Izod signs deal despite Tony George's dismissal

November 6, 2009
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IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay said that his early impression of Izod marketing chief Mike Kelly was that he was “crazy.”

I’m pretty sure he meant that in a good way when he used the term at yesterday’s press conference announcing Izod as the new title sponsor of the Indy Racing League—now Izod IndyCar Series.

As in “crazy” with excitement, energy and ideas for the league. Others who are not so optimistic about the open-wheel racing series’ future might just say Kelly and his Izod clan are plain loco.
After all, TV ratings are down 28 percent (a lot more if you just look at Versus), attendance is static at best and car count for next year is already being questioned. It’s become clear that all the Danica-mania in the world alone isn’t going to save this series.

And if all the above didn’t give Izod officials pause, surely the unceremonious deportation of the series’ iconic leader, Tony George, in the midst of the title sponsorship negotiations did.

To the contrary, Kelly said George’s departure had little impact on title sponsorship negotiations. So maybe Izod joined because George was dethroned. Kelly denied that.

The IndyCar Series’ new czar, Jeff Belskus didn’t seek any credit for the deal, and Kelly didn’t give him much. In fact, Kelly said Izod executives have only met Belskus twice.

“Our contact was always with the day-to-day guys; (series president of racing operations) Brian Barnhart and (series president of commercial division) Terry Angstadt,” Kelly said. “We were very impressed with their vision for the series.”

Izod’s claims seem a little strange given George’s extraordinary efforts to put Izod’s chosen child—Hunter-Reay—in a race car this past season. For a while, Hunter-Reay even piloted a car for George’s Vision racing team.

Some within the series’ said Barnhart and Angstadt did just enough to convince Izod officials that the series would continue to get the funding to keep running despite George’s departure. Izod officials were also sold on being a cornerstone that would help put the IndyCar Series over the top financially.

Kelly admitted that the down economy allowed Izod to afford the deal, which he indicated could quickly become a bargain. “What other sporting property could we put our name on like this?” Kelly mused.

In any event, Izod became the third title sponsor in the series’ history after Honda and Bridgestone/Firestone—who were also heavily pursued by IndyCar officials—took a pass.

But now that the six-year deal with Izod is signed, it doesn’t mean the pressure is off those charged with operating the open-wheel series.

Izod officials may be a little off-the-wall, but they’re not crazy enough to sign a contract that isn’t loaded with out-clauses.

Sources familiar with the deal said if certain metrics concerning number of races held annually, TV ratings, attendance and car count among other things aren’t met, there are triggers in the contract that will allow Izod to decrease its financial pay-out or opt out of the contract all together.

So now the real work begins. And from the looks of the piles of leftover Izod-IndyCar Series apparel at Carson Pirie Scott in downtown Indy this week—long-sleeve shirts marked down from $60 to less than $5—I’d say both sides have their work cut out for them.

Ladies and gentlemen … start your engines.

  • Hmmmmm...
    It would appear the izod gang thinks they've won the lottery. Perhaps they have. However, this deal strikes me as weird, like they're gonna pay with $3 bills or something. The IRL has signed their death certificate as they will now be held to standards of another outside influence. Losing izod will destroy the IRL and expose it as the failure we all knew it was. Based on 2009 figures, someone is desperate and it isn't izod....
  • Losers All
    This is just the latest chapter in the closing pages of the IRL book. Good stuff. Funny. Not as funny as some past IRL capers, but worthy of a chuckle. By the way, word at Panther the other day was 15 car count max, 16 if Howard runs Sarah's old crap in more races. They need four cars quick like pronto to get a respectable 20. Where dey at, mon? 33 at Indy? That WAS just a number.
  • Wow!
    "â??Our contact was always with the day-to-day guys; n Barnhart and Terry Angstadt,â?? Kelly said. â??We were very impressed with their vision for the series.â??"

    Who says kids on the short bus can't make it in America? :lol: This lot is proof that if you can score with someone connected to a rich family, the sky is the limit. Or the grater.

