Texas prez Eddie Gossage: “Enormous opportunity” awaits for new Cup Series sponsor

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With Sprint’s decision to end its sponsorship of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at the conclusion of its current agreement in 2016, NASCAR has some major shoes to fill.

In addition to its sizable efforts in marketing and promotion of the series, Sprint has worked to make the sport more fan-friendly through adding more cell towers near tracks and projects such as the Fanview at-track scanner and the NASCAR Mobile app.

Its “Miss Sprint Cup” ambassador program has also been a social media smash, boasting more than 1 million likes on Facebook and more than 100,000 followers on Twitter.

All told, that’s a tough act to follow for the company that chooses to replace them in a couple of years. But in a statement released today, Texas Motor Speedway president/general manager Eddie Gossage promoted the Cup Series sponsorship as an “enormous opportunity.”

“Sprint has been a tremendous series sponsor for NASCAR’s top-tier Cup Series and official sponsor of Texas Motor Speedway since they came aboard in 2004,” Gossage said. “While the news is disappointing that Sprint will not renew with NASCAR when their contract expires at the close of the 2016 season, Texas Motor Speedway as well as the entire industry is extremely appreciative of how impactful Sprint’s sponsorship has been in helping the growth of the sport and we all look forward to the company doing the same over the final two years.

“Much like 2004, this is an enormous opportunity for a prospective sponsor to join one of the country’s most popular sports on its highest level. NASCAR has reached out in advance to industry people like myself to assist them in identifying a replacement title sponsor.”

Gossage closed his statement by saying that TMS encourages NASCAR “to find an active, supportive and long-term sponsor with broad consumer reach and minimal category conflict that proves beneficial to the entire industry in the future.”

Sprint has been the title sponsor of the Cup Series since 2004, but their departure from the sport had been a possibility since it underwent a leadership change this past summer.

Under new CEO Marcelo Claure, Sprint has been pushing hard to stop losing customers to its wireless rivals and also reduce its spending by a whopping $1.5 billion. Before today’s announcement, it had already cut 3,700 jobs company-wide, affecting 11 percent of its workforce.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.