Miles seeking presenting sponsor for 2016 Indianapolis 500, more international races too

18 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – In past years, the Indianapolis 500 race telecast on ABC has had a presenting sponsor, but the race itself hasn’t.

That may be about to change for the 100th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 2016.

As Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles explained to MotorSportsTalk in an interview this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, finding additional sponsorship to grow to existing new partners that have come on board is one of the biggest goals for the company.

“I think we’ll have a presenting sponsor of the Indianapolis 500 Race by next year’s race,” Miles told MotorSportsTalk. “There’s a few prospects. But it could very well be a new company to come in as a partner, and there’s more out there.”

A presenting sponsor for the Indianapolis 500 would be arguably the biggest change yet to a race that has undergone changes in nearly every facet but the name of the race itself.

However, it would add to what is quickly becoming a growing portfolio of major companies – Verizon, Panasonic, Sunoco and Angie’s List, to name a few – either getting further involved with INDYCAR or joining the series itself.

“We’re pleased and we think we have good momentum,” Miles said. “With Panasonic and Sunoco, the first is new to us and the second is expanded and extended.

“We feel very good about our commercial relationships. Fundamentally, we have to be a good partner, and that goes to day-to-day communications and professionalism. I think we’ve earned a lot of trust in establishing rapport and customer service with our sponsors.

“When your ratings are going up (2014 saw a 25 percent increase over 2013), you’re more likely to be able to attract additional sponsors.”

As for the 2016 schedule, it’s never too early to forecast potential new races, and despite this year’s Brazil cancellation Miles and INDYCAR remain active in looking for new international destinations.

Miles named South Africa, Colombia or the UAE (United Arab Emirates) as potential destinations in 2016 in a Sports Business Daily report; some owners, notably Roger Penske, have spoken out against a race in the UAE.

Colombia has an active presence on the grid with no less than five drivers: Juan Pablo Montoya, Carlos Munoz, Gabby Chaves, Sebastian Saavedra and Carlos Huertas, having made starts in IndyCar this year.

Miles didn’t name those countries directly when I spoke to him last week, but he reiterated a goal he had to find international partners to help with the schedule shift forward.

“It is difficult to find U.S. events in February and the very beginning of March because of climate,” Miles told MST.

“But there are some prospects out there. I don’t mean to say 10 and in terms of international races, which could help fill a first month or the first four, five or six weeks, we are quite optimistic about one for next year and there are ongoing conversations.

“If we want to do it, if we want to expand in that time of year internationally, the market is there.”

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

Leave a comment

Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).