SBJ/November 16 - 22, 1998/No Topic Name

Tenneco names Detroit race

The Grand Prix of Detroit will have a new title sponsor next year as Tenneco Automotive takes over from ITT Automotive, which is undergoing a major retooling.

ITT, which has sponsored the Championship Auto Racing Teams event since 1992, was signed through 2002, but financial pressures forced a change.

"[ITT] came to us indicating that there would be significant changes and said that they would be more than willing to fulfill their obligation, but that if we could find another viable sponsor it would be in everyone's best interest, and we did just that," said Denny Young, vice president of IMG Motorsports, which owns the Detroit Grand Prix. "We had a great year with ITT, but we couldn't be happier to bring fresh blood to the event."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but IMG officials said Tenneco's title sponsorship is a multiyear contract for the event, which is part of CART's FedEx Championship Series.

Lake Forest, Ill.-based Tenneco Automotive sponsors an off-road racing team and a drag racing team, but the Grand Prix of Detroit will be its largest sponsorship.

"Right now there is a lot of consolidation within the industry and we are trying to show our independence," said Brad Nixon, a Tenneco Automotive spokesman. "It's an economical way to get our message out."

Last year, Tenneco Automotive had $3.3 billion in revenue and operating net income of $407 million.

When the Detroit Grand Prix began in 1982, it was part of the international Formula One series, but in 1989 it switched to an Indy car format, becoming part of the CART series. The race was sold to IMG in August 1993, and the event moved out of downtown Detroit to Belle Isle Park.

Officials with IMG, which also owns three CART races, including those in Cleveland and Australia, said the three-day Detroit Grand Prix event draws about 160,000 fans every year.

"This is our first foray into CART," Nixon said. "If the right opportunities came along, we'd be eager to play a bigger part. Our key customers are the major automotive manufacturers and they are all located here."

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