    Anyone dumb enough to think Barnhead and Angstridden have any 'vizhun' deseves every bit of misery and failure they get. And there's a freight train-full of pain a-comin'. :lol:

    code = gxh7h
  • Too funny
    Izod has to be the lamest clothing brand out there.
    It will be funny to see those AWFUL retro t shirts the gomers are creaming over on the 5$ rack!
    Stupid Irl fans will never get it!
  • Let the death watch begin ...
    Tick, tick, tick

    The last one out does not need to turn off the light. The power company will shut them off for non-payment.
  • BIG Deal!
    Well, I'm just "chillin'" down here in Hades and thought I'd check in on my pet project. Tony has one series, check, Open wheel is ruined, check, NASCAR is king and check! All that for the soul of one Anton Hulman George, not a bad deal, not a bad deal at all!
    • Oh please ...
      Once again the IRL is spinning this into some kind of big deal. 15 million dollars is SFA. So the entire series sponsorship for an whole year is worth about as much as Vladamir Guerrero. How much do you think teams can ask to get paid for sponsoships for single cars when the entire series can only garner 15 million a year?.
    • The Usual
      a series which fans don't buy tickets according to race track officials; Marlboro freebies are gone; NASCAR ticket extortion package has ended. I'd say izod has no problem with their out clause
    • Hater
      The Hate crowd has narrowed down to two posters that change their name with each post to insinuate that many small minded people exist. Glad to know that only two actual people are drinking the hate koolaid.
    • So now the hate crowd has had to extend the final season for yet another couple of years. Must get old having to keep admitting to being wrong and reposting new dates.
    • As-if they would be that dumb!
      I have a hard time believing that a company the size of PVH is dumb enough to throw that kind of money at a sponsorship if the league is truly on the "death watch" the haters claim is upon us. In this economy, when retailers and clothing brands are facing shrinking sales, they wouldn't have the money to put toward a sinking ship if they didn't think they would get return on it.

      Anthony, care to comment about the potential purchase of NBC/Universal by Comcast and how that might affect sports programming? I've seen some interesting stuff about it recently and would love to see the Indy perspective, especially as it relates to racing on Versus.
    • The Usual
      The name callers around here are just like the people they call haters, none of them have ever spent any of their money on TOney's follies either
    • Indy FUNK
      Time will tell young Indyman. You whine and whine but you have no rebuttal to 60% percent TV ratings drops, 28% percent drop overall, the fact izood has outclauses that the IRL will find hard to avoid. The 8 year old cars with the same guys winning year after year since 2002 is getting long in the tooth. Yet, you lap it up because it's in an indy dish. Yep...perfect reason to expand the sport. Just kill off interest then you can build anew. Disgusting and izood contract is nothing but protracted bar bet made over cocktails. Talkin Terry said "we're going places" and that Kelly dude took the bet. IRL must put up or shut up now. Just like you indyman.....YOU GOT NOTHING. Care to elaborate MORE on that?
    • Izod Indy Car Series
      Well, Chief, you sure do go to great lengths to attempt to prove a point. No matter what the series does, you want to paint doom and gloom. You point out the ratings. Good point, however at least the league is not paying for viewers.

      Something has to be done. So they find a willing partner in IZOD. And that isn't good enough for you either. Perhaps they'll do a better job of promoting drivers, as that is what needs to happen. We'll see.

      Then you talk about the same drivers winning. Sounds like nascar or F1 of the Shumacher era, doesn't it. The series needs many things, like you say. Competition, new cars, engines with turbos. They delayed the changes due to the economy. Do you suppose the team owners had a say in that decision? Well, what do you know, ol' Chief knows better or so he thinks.

      Regardless of how many names you can think of to call those in charge, we have what we have. And those of us that want to see open wheel racing succeed and flourish, no matter how unlikely you think that is to occur, we hold out hope that cooler heads, better minds and hard work can prevail.

      To name a few, Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser, Pancho Carter, Mario Andretti are all still involved. Are you suggesting that you know more than they do, or is it just that you spend your life in the dark side?

      Now that Tony is gone, we have the sisty uglers and momma to deal with. Well, that hasn't changed in 25 years, so we'll see what happens. I, for one, see some hope, while you dwell in the corner focusing on the whatever it is that drives you.
    • The Usual
      Hay izodians, what about the grATe years Toney gave you?

      "If you think about the power of [Indy car racing] during the '80s and the '90s on the American racing landscape.."
    • Truth,

      I will only speak for myself, but I think you would be hard pressed to find any comment of mine that attacks another poster. Once or twice have I stooped that low, and that was after being attacked. And I spend a fair amount on IRL races. Attend several events, most qual days and the 500, and have done that for years, and usually try to hit one or two races outside of the State. So I do put my money where my mouth is.
    • Chief,

      BG said it well. When you have NASCAR running 30 year old technology on cars that when not matched close enough they put restrictor plates on them to even them up, where the same guy wins year after year.

