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

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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.”

WATCH LIVE: IndyCar practice and qualifying at Laguna Seca

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For the first time in 15 years, Indy cars will be racing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and the stakes have never been higher.

Tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Monterey is the final race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, and with four drivers mathematically eligible for the series championship, there will be plenty of story lines to follow.

Current series points leader Josef Newgarden enters this weekend with a 41-point lead over second-place Alexander Rossi.

A California native, Rossi attended his first IndyCar race with his father as child at Laguna Seca when he was three years old.

He now hopes to win his first IndyCar championship at the track where he fell in love with the sport, but after suffering a broken bolt in practice 1 yesterday, he will need to find speed in P3 and qualifying today in order to put himself in the best position to fight for the title.

Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon are also in contention to win the championship this weekend, and another title would only add to their already illustrious IndyCar careers.

Leigh Diffey, Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell will call today’s on-track action from the booth, while Marty Snider, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller will report from the pits.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All times are Eastern)

Saturday 9/21, 1 p.m. ET, IndyCar Practice 3, NBC Sports Gold 

Saturday 9/21, 4:30 p.m. ET, IndyCar Qualifying, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold

Saturday 9/21, 6 p.m. ET, Indy Lights Race 1, NBC Sports Gold 

 

For sessions on NBC Sports Gold, be sure to have your username and password handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.