Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Toni Montgomery · Wednesday March 20, 2013
The IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the track for the start of the 2013 season this weekend in St. Petersburg, and Frontstretch is here to get you up to speed on your favorite open-wheelers. As part of our season preview coverage, IndyCar Editor Toni Montgomery recently had the chance to speak with Mark Sibla, Vice President of Partner Strategy for INDYCAR, about the state of the sport. Find out how INDYCAR copes with a challenging economy, offers exceptional value to their partners, and who Sibla thinks might be the breakout driver of the year.
Toni Montgomery, Frontstretch.com: Please tell us about your background. How and when did you start in INDYCAR? Did you grow up around racing or did you come from outside and if so, how did you end up in motorsports?
Mark Sibla: It’s kind of a long story, but I will tell you, I did grow up around the automotive world. I come from a fairly blue-collar background and so we went to a number of events whether it would be hot rod festivals, the NHRA Spring Nationals in East Columbus, or different stock car events. When I was growing up, I was always fascinated with automobiles. I think the passion was probably around the fact that somebody could build something that would go so fast. I was always around it but I never thought I would end up in motorsports.
When I went to college, I was more focused on the business side of film. I went to school in Wilmington, NC, where they filmed Dawson’s Creek, and everybody knew Wilmington from that show. When I was in grad school, an internship came up for Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and I thought, great opportunity to see if I want to be involved in something like motorsports or if I want to head back to film. I did the internship and absolutely loved it. I got involved mostly on the marketing and event management side initially and then moved over to sponsorship. It just seemed to be the perfect blend of passion for the sport and the business side. From Mid-Oho I then came over to INDYCAR.
Montgomery: Tell us about your job at INDYCAR. What particular aspects of the sport are you primarily responsible for and what do you do on a day to day basis?
Sibla: Partner strategy within INDYCAR is almost like an agency unto itself. We oversee the partners that are signed and involved with the sport. It’s a step above just fulfillment, providing tickets, hospitality and things like that. What we try to do is focus on a couple of things. One, the return on objectives and return on investment that’s been set forth by the partner, so whether that’s Verizon talking about application downloads or Avis talking about more rentals, we sit down the client and try to understand that, and then how can we use their asset allocation with the series, as well as other assets we may have available to meet that objective. The big thing for us, and I think we recognize this, is working with partners to activate in and around the sport. I think if you look at motorsports overall, I think NASCAR’s done a really nice job of having partners activated that have told that story on behalf of their sport and that’s really what our group is focused on doing as it applies to INDYCAR.
Montgomery: 2012 was a very positive year for INDYCAR in a lot of ways. What do you think was maybe the biggest thing that was a positive in getting INDYCAR headed in the right direction?
Sibla: I think it was the introduction of multiple OEM’s on the engine side. With Honda continuing to bring their support and Chevy joining that fold, and they’ve both continued on into this year as well. It’s created more interest for the fans. You have fans of both makes and so they love following that. It’s also brought that activation. Honda’s done a fantastic job with their “Fastest Seat in Sports” and that promotion, and Chevy’s done an excellent job with the at-track events that they have. They have a great display that they bring in to the IndyCar races. Bringing those multiple engine manufacturers I think was the most exciting thing for our sport in 2012.
Montgomery: How do you turn positive gains with fans into positive interest from potential corporate partners?
Sibla: Corporate partners are going to want to go where the fans are, and I think when you have a property that’s on the rise and has that growth potential, you’re going to get corporate partners that are going to flock there. Whether it’s the opportunity to market to those fans, if it’s a consumer facing brand that wants to interact with those fans, or it’s just to create great events like Long Beach, where companies that maybe do business to business want to bring people to the event, so it’s a sought after event and they’re able to offer that to their customers. I think it’s a fairly easy tie-over because those partners are looking to be involved with things that frankly are popular. For us it’s good because we’ve got that forward growth and I think people take notice of that.
Montgomery: How do you get the right balance between corporate partners pairing up with your teams or supporting INDYCAR itself and becoming the official product of INDYCAR?
Sibla: My first role here at INDYCAR was focused on driving partners to the teams. It was a position that was staffed by INDYCAR but very much focused on the teams. We’ve continued that. We have another gentleman in that role where he literally goes out and seeks partners and then drives those to the teams. I think that it doesn’t have to be an either/or. I think in many cases we find that it’s both. You look at Verizon. They’re involved with a team as well as the series. Novo Nordisk, same situation. Many of those groups actually came over first on the team side and they said “Hey, we want to open up to additional assets that the league offers.” So we’ve worked with them and I think we’ve worked with them in a manner to complement the programs they have with the teams and I think that’s worked out very well. I think you also look at Century 21 just signed, both with the series and with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. That was one that the series was able to drive to a team, but the combination made sense. They were looking for some key events, Indianapolis 500 being the focus, and that’s where you’ll see the paint scheme on Josef Newgarden’s car, but then they also wanted the longevity of the season itself from some assets the league has. I think it very much can be paired together, it doesn’t always have to be one or the other.
