INDIANAPOLIS – This is just a huge news week in the realm of motorsports. On Thursday afternoon, Toyota announced that they’d be pulling out of the title sponsorship deal with the Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Grand Prix Association confirmed the news with a statement.
“We have had a phenomenal relationship with Toyota for 44 years, a record in the racing world. In recent discussions, however, Toyota has elected not to renew as the title sponsor,” Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, said in a statement. “This has now opened up an opportunity to identify a new title partner. Coming off a very successful 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, we’re excited about the future and are exploring all possible sponsorship opportunities that might exist in the market.
“Toyota came aboard our fledgling event in 1975 as Official Pace Car provider and in 1980, Toyota stepped up to become our entitlement sponsor and remained in that position for 39 years. In 1976, Toyota created the charitable Toyota ‘Race for Youth’ Match Race which would become the world-famous Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race starting in 1977, continuing for the next 40 years. Among the many beneficiaries of this race were the Children’s Hospitals of Long Beach and Orange County. Together, over the years, we were able to build the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach into America’s #1 Street Race.
“On behalf of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, I would like to thank Toyota for all that it did to help us grow our event and make it what it is today. We are proud to have had Toyota be the most prominent of our sponsor partners for so many years.”
The 2019 race will be on April 14. While the city and the Verizon IndyCar Series came to an agreement for a contract extension, this news shouldn’t affect future races. The race is one of the most prestigious on the INDYCAR circuit and the event shouldn’t have too hard of a search to find a replacement. With INDYCAR moving to NBC Sports for 2019 and beyond, there’s a big likelihood that the race will air on NBC itself. Big crowds, bigger ratings and the prestige of being in a Los Angeles market, a title sponsor should be found for 2019 and beyond too.
Toyota hasn’t been a manufacturer in INDYCAR in years anyways, so the news isn’t as shocking as it sounds.