IRL: Panther inks new partner

Panther Racing, two-time champions in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series announced today that they have secured ROCKSTAR energy drink as primary sponsor for rookie Tomas Enge's ...

Panther Racing, two-time champions in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series announced today that they have secured ROCKSTAR energy drink as primary sponsor for rookie Tomas Enge's #2 Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone challenger. ROCKSTAR will also be an associate partner for Tomas Scheckter's #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevy over the 2005 17-race season.

The genesis of the partnership occurred last September, according to Panther Racing co-owner John Barnes. ROCKSTAR founder and CEO Russell Weiner brought several executives to the Toyota Indy 400 at California Speedway to see firsthand the excitement of IndyCar Series racing.

While not terribly pleased with the outcome of the event (Scheckter crashed and did not finish), Weiner was sufficiently impressed with Panther Racing and the League to have his five-year-old company commit to its first major sponsorship.

Based in Las Vegas with satellite offices in Los Angeles, Marin County and New York, ROCKSTAR is looking to improve its performance in the United States, where it is the second largest purveyor of energy drinks behind Red Bull, who also market their wares through the Indy Racing League.

Weiner said it is his intent, with this sponsorship to expand the company's marketing overseas. "This is a perfect match for us," Weiner said. "We're an independent company, like Panther Racing and we're looking at two very independent drivers and an independent team to win races carrying our logo. In addition to our name on the cars, we intend to introduce a hospitality center and market our drink in different cities" where the IRL competes.

Having Czech Republic native Enge as primary driver will give ROCKSTAR a good foothold on the European continent where Enge's racing exploits are followed closely. "I am so pleased to be associated with such a great company," Enge noted. "I'm sure my car will perform like a rock star!"

While Weiner believes having a driver from Europe and one from South Africa are added benefits for the partnership, "The main thing is our association with two very good drivers and a great team."

Despite beginning their discussions nearly six months ago, "The deal came together very quickly," Barnes acknowledged. "Our guys in the paint shop have been working nonstop to prepare the car for next week's first race." The #2 ROCKSTAR entry for Tomas Enge has a black lower body and wings with red cockpit area and gold accents throughout.

Scheckter had the opportunity to get to know Weiner and his team last fall and is "very excited about this relationship. It was obvious they wanted to get involved and they're committed to doing this. We'll make sure the experience is beneficial for them," he said.

While emphasizing today's announcement of ROCKSTAR energy drink sponsorships, Barnes still indicated his pleasure with the manner in which engine supplier Chevrolet is ramping up for their final season of IRL competition with only Panther Racing as its chosen team.

"I'm confident we're on a par with anybody out there," Barnes declared. "I think we can win and it's evident Chevy is up to the challenge of making quick changes for us and giving us a quick turnaround."

Scheckter thought the pre-season testing went "great. Chevrolet is really pushing on development and the team has put together a great race car." Enge, who ran only two IRL races last year found the pre-season activities, "very special. Everything was working well and this is a great team and mechanics to work with. I hope we can be competitive from the first."

ROCKSTAR energy drink is marketed in 16-ounce and 8.4-ounce sizes and the company has just launched a new ROCKSTAR energy cola to augment its product lineup.

In bringing its product to the Indy Racing League, Weiner believes he can "gang up on Red Bull. We're the American energy product going against Red Bull, which is from Austria!" In only five years the company has earned second place in penetration as an independently owned firm.

Race drivers, Weiner believes, "are bona fide ROCKSTARS. We're certain our association with Panther Racing, Tomas Enge and Tomas Scheckter will rock the sport and the marketplace."

The Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series begins its 10th season of competition at Homestead-Miami Speedway March 4-6 with the running of the Toyota Indy 300.

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Series INDYCAR