Out With The Old And In With The New

Next season looks like a definite year of change. For someone like me that thinks change is bad, that can be a scary thing. Not only is there a new single broadcast partner in NBC that will be covering the Indianapolis 500 for the first time, there will be other changes.

As far as sponsorships go, we have known for more than a year that Verizon will no longer be the title sponsor for the series, although no replacement has been named yet. It seems as if a month ago we were told that we would know something in a couple of weeks. I guess whoever it is still has a lot of final details to be worked out.

Earlier this week, it was announced that Sunoco will no longer be the official fuel for the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – serving in that capacity since 2011. Sunoco will continue to be the official fuel of NASCAR and NHRA.

I’m sure this has been known for a while because within minutes of this announcement, we learned that Speedway has been named as the official fuel and convenience store for the IndyCar Series as well as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500. Out with the old and in with the new. That’s the way I like these announcements. That way fans don’t have time to fret about potential replacements, like we are regarding the title sponsor.

If you’re not familiar with Speedway, they are owned by Marathon Petroleum Corporation and it is the second-largest convenience store chain in the US with nearly four-thousand locations in thirty-five states, according to their website. There will be eleven IndyCar races on next year’s schedule that will take place in states where Speedway has a presence. That’s good to know. Although I was very familiar with Sunoco, they had no presence in my home state of Tennessee and I’m not sure there were any in the southeast. Speedway is gaining a fairly significant presence in the Nashville area.

The thing is, do any of these companies really supply ethanol to the series or is their logo just painted on the side of the fuel truck we see at all of the races? I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve even heard rumors that since the Iowa Corn Growers will no longer be the sponsor for the IndyCar race in Iowa that the series could soon revert to running methanol. I don’t know if there is any truth to that or if there is any real benefit to running one over the other – but I know I liked the smell of methanol fumes in the paddock over the current scent of ethanol exhaust.

As far as being the official convenience store, does IndyCar really need an officially designated convenience store? I guess now that they are on board, I’ll be more likely to stop at a Speedway store rather than a 7-Eleven store that dropped their sponsorship of Tony Kanaan after the 2010 season, forcing him to look elsewhere for employment in 2011. Plus I’ve always been one to support the companies that support IndyCar. Maybe since a Speedway store sits on 16th Street between the IndyCar offices and IMS, perhaps series officials will now get a discount on beer and gum when they stop in.

All joking aside, it’s probably a good thing to have a fuel partner that is different from NASCAR and the NHRA. Since there are no Sunoco stations or convenience stores in my area, I don’t really know – but when sharing a brand with NASCAR, IndyCar tends to get squeezed out. If there was just so much promotional space in a Sunoco store, is it really conceivable that IndyCar would get preferred signage? If you really think so, someone may need to explain the truth about Santa Claus to you.

The name Speedway is a natural fit for IndyCar, IMS and the Indianapolis 500 for obvious reasons. They are probably ecstatic to have an official association with all three entities, whereas Sunoco is probably glad to be done with the deal. It’s always good to be doing business with someone who really wants to be doing business with you.

There are other good things from this. I’m assuming the Sunoco signs at each end of pit lane at IMS will be coming down, as well as the Sunoco logo on the side of the Turn One grandstands. Of course, they could be replaced by Speedway signage but maybe not. The Sunoco logo will also be missing from the checkered flags waved at races. Although it wasn’t a real pet-peeve of mine, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I liked it.

That also makes me wonder…since Fuzzy’s announced last month that they are leaving Ed Carpenter Racing, does that also mean that they will no longer have any affiliation with IMS? It was just a couple of years ago that the Turn Two Suites, which have stood since the early seventies, were painted a garish green with Fuzzy’s livery all over it. I’m assuming the Fuzzy’s will be removed from the suites, but are they stuck with that obnoxious green? That’s the problem with selling out to corporate sponsors – you get stuck with a lot of unwanted old signage, colors and logos when they pull up and leave.

Since I don’t know the specifics of this deal or how much Sunoco was paying – I don’t know if this is a good deal or not for IndyCar. It’s never good for public perception when a sponsor leaves, but maybe the Sunoco deal was coming up for renewal and Speedway outbid them. I don’t know, but I’m guessing that wasn’t the case. But good for Mark Miles and everyone concerned for getting a deal done where it seems to be seamless as far as fan perception is concerned.

