Surviving last year without a title sponsorship for its annual NASCAR Sprint Cup race, Watkins Glen International announced on Tuesday a partnership with the Kellogg Company and its brand of cheese crackers, Cheez-It, that will keep the race moving forward into the future. This summer, the NASCAR Sprint Cup race will be titled the "Cheez-It 355 at The Glen." At a press conference held at the Syracuse restaurant Dinosaur BBQ, WGI President Michael Printup called the new, multi-year partnership "historic."
While representatives would not disclose the number of years agreed to in the deal, "multi" signals at least two, with possibly more.
Ms. Dana Hardy, Manager of Integrated Promotions at the Kellogg Company, was on hand to make the announcement of the sponsorship with Mr. Printup. She cited "the excitement that the fans have," the history of the track, The Glen being one of the few road courses on the Sprint Cup schedule, and the fact that the drivers themselves love The Glen all as reasons for the Michigan-based company's interest in investing in the sponsorship in upstate New York.
Though the Cheez-It brand's parent, the Kellogg Company, has been part of the NASCAR scene since 1991, the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen is the company's first entitlement sponsorship.
About the partnership, Todd Penegor, President of Kellog U.S. Snacks stated:
"Cheez-It is all about supporting the real fans that love to show passion and dedication for their favorite sport. We know this loyalty exists among NASCAR fans, so this is the perfect opportunity for us to show our support for the fans and build on our successful partnerships in motorsports. We are proud to be the title sponsor of the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen -- a one-of-a-kind event at an iconic venue."
For his part, Mr. Printup said:
"The partnership adds another chapter to our rich racing history and provides an array of opportunities for all involved."
Examiner.com's Rochester Motor Sports spoke with the WGI President at the media event. In calling the partnership "historic," Printup explained that it "brings back" the former kind of NASCAR sponsorship where all of the fans are potential consumers of the sponsor's products. Cheez-It is a "consumer product that's in every corner of the world," he said, including "convenience stores and fast food" places. Contrasting this element with some of the other sponsors of Cup races that may have been services or products the typical race fan may not come into immediate contact with gives additional insight into the enthusiasm both partners exhibited on the stage for this collaboration.
The decision to keep the "355" as part of the race's name was mutually agreeable between the partners, according to Printup. Looking at the typical Cheez-It commercials on television illustrates what he called the "quirky" character the Kellogg Company likes to associate with the Cheez-It brand. Having the odd number of 355 (last year's unsponsored race was named the Finger Lakes 355, representing the location and the race's distance in kilometers) was appealing to Cheez-It. "They loved that quirky theme of 355," Mr. Printup said.
Also announced on Tuesday was that Carl Edwards would be driving the No. 99 Cheez-It Ford Fusion for this year's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at The Glen.
Cheez-It 355 at The Glen will now be the marquee event of the August 8-11 weekend at Watkins Glen International. Racing will start on Saturday with the NASCAR Nationwide Series Zippo 200.
Tickets for the races, camping, activities, and more information about the Cheez-It (TM) 355 at The Glen are available by checking the track website or calling 866-461-RACE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Connie Ann Kirk, Ph.D. covers motor sports and pop culture for Examiner.com and is writing a book about racers and racing with Irish historic racer John Monson, M.D. of Rochester.