Montgomery: The economy has been extremely challenging over the last few years. How has that affected what you do? Do you feel like it’s finally starting to improve and how will that affect what you do moving forward?
Sibla: It’s forced us to continue to be very rifled in our approach to insure what I talked about earlier. When you’re working with partners, and we made this switch to our department probably two years ago, even the title of the department was sponsor services and it was probably more focused on fulfillment. Here’s the contract deliverables, whether it’s PA announcements, tickets, or so forth. I think now what we’ve changed this department over to is this focus on return on objectives, return on investment and with that you build a stronger value proposition so it makes the renewals easier and I think it’s also something that our sales team when they go out and sell to folks, it’s something they can talk about. So someone says, hey, I’m investing, and there’s someone at the series who has my best interests in mind and wants to see it be successful. I think the economy has just made people be more focused. Is it more difficult? Yes. Are the dollars out there? Absolutely. You just have to be very educated and you have to go after the partners and show you can provide value and if you do that the money is there and the partnerships are there.
Montgomery: So really the challenging economy has created a whole new business model that’s probably better moving forward than what you were doing before?
Sibla: I think so. I think whenever you have a downturn like that, you have to adapt and you have to take a hard look at things and I think we did that here at INDYCAR and said let’s focus on providing value to our partners. Another big thing is the activation, working with them to activate around our sport. I think the days of somebody just coming in with money and whether it’s putting a logo on a car or just using a league marker, I think they want to see how can I use those assets to accomplish a set goal, whether that’s selling more widgets or increasing exposure, what are the other elements that go into that? I think if you can come and show them you have an all encompassing plan, you’re going to be effective and I don’t care if that’s motorsports or stick and ball or other things. I think one of the things we’ve seen is it’s not just sports you’re competing against, you’re competing against all entertainment anymore and you’re also probably competing a little bit and you’re starting to see some groups work together with non-profits because I think they’ve found there are some unique opportunities to work together. It has changed it a little bit but I think it’s worked out pretty well for us.
Montgomery: What kinds of things do you think INDYCAR could do to grow the audience further and maybe try to compete more with NASCAR?
Sibla: I think NASCAR has a very strong fan base and they’re doing a lot of things very well. I think that for INDYCAR, we need to focus on who we are. I think we’re doing a good job of that. I think again, and maybe this is because of the area I’m in, I think it’s working with our partners. You look at what Verizon is doing, here’s a group that just got done filming two commercials that look great that are not only going to promote the sport, but are going to promote an app that they’ve helped us develop that really is extremely fan friendly. It’s free, you can download it, it has the live timing and scoring on it, they’ve got different camera angles, you can get all kinds of news and information. I think NASCAR’s had some great partners that have helped grow that sport, and I think we’ve taken notice of that and we’re working with our partners to do the same. I think if we do that we’ll successful in our own right.
Montgomery: What do people have to look forward to from INDYCAR this year? Are there any ideas in the works that will keep that interest from fans and corporate partners growing?
Sibla: Absolutely. I think the big thing for us this year will be “Turbo,” a movie that’s coming out this July. It’s a film with Dreamworks that we partnered with them on. The concept is a neat one. It’s about a snail that aspires to race at the Indy 500 and through some interesting actions and scenarios actually gets that opportunity. I think it’s a huge film for us. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is very much integrated into it. Going back to what we talked about, activating with partners, this is the first time that you’re seeing brands integrated into an animated feature film of this sort. Verizon is involved, Hewlett Packard is involved, Target is involved, Chevy is involved, Sunoco, Firestone, are actually integrated authentically into the movie. I think that will be something that will be huge for our sport, huge for our partners, and gives us the ability to really speak to that younger audience and educate them about the Indy 500 and INDYCAR overall.
Montgomery: Let’s wrap it up talking about the on-track part of the sport. Who do you think is shaping up to be the biggest breakthrough driver this year?
Sibla: I’ll say that it’s going to be Simona de Silvestro. I think she certainly has the skill set and I think she has a great opportunity this year with her teammate Tony Kanaan. She looked great at the Barber open test. That will be my big breakthrough driver this year. It would be popular with the fans too. She is not only a great driver, she’s also one of the nicest people you’ll probably ever meet.
Montgomery: What one venue that INDYCAR does not visit this year do you think would be the most welcome addition to the schedule?
Sibla: A lot of folks have talked about Phoenix. I think that’s one that’s on a lot of individuals’ minds. I think when we look at the data in and around our sport, we find that we have a very strong fan base in the northwest so I think if I had to choose any I’d say we find an event that’s in the Seattle area, just because of some of the data we’ve seen, but if I have to go with a permanent venue I’d say Phoenix.
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