IndyCar business: Indy 500 win like “manna from heaven” for DHL with Andretti

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Earlier this offseason, we chronicled several elements of Andretti Sports Marketing and Andretti Autosport’s 2015 plans (Milwaukee date evolution, Miami/NOLA promotional plan, MRTI programs, fourth car update, NOLA weekend promotion and Red Bull GRC breakout).

However none of it happens without the people behind the scenes doing the work or, crucially, the commercial partners aligned to an organization.

As far as the widely accepted top three teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series go, key partnerships have helped provide stability from a commercial and sales standpoint that have allowed the team to bring in the best personnel and drivers.

Team Penske’s Verizon (and previous to that, Phillip Morris) relationship has been pivotal to its success; Chip Ganassi Racing has grown over 25+ years thanks to Target; and Andretti Autosport has enjoyed successful relationships with several partners, notably DHL and the Dr Pepper Snapple group for long-term deals.

Consider these three teams have won all IndyCar championships since 2002, consider these three teams could be fielding as many as 12 full-time cars next season, and consider that the rest of the field seems to have a revolving door of primary sponsors and you can see why it can be so difficult for the rest to catch up.

Along with John Lopes, the driving force for many of Andretti Sports Marketing’s deals is Starke Taylor, its Vice Chairman, hailed as a “tour-de-force” by the company’s president.

“We [Taylor, Lopes, and Michael Andretti] formed Andretti Sports Marketing’s partnership specifically to expand our ability to grow and diversify our marketing capabilities and it’s paying off,” said Lopes.

Lopes expanded on DHL’s relationship with Andretti and how huge the Indianapolis 500 victory was for both respective organizations.

“Anytime you win the 500 with a sponsor, it’s like manna from heaven,” Lopes told MotorSportsTalk during an October interview at Andretti Sports Marketing headquarters in Indianapolis. “It’s a good thing.”

While the ‘500 win with driver Ryan Hunter-Reay stood out, it wasn’t the trigger that helped lead to a new three-year extension between DHL and Andretti Autosport for RHR’s No. 28 Honda-powered Dallara.

“DHL had committed to the extension before the Indy 500. We’d talked about it for months,” Lopes said. “It started with a small sponsor, Exel, way back in 2005 and has been with us since the whole history. That was one of the first deals I was involved with (he’s been with Andretti since 2005).”

How does DHL succeed with Andretti? It’s more what happens in boardrooms and meeting rooms than in engineering rooms.

“The whole foundation of the relationship is based on business-to-business,” Lopes explained. “So we are a sales arm for DHL in B2B in the U.S. We have literally a guy who, 60 percent of his work life is focused on selling B2B for DHL.

“I work on it every day with my colleagues.  We’ve become logistics junkies!  I could sit here and talk all day about DHL Global Freight, Exel port operations in New Orleans, and DHL Express international mail service.”

Andretti’s partnership with DHL is meant to increase DHL’s business returns.

“So we are actually tasked on our ROI year-end report, with what we’ve done to assist in DHL’s global business growth,” Lopes said. “We have a meeting where we report to them every week on our status.

“It’s probably one of the things we stress over the most; are we selling enough international express relationships and helping them grow?  If that is successful then the sponsorship is gravy.”

In an era of motorsports where multi-year contract extensions are almost as rare as bald eagles, getting a three-year deal done now in IndyCar – as Andretti and DHL announced in Milwaukee in August – speaks to the work ethic and dedication of both sides.

Hunter-Reay, of course, serves as both the wheelman and brand ambassador. It’s something the modern driver must succeed at, because driving today is about so much more than pure talent.

“Ryan’s done a nice job with it and is a great brand ambassador,” Lopes said. “But it’s about the business relationships.”

When you look back on RHR’s ‘500 win – he gets recognized for it later today with his likeness revealed on the Borg-Warner Trophy – one of the most memorable images will be his son Ryden in a matching, yellow DHL firesuit.

The “awww” factor is priceless there. As is the ROI.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III