said. “We’re at the cusp of a new era for our event and I’m confident new and existing partners will step up and enjoy the growing benefits the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has to offer.”

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”