Izod new title sponsor for IRL

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The Indy Racing League will have Izod as a title sponsor next year, an agreement the IRL hopes will expand its fan base and take the series to a "new level."

The six-year deal could be extended, Michael Kelly , executive vice president of marketing for the clothing maker's parent company, Phillips-Van Heusen, said Thursday. He did not say how much money was involved or how it would be spent. Izod will remain the IRL's official apparel partner.

Brian Barnhart , president of the Indy Racing League, called Izod the league's first legitimate title sponsor. Jeff Belskus , CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, called it "one of the most significant announcements in the history of the IndyCar series."

The agreement comes at a time when many companies are trimming advertising budgets. Izod became the IRL's apparel sponsor IRL in 2008 and sponsored driver Ryan Hunter-Reay . He won at Watkins Glen in July 2008 to give Izod its first victory.

"Looking at it from a driver's perspective, this is what we've been waiting for," Hunter-Reay said. "This is it. I feel like this is a really fresh start for the IndyCar series."

The move comes amid speculation that Danica Patrick , the series' most popular driver, is nearing completion of a two-year deal with JR Motorsports, the NASCAR Nationwide Series operation owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. , according to ESPN.com.

"Indications are that she's going to remain in this series for at least a few more years to come," Barnhart said. "She may be doing some other racing when she's not conflicting with the IndyCar series, but I think for the next couple years at least, she's going to be a dedicated and committed full-time IndyCar driver, and what she does in her free time or off weekends, from that standpoint, is her choice to do so."

Barnhart said Patrick's status won't affect the deal.

"This relationship isn't built around one driver or anything along those lines," he said.

FORMULA ONE: Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said the automaker will announce whether it will stay in Formula One racing before the year ends.

Renault's reputation was recently damaged by a crash scandal that led to team principal Flavio Briatore 's indefinite ban from the sport. Briatore ordered former driver Nelson Piquet Jr . to crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to improve teammate Fernando Alonso 's chances of victory.


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