      Are you watching to see Jimmie Johnson win it for the 4th year in a row? 13 of the last 20 championships have been one by 4 drivers and 4 teams have won 19 of the last 20 championships. but yet it is the most popular series in the states.

      Seems to me that is the formula for popularity. Seems like you are out of the main stream.
    • The Usual
      Both NASCAR and the league have dumbed down technology to the point where it is irrelevant to the watchers, NASCAR more so. You couldn't find two fans at the track who know what is under the hood of Jimmy's CoT.

      Restrictor plates aren't to even them up, it's to keep them from going 215+ at Talledega
    • Indyman
      "cars that when not matched close enough they put restrictor plates on them to even them up"? Wait a minute Indy cars used to have 1000hp, now they have 600hp, isn't that the exact same thing as restrictor plate racing? Lower the horsepower to "even" things up?
    • Elmer's boy
      i pledge my allegiance to Toney George
      and open wheel racing he invented
      one series, under toNey, with Honda leases and TEAM funds for all (except evil CART/OWR$/CCWS teams)
      HA HA you Formula One wanna be Nancy Boys. Jabba the Foyt would never take money from a foreigner. I am Mindy (hey)
    • Again again
      The ignorance displayed here is amazing. SO, NASCAR sucks so it's ok for the IRL to suck? The IRL is poor imitation of what CART/CCWS was, yet while CART was the enemy then, it's now the "mainstream" and accepted with open arms by the "in touch" IRL series today? You guys are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites. IRL is a failure by any stretch of the imagination. Keep fooling yourselves that it's the "economy" or next year is the "breakout" year. ALL of you IRL enablers are still waiting in line at your favorite bar because there's a "FREE BEER TOMORROW" sign in the window. That's exactly the free ride IZOD's Mike Kelly is taking the IRL on....you wait and see. When you mention OUTCLAUSES as part of the announcement interview you have a long road ahead...again....just like all years of the IRL. 60% drop in viewership, Ron Green fired, meal ticket Danica to NASCAR. Attendance can only go up....it's only a positive when you don't base it on where it already once was BEFORE the IRL's inception. Keep dreaming IRL lovers...dream on...
    • layoffs
      Mass firings underway at IMS. Did someone forget about the huge infusion of cash from 1980's clothier Izod?
    • Firings?
      QUESTION for Anthony: How does a speedway which used to make a grand living off of ONE RACE per year (Indy 500) now not be able to keep it's normal workforce despite having THREE races. This world is upside down when Indy 500 fails to deliver enough for it all. Frankly, poor business management of the speedway from 1991 through 2009 is the reason. Tony George, you should be run out of town on a rail.
    • The haters keep saying the IRL would be more popular if they do X things. Funny thing is the most popular racing series in the country has been doing the exact opposite and making buckets of money. Something tells me being a purist does not pay.

    • As far as the firings, I think you are seeing the IRL going from a family run business to a leaner, corporate business. I am betting there were a lot of people the Hulmans kept around because they had been there for decades. Like the laundry ladies under turn 1. For years IMS could have sent the laundry out to get done, but some of those ladies had been there for 30 years. TG and family kept them on until most had retired. Family businesses do not always put bottom line above loyalty
    • excuses
      Ron Green, the Director of Media Relations/PR was fired. How much laundry did he do? Excuses are for losers and you have amillion of them.
    • Poor Tony lost his Mony
      Poor Tony lost his Mony-
      Have some sympathy for a guy who got cought in the middle of a crappy recession and economy. Everyone "wants their mony back" BTW.
      I want my money back, money back, money back-ribs! Just thank RHR for saving the day!
    • Captain Crunch Says
    • Nooner
      So sorry for your eternal residence. Guess it was your hate and scorn that put you there.
    • The Usual

      contrary to what the propaganda minister would have you think:

      Even with the loss of DirectTV, VERSUS' viewership has been up considerably over the last couple months. In September primetime viewership was up 26% and up 50% on the weekends. Viewership jumped again in October where primetime was up 16% and 12% on the weekends.

      And that with the miserable IRL dragging it down
    • The Usual
      HAy IZod, just price your shirts at $5 from the git go and you will save the store clerks the trouble of continually marking them down throughout their shelf lifecycle
    • Sorry...
      I'm not sure where anyone's getting only 14 cars. No matter how I slice it, I'm getting at least 20, plus perhaps a few surprises (Jay Howard, if Rahal/Letterman, Newman-Wachs, or Team 3G can step up).

      Keep hating...it's delicious.

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