IRL: Indy Racing League news and notes 2005-11-15

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Nov. 15, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Companies See Growth In Value Of IRL Sponsorships 2. IRL contingent ready for top karting event 3. Wheldon nominated for fourth-quarter Driver of the Year 4. Scheckter...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Nov. 15, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Companies See Growth In Value Of IRL Sponsorships
2. IRL contingent ready for top karting event
3. Wheldon nominated for fourth-quarter Driver of the Year
4. Scheckter invites fans to aid cousin through raffle

1. Companies See Growth In Value Of IRL Sponsorships: IRL IndyCar® Series sponsors saw a 57 percent increase in the comparable value of their sponsorships during the 2005 IndyCar Series season, according to the year-end report compiled by Joyce Julius and Associates.

The report, which tracks exposures for all event telecasts during the season, found that the overall exposure value during the season was $339,795,225, up $36.3 million over 2004. It also found that overall television time increased by 31 hours, 18 minutes and 16 seconds, a 57 percent increase, while overall sponsor mentions were up 447, a 16 percent increase.

Team sponsors accounted for 56 percent of the total in-focus exposure time and nearly 30 percent of all verbal recognition. The top-25 team sponsors averaged a 28 percent increase in exposure value from 2004.

Leading the team sponsors in exposure were Pioneer and Argent Mortgage, the co-primary sponsors of 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice and 2005 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick. The companies received nearly a $20 million increase in exposure through its use of in-car cameras, driver uniforms, car identities, crew member uniforms and shirts. Overall, Pioneer generated $16,102,050 in comparable value, while Argent Mortgage generated 15,731,110, according to the report.

7-Eleven, the primary sponsor of Andretti Green Racing driver Tony Kanaan, received $12,344,640 in exposure in 2005 through its use of in-car cameras, driver uniforms, verbal references, car identity and crew member uniforms.

Target, which served as sponsor of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, received $8,847,905 in exposure, while Klein Tools, the co-primary sponsor of 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon, received $8,573,335.

"Marketing partnerships are an integral part of the league's success and we are very pleased to see the results of league, team, driver and event sponsors in this report," IRL President and COO Brian Barnhart said. "We look forward to continuing to maximize benefits to sponsors via the IndyCar Series."

The annual report contains year-end exposure for all entities. During each broadcast, all clear, in-focus exposure time was monitored and tabulated in the Sponsors Report. In addition, mentions of a sponsor's or entity's name or product were counted and valued.

To determine a dollar value for each sponsor's exposure, on-screen time and mentions were compared to a network's estimated cost per 30-second commercial rate for each particular telecast.

The Sponsors Report provides comprehensive documentation of in-broadcast brand exposure during sports, special event, and entertainment television programming. Offered by Joyce Julius and Associates since 1985, the Sponsors Report has become the most recognized name in television exposure valuation

2. IRL contingent ready for top karting event: Brian Stewart has been to Brazil several times in his long career in motorsports, but last year was the first time he attended the Granja Viana, a 500-mile go-kart race at a facility owned by the Giaffone family on the outskirts of Sao Paulo.

A plan started formulating in Stewart's mind to bring a Menards Infiniti Pro Series team down to the 7/8-mile course to compete in the ninth annual event in 2005.

"The whole idea of putting this team together is to give these young drivers a taste of international competition," said Stewart, who won Formula Vee and Formula Ford championships in Canada and competed in several world championships in the '60s and '70s. "They can go there, race against some of the very best in the whole world -- Tony Kanaan and Juan Montoya and the like. Some of them will become race drivers, and some of them won't become race drivers, but in their future they can always look back and say, 'I did that race. I raced against Rubens Barrichello. I raced against Juan Montoya.' It's just an experience for them. It expands their horizons."

As Stewart began putting the team together, he looked around the Menards Infiniti Pro Series paddock for some of the top talent. A no-brainer selection was 21-year-old Wade Cunningham. Cunningham won the series championship for Brian Stewart Racing with one victory and 13 top-five finishes in 14 races. He's also an accomplished karter, winning the CIK-FIA World Championship in 2003 and the CIK-FIA Asia Pacific Championship in 2001.

