NASCAR: Nationwide Series race at Indy picks up new title sponsor

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The NASCAR Nationwide Series’ 250-mile race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has picked up a title sponsor in a multi-year deal.

Eli Lilly and Company, an Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company that also sponsors Nationwide Series rookie and Type 1 diabetic Ryan Reed, will back what’s now known as the Lilly Diabetes 250.

The Nationwide Series moved to IMS in 2012 after a 30-year run at nearby short track Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park) in order to join the Brickyard’s “Super Weekend” – which also features the Brickyard 400 for the top-tier Sprint Cup Series and the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

But the first two NNS races at IMS, won by Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch, did not have a title sponsor.

As you can likely gather from the race’s new name, Lilly and its driver are both keen on using the race to raise awareness of diabetes, which affects more than 380 million people around the world.

“…We know the reach NASCAR has and we are honored to join our neighbors at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to sponsor this race,” Lilly’s U.S. vice president Mike Mason said in a statement.

“We hope our involvement will provide the awareness that is essential to prevention and management of this disease. By working with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we hope to get people talking about diabetes with their doctor, as well as their friends and family.”

Reed, who races for Roush Fenway Racing and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 17, had this to say: “To have the opportunity to race at the home of Lilly’s corporate headquarters in Indianapolis is a great honor and something I’ll never forget.

“I’m grateful to everyone at Lilly Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association for the opportunity to join them in promoting diabetes awareness with the hope of someday eliminating this devastating disease.”

The Lilly Diabetes 250 will go off on Saturday, July 26.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski