Chip Ganassi Racing announced a multiyear sponsorship deal Tuesday with Novo Nordisk for IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball.
The deal with Novo Nordisk, a world leader in diabetes care, is a multiyear agreement for Kimball, the first licensed driver with Type 1 diabetes in the Izod IndyCar Series. Kimball was diagnosed with diabetes in 2007 and must monitor his blood sugar before, during and after races.
“It speaks volumes that a company like Novo Nordisk is making this type of long-term commitment to our team, to Charlie, and the IndyCar Series,” said Ganassi. “The IndyCar Series could use more partners like them.”
The series has been reeling since Dan Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, was killed in the Oct. 16 season finale at Las Vegas. The investigation into the 15-car accident that caused his death is ongoing, but teams have been moving forward and putting together new business deals in the month since the event.
Among the new deals:
_ Ed Carpenter announced he’ll field his own team next season with a three-year sponsorship commitment from Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka.
_ Rahal Letterman Lanigan signed a deal with Honda and said it will attempt to run a full season in 2012.
_ Team Penske resigned Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Will Power.
_ KV Racing Technology signed with Chevrolet.
_ IndyCar last week announced a September race in China.
Terry Angstadt, President of IndyCar’s commercial division, said the month since Wheldon’s accident has been challenging, but sponsor support has been strong and the series is still able to show its value.
“It’s been tough on all measures, but I really have been unbelievably impressed and humbled by the comments our sponsors have given us,” Angstadt said. “Everyone close to the sport realizes those are very much unintended consequences, and in motorsports accidents happen. But we personally could not be more positive or pleased with where things are headed.”
Angstadt cited a “curiosity factor” with the 2012 IndyCar that has piqued the interest of potential partners. Wheldon was the development driver for the car, which is scheduled to debut in next year’s season opener.
“We’d been running the same race car for nine years, so it was time for this and I think people are really optimistic for what it represents,” he said.
There’s also been buzz about the return of Chevrolet to IndyCar, which is scheduled to have three engine manufacturers next season with Honda and Lotus.
Even with the positive news, the series still has challenges ahead.
The complete 2012 schedule has not been announced, and likely won’t be until the Wheldon investigation is complete and it is determined if IndyCar can still run on high-banked ovals. There are kinks in the new car _ it was slower than expected at the Indianapolis test two weeks ago, and drivers have raised questions about handling and weight distribution. The future of the Baltimore Grand Prix is in jeopardy as the promoter struggles to settle debts from the inaugural race.
And, not every team is finding business to be all that robust: Sarah Fisher Racing, for example, is searching for both a sponsor and a driver after Carpenter left and Dollar General put all its activation in NASCAR. The team’s difficulties come just six weeks after it scored its first career victory at Kentucky.
Angstadt said conversations are ongoing with Baltimore officials, and race promoters and IndyCar remains “optimistic” the issues will be resolved and the race will run as scheduled in 2012. But, he added the addition of China to the schedule and the support from that government has excited sponsors.
“We look at what China can represent to the future, that is such a big deal, and the government has been embracing IndyCar as a major sports platform,” he said. “We really think in 2012 we’re going to take a big leap forward.”
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