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Mallya chasing international appeal with Force India name change

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Force India Formula 1 owner Vijay Mallya hopes that changing the name of his team for 2018 will help to appeal to a more international audience of sponsors as discussions regarding a rebrand continue.

Force India made its F1 debut back in 2008 and strongly embraced its national identity, only for plans for a name change to emerge last month.

A number of companies with links to Mallya using ‘Force One’ were established in the UK in the past six weeks, pointing towards a new name for the team.

Speaking to NBCSN over the British Grand Prix weekend, Mallya explained that he believed a name change to be necessary for Force India in 2018 in order to open up to more international sponsors.

“When I named the team Force India, it was to attract and appeal to the millions of young motorsport fans in India,” Mallya said.

“At that time, I was hopeful that there would be an Indian Grand Prix and that there would be many Indian sponsors.

“The Indian Grand Prix happened, but it was sadly short lived, and doesn’t seem to be any prospect of it coming back.

“And there have been no Indian sponsors as I had earlier hoped as they all seem to be putting their money into cricket.

“So I have to necessarily appeal to a more international audience of sponsors, so I must give the team an international identity.

“Force India is too India-centric, and that’s why discussions are happening on a name change.”

Despite the creation of the Force One companies, Mallya insisted that “we haven’t decided on anything yet” for 2018, but confirmed he wanted to retain ‘Force’ in the name.

“There are several suggestions. I want to be able to keep the first word, ‘Force’, and add a suffix to it,” Mallya said.

“But it’s a discussion stage.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race the No. 3 vs. IndyCar stars in Michigan iRacing

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).