Filling out the squad to drive the 13-hp kart wasn't very difficult.

"I looked at the people that we competed against this year," Stewart said. "Travis Gregg was a hard competitor. (Nick) Bussell was always right there in the fight. (Chris) Festa was leading us a couple of times. These guys are some of the brightest lights in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series."

Bussell, a 22-year-old from Ionia, Mich., won the 2002 World Karting Association Triple Crown, claiming championships in three classes. He finished fourth in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series in 2005 with 11 top-five finishes.

Festa, a 20-year-old Atlanta native, won a state karting championship in Georgia in 1999 and a Stars of Karting regional championship in 2002. He was sixth in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series in 2005.

Gregg, who won three races and finished third in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, works at a family-owned karting business. He raced karts competitively in the 1990s, recording several first-place finishes in WKA competition.

Visa problems will keep another Stewart driver, Bobby Wilson, from traveling to Brazil. He will be replaced by CR Crews, a three-time USA Karting national champion from Dallas.

"We're going down with the goal to win the race," Stewart said. "Felipe Giaffone has put us with a good team, so we have to trust the team will know how to do the strategy. We're the first sort of international entry in this deal. I know that he would like to build it into a world-class event, so he's not going to put us with a bunch of wankers."

Winning will not be easy. Seventy-four teams are entered in the 12-hour race, which will take place Nov. 19-20. Among the other drivers are IndyCar Series stars Tony Kanaan -- a five-time winner of the event, Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta, Vitor Meira and Giaffone. Three other Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers, Marco Andretti, Jaime Camara and Phil Giebler, also will compete in the event. Andretti and Camara will be teammates on a kart with Giaffone and Roberval Andrade (Giaffone's teammate in Brazil's Formula Truck series).

3. Wheldon nominated for fourth-quarter Driver of the Year: 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon is among the nominees for the fourth-quarter Speed Channel Driver of the Year.

Wheldon, the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series championship in the same season, won six times in 2005 and has finished in the top two in the three previous quarterly votes. Wheldon was selected as the second-quarter driver of the year.

An 18-member panel will select the winner of the award. Fans can participate in voting via an online ballot at www.speedtv.com. At the end of the year, a special separate vote will be held for the Speed Channel 2005 Driver of the Year.

4. Scheckter invites fans to aid cousin through raffle: Of all the smiles in the IndyCar Series paddock, one of the biggest belongs to Jaki Scheckter. The cousin of Panther Racing driver Tomas Scheckter, Jaki can be seen helping the team and his cousin in innumerable ways.

Now Tomas Scheckter wants to do something to help his cousin, and he hopes that IndyCar Series fans will join him.

Through the end of the year, Scheckter will be raffling off the autographed helmet he wore during the 2004 season in an effort to raise funds for the costs of a cochlear implant for Jaki, a former racer himself who won the South African Formula Ford Championship in 1992 and the Barber Dodge Pro Series in 1995.

"I've always been so impressed with the willingness of IndyCar Series fans to help out with positive causes, and that's what we're trying to do for my cousin Jaki," said Scheckter, who finished ninth in the championship this season. "He was born hearing impaired and had to start using hearing aids when he was only two-years-old. The cochlear implant surgery is going to give him a better life, and soon he'll be able to enjoy so many things that most of us take for granted. It's a chance for my fans and fans of the IndyCar Series to win one of my racing helmets and help a great cause at the same time."

Raffle tickets are available for $5, and all proceeds will go to a fund to cover medical expenses and post-surgery training and mapping that Jaki may require.

Raffle entries should be mailed along with name, contact number and address to:
Jaki Scheckter Cochlear Implant Fund
c/o Tomas Scheckter Racing
P.O. Box 361244
Indianapolis, Indiana 46236

Scheckter will draw the lucky winner on Jan. 2, 2006.

***

The IRL IndyCar Series opens the 2006 season with the Toyota Indy 300 on March 26, 2006 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network. The fifth season of Menards Infiniti Pro Series competition also opens on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

-irl-

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