PALMETTO, Fla.—Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. has strengthened its relationship with IndyCar racing by becoming the presenting sponsor of the Mazda Road to Indy, a driver development program encompassing three lower-level racing classes.
Cooper already is the official tire of and racing tire supplier for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy—Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
"Our level of commitment to the premier open-wheel development series is more than just as a sponsor; it is a commitment as a partner," said Chris Pantani, director of motorsports, sponsorships and event marketing.
"The Mazda Road to Indy, now presented by Cooper Tires, is integral to the development of young drivers aspiring to become IndyCar drivers. Extending its commitment to provide proven race tires on the track, Cooper Tires develops young driver's needs on and off the track."
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, but Mr. Pantani noted that Cooper Tire is a key partner in the scholarships that allow a driver to progress to the next step on the ladder. In 2016, more than $2.3 million in season-ending prizes and awards were offered.
"This is great news for the Mazda Road to Indy," said John Doonan, director of motorsports, Mazda North American Operations.
"It means a lot to have Cooper Tires alongside us in the entire program. We share similar goals and are committed to building and improving the best open-wheel ladder in the world, and this serves as another sign of continued stability and growth."
This deal will enhance Cooper Tire's already "formidable presence" at every event on the Mazda Road to Indy calendar, Cooper said.
Among the activities already in the program are:
Hosted Q&A sessions with the drivers;
Cooper Tire Pole Award presentations for all three series, funding for which will increase in 2017; and
Road to Indy TV App powered by Cooper Tires, which provides live streaming, timing and scoring and more.
Cooper Tire was a track sponsor for the Toronto IndyCar racing weekend in 2016, which featured doubleheader races for all three series in support of the Verizon Indy Car Series.
Cooper also has been using the "MRTI hashtag program" since 2014 to help promote the sport. Cooper and Mazda encourage and reward drivers and teams to use #MRTI and #TeamCooperTire in their social messaging on Twitter and Instagram.
The hashtag contest periods feature challenges that allow drivers to win race tires along with other prizes, such as merchandise from Mazda and race/hospitality tickets that they can give away to their fans.
The hashtags also provide fans a way to follow drivers in the series.
Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, the organizers of the three IndyCar development racing series, said, "It is fitting and appropriate that we now even more so acknowledge [Cooper's] efforts and partnership as the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires."