A Lot Of Questions For This Once-Iconic Southern California Event
It was one of the longest running sponsorships in sports.
The two were as synonymous with each other as a clutch and a gearshift.
But after 39 years, Toyota has pulled out as title sponsor of the Long Beach Grand Prix, ending a relationship and association that was not just the standard of IndyCar racing, but all of motorsports.
And now the big question becomes: can the race survive without Toyota? Is the future of the race in jeopardy?
The easy answer is that event officials are already on the phone to try and secure another sponsor. Most likely, that first phone call was to Honda, which is not only just up the 405 in Torrance, but has a huge presence in the IndyCar series. But will Honda fork over the kind of money Toyota spent on the event (I’ll take a somewhat educated guess and say it would be a seven-figure sum).
The Grand Prix needs a title sponsor to survive. It’s not quite the same as seeking naming rights to a stadium in that it’s a nice financial bonus but not a requirement.
Races are expensive events to put on, especially ones like Long Beach that are run on city streets. They are so expensive, event operators need not just a title sponsor but several support sponsors, too. Will other current sponsors follow Toyota’s lead? Or might one of them step up to be the title sponsor?
The easy answer is “it’s too soon to tell.” But the long-term answer is clear: for the race to continue – and it was once one of the premier events in Southern California – a title sponsor is as critical as tires on a race car.