Success is not all in a name

DAVID CAMERON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:42 PM ET

Even with a name, you have to play the game.

Fans watch drivers don a firesuit, climb into a car and go racing.

Fans don’t get to see the sponsorship-hunting that drivers have to do in order to keep themselves behind a wheel. Nor would they want to.

Only a few racers may reach a position where their name — Danica, Dale, Dario — sells itself.

And there are some names you might just take for granted as automatic marquees.

Marco Andretti has the famous racing moniker, drives for his father’s team and has a solid deal to keep that car under him.

“I am so lucky to have Dr. Pepper and Snapple put the Venom sponsorship on my car,” said the 23-year-old.

“I actually have a four-year contract. And I know how lucky I am to have that, so now I can just go out and worry about getting results.

It doesn’t mean he didn’t have to hustle to get it. And there is a whole lot of hustle involved to keep it.

“Don’t get me wrong, we still have to do the same things,” Andretti said of shaking hands, making appearances and doing media availabilities, among the obligations necessary to sell himself and his sport. 

“But it’s a shame to see (the general lack of opportunities for young drivers), not only in IndyCar, but coming up through the ranks. There are so many good shoes that are just trying to make it.

“You look at Graham Rahal — who has almost beaten every record that I’ve set — and he’s still looking for a drive. And he can definitely drive.”

The two have known each other since they were their dad’s little tykes hanging around the paddocks.

Rahal did just find himself a six-race deal with Newman/Haas that had him racing last weekend in Toronto.

(Bobby Rahal — who still owns a team, but not currently in IndyCar — won the inaugural Toronto Indy in 1986. Graham’s new deal, though, doesn’t include Edmonton.)

The irony is that Rahal thought he would once again be in the Newman/Haas car (where he raced in 2008) as the team that dominated ChampCar continues to re-organize itself since the death of actor/philanthropist/racing enthusiast Paul Newman.

“We looked at the way everything had unfolded during the offseason and it obviously looked as if we would be on the outside looking in,” Rahal said earlier this season after signing a two-race deal with fellow Ohioan Sarah Fisher. 

“For the first four months of the offseason, I thought I had a done deal at Newman/Haas.

“When the music did stop, well, there were a lot of seats I thought I could have had on a full-time basis. And then, last minute, someone else jumped in, last minute, something else happened — a sponsor disappeared or something like that happened,” said Rahal.

“The mindset is that it has to be different than it used to be. With the economy, you’re not just going to go out and find a sponsor that’s going to write you a however-many-million-dollar cheque just to be on your car. It doesn’t work that way.

“When I first talked to Sarah’s team, it gave me a lot to be optimistic about.”

And kept his name out there.

david.cameron@sunmedia.ca


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