Penske Racing parts ways with Marlboro after 20 years
Another chapter is set to close in top-level motorsports. For the first time in 20 years, Penske Racing will not run with Marlboro sponsorship in the IndyCar Series. The legendary bright-orange-and-white racers are re-branded with more generic black and white liveries now that Philip Morris USA has finally ended their relationship with the race team.
“This represents a change for us, but we are excited about competing with three cars this season and looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead for Team Penske,” said Tim Cindric, Penske Racing President.
Marlboro was the last brand to hang on after global tobacco sponsorship laws tightened in the late-‘90s, and was virtually banned in the early ‘00s. Team Penske was able to exploit a ‘grandfather clause’ in American legislation and managed to stretch the partnership out to two full decades, over a dozen different drivers, donning the company’s famous logo – albeit without the actual ‘Marlboro’ part.
Tobacco sponsorship in racing dates back to 1968 when Lotus convinced Imperial Tobacco’s Gold Leaf brand to cover its cars in red-and-gold livery. In ’72, Imperial switched to its black-and-gold John Player Special livery. West, Mild 7, Lucky Strike, Rothmans, Camel, Benson & Hedges and more were all regular sights in Formula 1 until only a few years ago.
NASCAR’s main championship was called the Winston Cup for 31 years, and CART/IndyCar used to have KOOL and Players running teams with Canadian drivers. Teams have struggled to find suitable replacements willing and able to put up the same sort of bucks that quite literally flowed from cigarette makers.
The high-tech firms, airlines, energy-drink makers and alcohol producers that filled the gaps since have been less financially stable and motorsport as a product has suffered as a result. No one is calling for governments to change the laws to allow Big Tobacco back in through the door, and the onus is on the sport itself to finally realize that the salad days are long gone and never coming back.
They did produce neat-looking cars, though...
The 2010 IndyCar Series kicks off March 14 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.