Sunoco inks 10-year sponsorship agreement with NHRA

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The National Hot Rod Association is set to receive a big boost starting next year when major fuel company Sunoco gets on board as an official sponsor of North America’s top drag racing organization.

Already heavily involved in both NASCAR and IndyCar, Sunoco will become the official racing fuel of the NHRA as part of the 10-year agreement.

Additionally – and just as important – Sunoco will carry out a broad activation plan that includes television spots, additional digital presence, and on-site and consumer/retail promotions.

“The fuel supplier is one of the most integral partnerships that a racing sanctioning body can have,” NHRA president Tom Compton said in a statement. “We’ve had great partners in the past, however, Sunoco not only will provide our racers quality products but our companies will be great marketing partners to increase awareness of NHRA drag racing and the Sunoco brand.”

“Motorsports and the manufacturing of performance fuels are in Sunoco’s DNA,” Sunoco president/CEO Bob Owens added. “Our partnership with the NHRA represents our dedication to performance at the highest levels of racing and will carry over to the fuels that consumers put in their street vehicles.”

Sunoco will serve as the exclusive on-site gasoline and nitromethane supplier for all NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national events.

Its gasoline will also be the spec racing gasoline for the Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle categories at national events, as well as for Competition Eliminator categories both nationally and in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

“Partnering with the NHRA is another step forward in our goal to bring Sunoco performance fuels to every level of racing, from grassroots drivers and riders to drivers competing in all premiere professional series,” Sunoco GM of performance products/automotive events Rob Marro said.

“Our commitment to our partners within the sport, along with our promise to produce and manufacture only the highest quality product, has allowed us to fuel hundreds of sanctioning bodies, local tracks and engine builders for the past five decades.”

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.