Unification sets the stage for sponsorship growth

Cut through the clutter. Nix the noise. Before the unification announcement, North American open-wheel racing was akin to the Democratic presidential primary season. That's all history.

The IndyCar Series has strong brand attributes and the most famous race in the world as its cornerstone event. Without confusion about "Which series are you now?" and a competing message, its voice will be heard more clearly in the business community. Greg Gruning, the Indy Racing League's vice president of sales, already is taking the message across the land.

"I think the platform becomes elevated with a unified series," Gruning said. "The clutter is gone and the value of the series takes another step forward. It is an unprecedented opportunity for corporations. We're open for business. What we have is an even more powerful story.

"Unification creates the excitement around not only the open-wheel product on the track. We'll have a bigger footprint, a broader platform to launch off with the brand attributes, especially as we visit corporations today."

Those attributes include:

Speed. Can't argue that. In 2007 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Kanaan recorded the fastest Indianapolis 500 race lap of 223.420 mph. In the NASCAR race three months later, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had the fastest race lap at 176.876 mph. His car had about 200 more horsepower under the hood.

Innovation. From the rear-view mirror in 1911 to the SAFER Barrier in 2002 – and even purchasing a safety dummy that replicates the human body for testing — the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League continually have led the way in motorsports safety and innovation.

Technology. This season the IndyCar Series will have another motorsports first on the track by utilizing HD in-car cameras that will pan 360 degrees. All ESPN/ABC broadcasts will be in high-definition.

Diversity. Competing on short ovals, speedways, permanent road courses and temporary street circuits, the IndyCar Series has the most challenging and diverse lineup of racetracks in motorsports. Put to the test is an international lineup of driver talent.

Green. The IndyCar Series last year was the first – and still only – motorsports property to use 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol in its Honda Indy V-8 engines. The series' ethanol supplier takes renewable energy further with feed and part of the facility's energy needs derived from the production process. Even the mode of transportation in the paddock is environmentally friendly: Indy Racing League officials use Trek bicycles.

"From a corporate governance perspective, being green fits in really well," Gruning said. "Some of the top corporations there is a good match to our attributes. Taking the clutter out, removing the noise is going to be huge as the opportunity goes forward. In today's environment, corporations are making sure that they're making smart investments that have a return on the investment. We now have an elevated platform to take to them."

Opportunistic IndyCar Series teams also should benefit – with 2008 as the ground floor.

"What the IRL has is a good package, with the Indianapolis 500 and some other things that will help attract sponsors," Conquest Racing owner Eric Bachelart said. "There will be lots of cars, lots of teams. A good show." IndyCar.com

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