SBD/June 1, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Dan Wheldon Still Without Sponsor, Ride After Winning Indy 500

Wheldon may not compete in another IndyCar Series race this season
After winning the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, Dan Wheldon "could be one and done" because the driver has "no ride lined up" for the rest of the Izod IndyCar Series season, according to Michael Marot of the AP. Wheldon's contract with Bryan Herta Autosport to drive in the IndyCar Series expired at the end of Sunday, and there is "no guarantee Herta or Wheldon will compete again on the IndyCar circuit this season." Herta's strategy was to "run one race, Indy, then build its way into a full-time IndyCar team in 2012, a route he might still take." But Wheldon's win "has changed things a bit." Herta on Monday said that he is "already fielding some inquiries from businesses interested in working with the winning team and winning driver" from the Indy 500. Herta: "There could be some opportunities created for us to continue. I'm sure that Dan will get some opportunities, and my hope is we'll be able to work together later this year." Still, the 32-year-old Wheldon said, "I'm pretty sure no Formula One team is going to look at me because I'm getting a little older. Honestly, I have to evaluate all of my options now because I don't have a contract and I still feel like I've got some left in me" (AP, 5/30). Wheldon said that he believes Herta "would be willing to run more races this year," including the next IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11, "if proper funding could be secured and the car could be prepared to run competitively." But he added, "Bryan is not just going to do it to do it. He wants to do it right" (AP, 5/31). FOXSPORTS.com's Holly Cain noted Wheldon is now a two-time winner of the Indy 500 and asked, "How is it even possible that someone this talented and marketable is without a ride?" Cain: "Surely there is a sponsor that would step up now and fund a team that is more competitive and, therefore more deserving of a starting position than half of the current field" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/31).

THE JEAN POOL: Designer clothing brand William Rast sponsored Wheldon's No. 98 car, and Wheldon did not forget his sponsor immediately after winning the race. He said in Victory Lane, "Totally my style. It’s a great sponsor for me. I feel like a fashionista. I’m going to be wearing jeans tomorrow night (to the Indy 500 banquet). I know I’m supposed to dress up, but I’m going to be wearing William Rast jeans" ("Indianapolis 500," ABC, 5/29).

WHEELS OF FORTUNE: In Indianapolis, Heather Gillers reported a Hot Wheels promotion prior to the running of the Indianapolis 500 saw a car "sail a record-breaking 332 feet through the air." Hot Wheels spent more than $1M on a "life-size yellow Hot Wheels car and a ten-story high orange ramp" (INDYSTAR.com, 5/29). IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said, "I'm a big believer that you have to give fans a great experience and you do that with excitement and value. This is not some fly-by-night operation. (Hot Wheels parent) Mattel has invested millions of dollars, and I think it can deliver a little younger demographic." For Hot Wheels, the "hope is that stunts will add older buyers to a market traditionally reserved for children," and the investment "also means Hot Wheels is looking to do more than one show." Mattel VP/Marketing Simon Waldron: "It's definitely captured the interest of other sports tours where they have motorcycles performing, BMX, that kind of stuff" (AP, 5/29).
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