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"Sulli", IndyCar 'dealmaker extraordinaire'

by Tim Wohlford
Saturday, September 10, 2011

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You probably don't know him yet, but you will. James Sullivan (L) and wife Amanda
Tim Wohlford/AR1.com

You probably never heard of him, but you will. 

James "Sulli" Sullivan is a Brit (by birth) but ended up in Texas as the Baylor Bear.  You know, that costumed mascot that Baylor uses since the Feds decided that having full-grown bears in crowded stadiums wasn't a good idea?  Just talking to Sulli, Principal of IndyCar team SH Racing, you get the idea that he could single-handed fill up the place with bear-mascot energy.

He's a bundle of energy, always moving, always promoting, constantly meeting people.  He reminds me of my bright, but overly-energetic second grade classmate, who the teacher literally tied to his chair one day.  Don't call him "James" or "Jim", his friends call him "Sulli" and you are now his friend. 

In an interview with AutoRacing1, Sulli wanted to talk about his team, how it used knowledge from motorcycle racing to put together a deal for IndyCar, a deal that took over a year to pull off. 

He commented that had the check in the bank BEFORE they went looking for a driver, and how Tomas Scheckter was a great fit for the sponsor, Redline Xtreme Energy drinks. 

He was able to put together a deal with KV Racing for Indy -- finishing 8th -- and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for Baltimore.  While he isn't the guy who can help you meet one of the Redline Xtreme Race Girls we've seen at Indy, Baltimore and elsewhere, but yes, he does know that guy who can. 

But you get the idea that Sulli's mind is moving faster than an IndyCar.  He likes to say that his team is about "Hammer, nails and plywood" -- that a sponsor can, metaphorically speaking, get a hammer at the hardware store and make a lot of holes, but with his help (and the plywood and nails) actually build something. 

"Branding (is) more than the name on the side of the car," he quipped, and he's all about helping a potential sponsor get the most out of their IndyCar expenditure. 

Redline, for instance, might've been just another sponsor, but add a few Redline girls and a fitness nut driver, and you might have a whole lot more for just a few dollars extra. 

SH Racing's goal is to do a full 2012 schedule, building on the 2-race schedule they ran in 2011 -- "As many events as possible" Sulli commented. 

You get the idea that Sulli isn't running a Microsoft Project / project manager kind of operation. Instead doing what he does naturally -- sizing up the stadium, looking for opportunities, and making sure that the performance is the best it can be. 

He firmly believes that IndyCar sponsorship is underpriced, that sponsors who follow his "...hammer, nails and plywood..." method will see return on their investment. 

"We are the house builder" he told me -- and I have little doubt that he dreams of constructing entire cities.

When it comes to putting sponsorship deals together, this guy gets it.

And for that he earns our accolades as 'dealmaker extraordinaire.'

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