INDIANAPOLIS — Toyo Tire U.S.A. Inc. is stepping up its partnership with the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) by sponsoring a Spec Miata championship race during NASA's 2018 national championships that they claim will offer the largest payout in U.S. amateur road-racing history.
The new event, dubbed the Toyo Tires Classic, is in addition to Toyo's status as the presenting sponsor of the NASA Championships, scheduled for Sept. 13-16 at Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas.
The Toyo Tires Classic, for Mazda Miata racers, will award the overall winner up to $80,000 and more than $131,000 in cash awards in total, Toyo and NASA said recently.
"This will be the richest purse in Spec Miata competition," said Marc Sanzenbacher, Toyo's senior manager of motorsports.
"Our goal was to put together a program that would bring Spec Miata competitors together in a way that has never been accomplished before. Our hope is that this new program will provide Spec Miata competitors with an annual pilgrimage that combines the camaraderie and festivities that NASA events are known for — combined with a financial benefit that has never been seen in the community. We look forward to the tremendous competition we expect to see at this event."
Toyo and NASA said the purse structure will include several distinct incentives, including a pair of random cash awards totaling $5,000 and a "hard charger" award worth $10,000.
Jeremy Croiset, NASA director of business development, called the new program's level of commitment "nearly unprecedented" and said, "We fully expect this to be the largest Spec Miata competition in history at one of the best tracks in the country, and we're just getting started."
The Spec Miata class attracted more than 60 entries at the 2017 national championships.
The 2018 NASA Championships at Circuit of the Americas is a return to a single national championship after the sanctioning body held Eastern and Western States Championships the past few years.
The Toyo Tires Classic is in addition to the creation of a spec-tire race-within-a-race initiative — the Toyo Tires GT Challenge — that debuted at the 2017 NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill endurance race at Thunderhill Raceway Park near Willows, Calif.
The GT Challenge class featured equally prepared Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport and GT4 Clubsport MR race cars competing on 18-inch Toyo Proxes RR DOT competition tires. Toyo offered a $5,000 first-place prize.
While the GT Challenge class was created for the Thunderhill enduro, Toyo said it could become a national NASA class if demand warranted it. The 2017 event attracted only one entrant, however.
2018 will be Toyo's 16th year as the official tire of NASA.