So we now have an official fuel supplier and official convenience store in place for the foreseeable future. Now, just when are we going to hear about that title sponsor?

George Phillips

17 Responses to “Out With The Old And In With The New”

  1. BrandonWright77 Says:

    I don’t think they provide fuel for the race cars. It said in the press release that they supply fuel for the track vehicles like those pickup trucks, safety vehicles, and pace cars.

    I don’t think I would have fretted too much about who the next official fuel/convenience store sponsor would be. 🙂

  2. Bruce Waine Says:

    A bit of trivia from the Track Forum Site:

    The last time Marathon/Speedway provided fuel at Indianapolis was in 1964.

    Eddie Sachs used their gasoline and Marathon ran full page ads in several newspapers on Memorial Day.

    The ads showed Sachs and stated something along the lines of, ” Eddie Sachs is riding on five tanks of Marathon gasoline in today’s 500 Mile Race”.

    Edit: I found a link to the actual Marathon ad from 1964. Scroll down the page a little to see the ad.


  3. Bruce Waine Says:

    More potential INDYCar advertising coverage – exposure with Speedway than with Sunoco.

    From Track Forum:

    Sunoco got out of the convenience store game and has 1,200 locations selling fuel.

    Marathon has 2,500+ Speedway locations and sells fuel at another 5,000 locations.

    Also, Marathon has $75 billion in sales. Sunoco has $11 billion.

  4. While there are a few Sunoco retailers here in South Carolina, there seems to be a plethora of Speedway stores and stations. Often they have the lowest price on gas here, (though not always.) Currently, “mixed” regular (including ethanol) runs about $1.97 per gallon at Speedway here.

    My one complaint about Speedway stores is that I often find their customer service lacking and several of their personnel seem not to care. Additionally, they seem to have a consistent problem accepting debit cards at the pump, and when this process fails, the word “convenience” no longer applies.

    That said, I think the very name creates a nice fit with IMS and IndyCar and I hope it lasts for some time.

  5. Speaking of out with the old and in with the new, WSMV there in Nashville STOLE our lovely Lauren Lowery from WISH TV here in Indianapolis!!!

    Man, we are gonna miss her! Hubba-Hubba!!!!!!

    Shameless plug: if you’d like to hear some new Christmas music go to http://www.reverbnation.com/philkaiser and listen to the first four songs, all
    written, performed and produced by yours truly.

    • I only hear “Hubba-Hubba” here and on “That 70s Show”. I will have to Google Lauren based on your 2 Hubba recommendation.

    • Hey drummer drummer, gimme that beat, gimme that beat I gotta move my feet. (JJCale & Eric Clapton Sound Check-San Diago.) Phil, I took you up on your suggestion and clicked on your music website. I have been listening to and enjoying your Christmas compositions. When I am done with that I will poke around there for other gems. You have a new fan. I recommend that other commenters here listen to your Christmas tunes also. You have a new fan. Ron

  6. billytheskink Says:

    If Speedway is spending money on the series, this is a good get. I did, admittedly, like the all-racing synergy that Sunoco brought by being involved with IndyCar, NASCAR, and the NHRA.

    The filling station that has traditionally promoted their IndyCar connections the most, in my experience past and present, is Shell. From their involvement with Rahal years ago to their recent biennial headlining sponsorship on one of Penske’s 500 entries, they have often activated the sponsorship at their locations via signage (and giving out little die cast cars back in the 90s. I still have a couple Bryan Herta and Bobby Labonte cars from those promotions).

  7. The “official” fan fuel at Road America is ethanol free “Spotted Cow” beer available at a nearby Speedway gas station and convenience store and at the track refueling stand in the pit area.

  8. James T Suel Says:

    George the move to methanol over ethanol was going to happen in 2020. Methanol alone will be the biggest gain in horsepower as we go to 800 or 900 hp. I also love the smell of methanol.

  9. Mark J Wick Says:

    George, do you think you know something about Santa Claus that the rest of us don’t? Have you read “The Autobiobraphy of Santa Claus” as told to Jeff Guinn?

  10. The Iowa Corn Indy not sponsored anymore by its longtime title sponsor? Here’s hoping this race can continue successfully after the loss of this sponsor – and even though the track has been owned by NASCAR in recent years.

  11. “someone may need to explain the truth about Santa Claus to you.”
    no way. i like myth and mystery, just like the current sponsor hunt.

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