IndyCar – Cross-Pollination Is a Good Thing!
Highcroft Racing, the team that has won back-to-back titles in the ALMS LMP2 class and still seeks an LMP2 class win at Le Mans, will be coming to the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2011! This first year, they will be competing at select events only in preparation for launching a full-season effort in 2012 when the new chassis and engine come to the series. This is fantastic news, if you ask me. Its exciting enough that we’re getting another quality team coming to IndyCar Racing, but seeing that team come from ALMS while still being active in ALMS I believe has a LOT of positives for both racing series.
Cross-pollination between the two series has a lot of benefits including a improved perceived value for a sponsor at either the primary or associate level. XM Satellite Radio enjoyed significant exposure with their association with Andretti Green Racing as a primary sponsor of their ALMS LMP2 program and IndyCar program with Bryan Herta’s car and associate sponsorship on other cars in the AGR stable. Although the DHL sponsorship which supported Team Penske’s LMP2 efforts, never appeared on their IndyCars, the ALMS program was used as a reservoir for driver talent. Ryan Briscoe, after being let go from Target Chip Ganassi Racing, was hired by Penske to drive the Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 car. When Sam Hornish, Jr. moved from IndyCar to NASCAR, Briscoe moved from the ALMS program to the IndyCar program. We also saw movement of drivers between the two series at AGR. Bryan Herta moved from the IndyCar program to the ALMS program and was very successful. Marco Andretti also drove the Acura LMP2 car for the family team while at the same time participating in IndyCar.
This participation in both series means more exposure for both. We even see that to a degree with Penske’s and Ganassi’s involvement in NASCAR. IndyCar has received mentions several times this season by the NASCAR announcers when discussing Penske, and especially Ganassi. The increase in potential exposure is a benefit that cannot be ignored for either IndyCar or ALMS as they strive to increase their fanbase and thereby increase the value of their respective series. Fans of a team in one series will be far more likely to watch the other series if their team also participate in it. I must admit that this is what lured me to ALMS in the first place. I’ve always been an IndyCar fan, and when I found out that Andretti and Penske both had teams in the ALMS I started watching. As soon as I did, I was hooked and still am hooked in spite of Andretti and Penske’s subsequent departure from the series. The same can be true for fans of Highcroft racing when they arrive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to contest their first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. To be a bit cliche, this has the potential to be a win-win!
Now entering a bit of pure speculation, let’s consider which events we are likely to see the Highcroft IndyCar team enter. The first and obvious choice would be the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. That’s a huge draw to any sponsor.
By the way, can you imagine how huge it would be for a team to win both the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the same year? As for other events, I can’t see Highcroft wanting to jump into the very expensive oval-racing game right away, outside of IMS. The other events at which I see it making sense for Highcroft to compete are event where the IZOD IndyCar Series and the American LeMans Series already share a weekend. This means that Long Beach, Baltimore and Mid-Ohio are very likely candidates. Although the two series no longer share an event on the Streets of St. Petersburg, ALMS does have a large gap in their schedule right as the IndyCar season begins in St. Petersburg. Also, the previous ALMS event is in Florida at Sebring. Admittedly, St. Petersburg is a stretch, but I certainly think that the other four events are extremely likely.
By the Fans:
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