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Published: Thursday, 5/10/2012

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at MIS gets new sponsor

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

This year's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway has a new official name to go with a new corporate sponsor. The June 17 race at MIS in Brooklyn, Mich., will be known as the Quicken Loans 400.

Quicken Loans Inc., a Detroit-based online mortgage lending company, has entered into a one-year naming agreement with MIS as the title sponsor for the Sprint Cup Race, with an option to extend the agreement past this season. The Quicken Loans 400 is one of two races MIS will host this season, joining the Pure Michigan 400 on Aug. 19, which is sponsored by Travel Michigan and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

MIS president Roger Curtis described Quicken Loans' sponsorship of the Sprint Cup race as "strong regional symmetry."

"We're really excited about the way Quicken Loans has embraced Detroit, putting their headquarters and their folks there," Curtis said.

Prior to Wednesday's announcement, the June Sprint Cup race at MIS had been labeled as the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 for the last two years. But Heluva Good!, a Sodus, N.Y.-based dairy products company withdrew its sponsorship at MIS and at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International in February to focus on smaller marketing endeavors. The company's decision to re-focus its marketing efforts left both tracks scrambling for race sponsorship prior to the start of the Sprint Cup schedule.

"We thought Heluva Good! was going to be on this for a long time," Curtis said. "They've had some commodity pricing concerns, and they'll still be an official promotional partner, but they needed to take a step back. When Quicken Loans found out the event was available, we started to have some discussions."

Watkins Glen will host a Sprint Cup Series event Aug. 12, but as of Wednesday the track had not secured naming rights for the race, previously named Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen.

"When you garner 4-4.5 million people on TV, you've got a broad reach, let alone the fan loyalty, which NASCAR is famous for," Watkins Glen International president Michael Printup told the Corning (N.Y.) Leader in February, after Heluva Good! withdrew its race sponsorships.

"We hope there are some people out there willing to get on board, but with the economy it's not easy to do."

Curtis said MIS had discussions with other companies but did not disclose names or affiliations of prospective sponsors or sponsorships.

"There were some really deep discussions and offers on the table," Curtis said. "Just for a wide variety of reasons, they didn't work out, or the timing wasn't right on our end."

With Quicken Loans, he said, "the conversations had always been there, but we didn't put two and two together until sometime in March. Once we did that [negotiations] moved quickly."

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed by MIS or by Quicken Loans, but Crain's Detroit Business reported last June that it cost $972,500 to rebrand the Pure Michigan 400, which was previously the Carfax 400.

This is the second Sprint Cup Series track sponsorship agreement announced in the last week; Richmond International Speedway announced on May 2 that Federated Auto Parts will sponsor its September Sprint Cup Series race.

Quicken Loans previously has reached its brand into professional sports; Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert owns the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, and the company holds the naming rights of the Cleveland arena that is home to the Cavaliers and the American Hockey League's Lake Erie Monsters.

Quicken Loans also sponsored the mens' college basketball Carrier Classic on Nov. 11, 2011, in which North Carolina and Michigan State played a regular-season game on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson in San Diego.

In auto racing, Quicken Loans is the primary sponsor of Ryan Newman's No. 39 Chevrolet for nine Sprint Cup Races and is an associate sponsor of three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart.

The company is also a sponsor of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.



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