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.”

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.