SBJ/December 20 - 26, 1999/No Topic Name

Illinois track joins duel for sponsors

Chicago's second auto racing track is shifting its sponsorship efforts into high gear even though the 75,000-seat facility won't open until 2001.

In the last month, Raceway Associates, a joint venture between Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. and International Speedway Corp. that is building the $100 million track in Joliet, has hired the Grant/Jacoby advertising agency and named former NBA Properties executive Nat Handler to market the facility.

Handler, who was marketing director of NBA Properties before joining Raceway Associates, will compete for sponsorship dollars with Chicago Motor Speedway, a 65,000-seat, dual-purpose track that opened last year with a CART race.

Raceway Associates officials are confident that the Chicago market can accommodate both tracks, and it would seem that the new facility already has an advantage over Chicago Motor Speedway by virtue of commitments from NASCAR for a Winston Cup event and from the Indy Racing League.

"The Chicago market will be the No. 2 racing market in the country, right behind Los Angeles," said Joie Chitwood, vice president of Raceway Associates. "There should be room for everyone. Our letters of intent [from NASCAR and the IRL] will help us, but there are enough opportunities."

Construction of the privately financed facility is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2001. The first event is slated for that summer.

The motorsports park, as Raceway Associates calls the project, includes a 1.5-mile oval, a drag strip, a 3¼8-mile clay oval and a test track. Last year, the drag strip and the clay oval opened as part of the existing Route 66 Raceway, which was folded into the Raceway Associates project.

A naming-rights deal probably will be at the top of the Raceway Associates marketing priorities. Chicago Motor Speedway already has begun a search for a naming-rights deal by hiring IMG to find a corporate partner.

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