News Column

Toyota Rocks, Rolls, Sprints to NASCAR

Dec. 4, 2012

Billy Fellin

In Richmond International Raceway's history, the track has hosted races with titles such as the Chevy Rock 'n' Roll 400 and the Pontiac Excitement 400.

Toyota can now add its name to the list of manufacturers to sponsor races at RIR. RIR president Dennis Bickmeier announced Monday that the April Nationwide and Sprint Cup races will be sponsored by Toyota.

The Nationwide Series, on April 26, will be the Toyota Cares 250. The Sprint Cup race, on April 27, will be the Toyota Owners 400.

Bickmeier said it was huge for the track to have gotten this settled just a few weeks after the season ended, after having difficulties finding sponsorship for the 2012 spring race.

"It's a great relief to have all of our entitlement sponsorships locked up for 2013 and a few years beyond that," Bickmeier said. "It's a big plus, with a premium brand like Toyota on the race. It means a lot."

Bickmeier said it was a multiyear deal for the spring races at Richmond.

"I've seen when these guys can do," he said of Toyota. "Our race fans are going to benefit from this partnership. It's going to take our race to another level."

NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip and two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip were on hand for the announcement, driving Camrys out of a large shipping container with the race names as stickers on the hood. They also drove a few lucky owners of Toyotas on pace laps around RIR.

"I love standing here in Richmond tonight," Michael Waltrip said. "We were in victory lane just a few months ago, making the Chase with two of our cars. It's so cool being here tonight to announce that Toyota not only sponsors teams, but also races."

Keith Dahl, the National Manager of Motorsports and Engagement Marketing for Toyota, also was at the track for the announcement. He said the deal to sponsor the races had been percolating for some time.

"I'm delighted," he said. "We've been talking to Richmond about it for a while and for it to come to fruition and have the public take part in it is fantastic. From a Toyota perspective, involving NASCAR and our great fans and owners, it was a wonderful opportunity."

Bickmeier also said the consummation of the deal means he and his staff can continue to focus on other improvements around the track.

"We spent a lot of time last year trying to find partnerships for this race," he said. "It takes a long time. The deals are getting harder to put together, they take longer to put together than any other time I've been in the business. It allows us to focus on other things."

Bickmeier added that getting local companies involved with the action at RIR is still ongoing, even with the Toyota announcement.

"We're still trying to engage a lot of local companies and continue that," he said. "Whatever we can do to get more race fans to come to the track, it allows us to spend more time on that."

Distributed by MCT Information Services

For more coverage on the automotive industry, please see HispanicBusiness' Auto Channel

Source: (c) 2012 Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.)

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