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Sports Business

New racing series coming to Indy

August 17, 2010
KEYWORDS Sports Business

A new motorsports series may be coming to an arena near you—and soon.

MZD, a local advertising agency which has a division specializing in franchising, has been hired by Arena Racing USA to find operators of the series here in Indianapolis.

MZD officials are in the process of talking to the folks with the Pepsi Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Conseco Fieldhouse. Those talks have yet to heat up, but already, Rick Fuson, who is in charge of Fieldhouse operations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, loves the idea.

Arena Racing was founded in Virginia, and has been very popular there and in Grand Rapids, Mich. It is expanding to the heart of NASCAR country (Charlotte, NC) next year, and series founders also want it in Indianapolis in 2011.

The stock car series runs 15 races per year on a 1/8-mile portable aluminum track. The cars are one-half the size of a NASCAR ride. The races can best be described as part oval racing, part smash-up derby.

Though the series has no official affiliation with NASCAR, there are plenty of connections.

NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs, drivers Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley, and Interstate Battery are investors. The series was started by Bob Keane and Ricky Dennis, son of 1970 NASCAR rookie of the year Bill Dennis.

Home Depot, Hoosier Tire, Stihl and the U.S. Army, among others, have signed on as sponsors.

“I’m a firm believer in this,” Gibbs said. “It provides great competition at a time of year when motorsports is typically dormant. Plus, it’s a cost-effective way to get started in racing.”

MZD signed on with the two-year old series in July, and MZD chief Allan Zukerman thinks he could have a deal done within six to 12 months. The season generally runs from October to March. Zukerman's first order of business is to find an investor willing to put $1.2 million into the local race series. The series consists of 56 cars, which drivers can buy for $12,000. Cars run in heats each race night, which culminates in a championship race.

“I’d like to see that entry investment lowered, but the business model shows you can make a profit by drawing 3,500 spectators per race,” Zukerman said. “We feel that’s very reasonable in this market. We think if this model can’t succeed in Indianapolis, it can’t succeed anywhere.”

Zukerman is well known in local advertising and marketing circles and should have no problem getting people to take his calls. MZD’s franchise division has already signed deals with Mr. Dan’s Restaurants, Ritter’s Frozen Custard, Wall Street Deli, Papa John’s Pizza, Steak Escape and Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips to name a few.

Pacers’ Sports & Entertainment’s Fuson is one who will take that call.

“We like the concept, we like the people behind this, and we think we’d have interest from fans in motorsports-related events here,” Fuson said. “We look forward to talking with the folks from MZD.”

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