Major team, sponsor depart IRL

January 29, 2009
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rahalDespite today’s announcement that Rahal Letterman Racing—the team that gave Danica Patrick her start—is leaving the Indy Racing League, series officials are still “bullish” on next season.

“Bobby Rahal and Dave Letterman have been good team owners and good for the series, but this is just one of those things that happens when you experience the kind of economic downturn we’re experiencing,” said IRL spokesman John Griffin. “I still think Rahal Letterman have left the door open to come back.”

Rahal, a former Indianapolis 500 winner, said he simply couldn’t find adequate sponsorship for his team to continue in 2009. The team ran one car for American driver Ryan Hunter-Reay last season and won the race last July at Watkins Glen. With an American ethanol advocacy group as its primary sponsor, Hunter-Reay had 10 top 10 finishes last year and was named Rookie-of-the-Year at the Indianapolis 500. The ethanol group vanished from the series, and took one of the IRL's higher profile teams with it. Now, the IRL’s car count has become a concern.

“I still think the series will have 22 to 24 cars,” Griffin said. “Twenty-two may be more realistic at this point.”

Rahal Letterman’s announcement isn’t the only bad news. Griffin confirmed that the IRL also lost DirecTV as a presenting sponsor. Griffin said the series’ deal with DirecTV broke down when IRL signed a deal to air races on Comcast-owned Versus cable TV channel.

“One of DirecTV’s biggest competitors is Comcast,” Griffin said. “They felt it didn’t make sense to have their logo and support in a position where it supported a Comcast initiative in any way.”

Still, Griffin said, IRL ad executives along with Indianapolis-based sponsorship consultancy Just Marketing continue to make headway with new deals.

“We just had a meeting Monday with a very, very big corporate brand name,” Griffin said. “I can’t tell you more than that, but rest assured it’s a well-known name. Every time our sales staff comes back from a meeting, the word is the same. There are so many corporate interests that are interested in this series, but are being held up by the economy. Our sales guys like the momentum they see. We feel once this economic cloud lifts, we’ll be in a great position to take off and grow.”
  • Oh, the Vi$ion$..... :lol:

    Thanks for saving open wheel Tony. Thanks for everything....
  • economic cloud

    There you have it ladies and gentlemen, the understatement of the year!
  • A shame for a great competetor and a gentleman. Hope he can come back. Oh, and what exactly does Tony George have to do with our current economic mess, Mr. Hooey? Granted he's no saviour like our current president, but he hardly deserves blame for the crisis made by Congress and greedy, forget the basics, let's loan to millions of people that can't pay their bill and call it a market bankers. Oh, I know you'll reply with much chagrin about how TonyCar deserves this fate, and perhaps some of that is true, but still, this goes much deeper than TG.
  • While it's certainly not the fault of Tony George, there's no other way to spin this story than it being a major blow to the IRL. Granted other series are faced with sponsorship challenges, but losing one of your premier teams is another big step backwards for open wheel racing.

    I'm betting we're only seeing the tip of the pull-out iceberg with the Indy 500 lucky to get 33 cars in the show this year.
  • The thing I don't understand is how are the no name teams still finding a way to field a car and groups like RL are closing doors. Granted they probably cost more to operate, but I figure sponsors would hopefully go with teams that have a better chance of winning.
  • Where is Stan?
  • hey, as long as TOney has access to the family trust, everything will be fine
  • RL isn't closing it's doors, they are just not fielding an Indy car for the time being. They are still fielding a BMW in the American LeMans Series.

    They are probably being more prudent with their money than smaller teams are. They have BMW backing for their sports car, so I am guessing that everyone on staff is pretty stable for the moment. Why risk that by over extending and running the Indy car without sponsorship.
  • Let me add two things:

    1) I hope they come back soon
    2) Their BMW is super cool looking - google Rahal Letterman BMW
  • I find this interesting as the Star reports they may leave. According to Curt Cavin

    Bobby Rahal said today that he is “reasonably sure” his race team will participate in this year’s Indianapolis 500, but it is doubtful it will be involved in the entire IndyCar Series season because of lacking sponsorship.

    and the IBJ says they are gone.
  • oh really? :lol:

    Rahal Letterman’s announcement isn’t the only bad news. Griffin confirmed that the IRL also lost DirecTV as a presenting sponsor. Griffin said the series’ deal with DirecTV broke down when IRL signed a deal to air races on Comcast-owned Versus cable TV channel.

