Miles bullish on Verizon IndyCar awareness plans

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Less is more for Verizon Wireless as a company, according to Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles.

As Verizon has scaled back its sports sponsorships to just the National Football League and now title sponsor of the Verizon IndyCar Series, there is more room for growth, activation and promotion for both.

The NFL may be the sports behemoth, but IndyCar appeals to Verizon from a technology standpoint. Miles explained it during an appearance on Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick, in an interview with reporter Bill Brenner.

“They’ve been on a strategy where they’ve reduced their sports sponsorships, but increased involvement as title sponsor with us,” Miles said.

“Why? They have two principal sponsorships, NFL and IndyCar. They are determined to spread the message that they are a technology company, not just a telecommunications company.”

Verizon already released a teaser ad to go along with the entitlement partnership announcement. Now, Miles said the ad budget will be huge to moving IndyCar’s story forward.

“When they looked at our sport, they see so many moving parts, and want to improve the operations,” he said. “Their plans for that are terrific, and it will make a difference. They have a $1.2 billion advertising budget. They don’t want to keep it a secret.”

Other topics of the interview included more of his thoughts on expanding the month of May and discussing the various concert lineups as well. You can see a link to the full interview here.

The series kicks off this Sunday at St. Petersburg, with the first race on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra Long Beach on April 13.

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.