    “One of DirecTV’s biggest competitors is Comcast,” Griffin said. “They felt it didn’t make sense to have their logo and support in a position where it supported a Comcast initiative in any way.”

  • ummm...that word that is always the same wouldn't happen to be NO would it?
  • Another non-surprise from the earl (both RLR and the DirectTV issue). The only thing surprising is that there are participants in FTG's cheap fraud 'league'.

    Last segment is hysterical though - a big company is always 'just around the corner' with these bums. :lol: Pathetic. But they will never acknowledge the real problem, the 'league' and the dismal atmosphere around it that FTG's inheritance hath wrought. It must suck to work there and have to pretend that things are grate. :)

    The DirecTV 'deal' couldn't have been worth much, if anything, if they tossed it aside for the token $3 million from reVersus.

    The only thing to look forward to is the next screw-up and failure from this sorry lot, it's the only thing they do that has entertainment value. :lol:
  • ITws a danged shame we gots terrorsim and teh ecomony and too many dad blamed TV channels and the innernets and the cost of gas and the startched earth from those CARt strret race loosers. OTherswise weed be kicing NASCArs buts. SOOner or laters weer gone to get the IRl that TOney promised us. SOonr or later the VIsion will be the TRuth. WHAt other series in the USofA has the potential of the IRl? IT can only go up baby. WHo dont want to be involved with that?
  • Here we go again from the neg bunch. Stan - make your point and move on, next time leave out fraud, bums, suck and sorry lot and we won't have to refer to it as name calling as it truly is. Oh, so sorry you feel so blue all the time that you must cheer in someone else's downturn. Bobby Rahal deserves our kudos for all he has accomplished in motorsports.
  • Bif for President - NOT!
  • Another victim of the little brickroad to nowhere... TFF.
  • What has Rahal accomplished? Good at cashing checks? Good at running Texas? Jaguar? CART CEO? Danicle? Running off sponsors? Traitor to ChampCar in a crucial moment?

    He is an opportunist turncoat. perfect for the EARL!
  • Griffin says 18 cars. But 18 is just a #
  • Here we go guys, more name calling. And by the way, Hooey, the person you like to refer to as Danicle is someone's daughter. Whether or not you respect her is moot, it is obvious you don't. But, how about showing some respect for her family? You wouldn't want your daughter referred to that way.
  • Point taken BerwichGuy. But I wonder if Danica was thinking of TJ when she was posing for FHM. She has made herself somewhat of a target. That said, Danica really isn't the point. The point is when a guy with a history like Rahal has and a guy with the national platform like Letterman has can't make it in the IRL, that's a very, very bad sign. Let's not sugar coat this.
  • Yeah, why would Danica embarrass her parents by displaying to the world what bad genes she's got
  • Simon

    I agree it is a bad sign, however, Rahal is still seeking sponsorship. He's not giving up. He will likely run the 500 anyway. And, if and when things improve, he may be in a better position since he's still running ALMS and has a very professional operation in Columbus. Remember that some of the lesser teams seem to be doing ok with sponsorship requests.

    The reason I brought up Danica was in response to Da Hooey's tasteless comment. We're just trying to clean up the hateful scorn that constantly appears whenever TG or the IRL is featured in an IBJ post. Da Hooey and others certainly are justified in their criticism but they go too far when they make it personal and hateful toward anyone involved in the IRL, don't you agree?
  • SSD,

    What Danica has done off track is between her and her husband and her parents. Perhaps some of it is tasteless. Nevertheless, most of us think she is a very beautiful woman. Perhaps the bad genes you refer to are in her competitive, sometimes compulsive, antagonistic behavior. That may well be true, but there are many that have come before her in the sporting world that have behaved as badly and many times worse. Maturity and experience usually has an effect in changing behavior. So, SSD, much of that is learned behavior, not a genetic issue. You may not like her and you are certainly are not alone, but she doesn't deserve to be called names. As I said before, she is someone else's daughter. You wouldn't like it either.

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