There are a number of sports that come to mind when people think of Louisiana, but IndyCar racing doesn’t tend to be one of them.
Michael Andretti, a former Formula One racer and current chief executive officer of Andretti Sports Marketing, wants to bring it into the conversation.
The Andretti Sports Marketing team spent its Saturday afternoon camped out in front of the LSU athletic administration building next to Tiger Stadium, showing off its custom IndyCar while promoting the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana. The Grand Prix is set for April 10-12 at the NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale.
Tickets for the event go on sale Monday.
“I think it’s going to be a great event,” Andretti said. “Normally this is a great town to host for our sponsors, and they’re very excited to come out and watch a great race out there at NOLA (Motorsports Park). We’ve been working on this for a couple of years, and it’s great to see it finally happening.”
Andretti said New Orleans was a destination perfect for IndyCar, considering the park’s proximity to the French Quarter. It was a location that caused potential sponsors’ ears to immediately perk up.
To help with the promotion, IndyCar driver Justin Wilson made an appearance at the Andretti tent, and both Andretti and Wilson signed autographs for fans tailgating before Saturday night’s game against Alabama.
Wilson, who was raised in South Yorkshire in the United Kingdom, had only been to one college football game before Saturday, a contest at Colorado.
LSU’s atmosphere was quite different, he said.
“It’s an unbelievable atmosphere,” he said. “I can’t believe how many people are out just enjoying the tailgating and having a good time. I was told before I came here that this is ranked No. 1 in tailgating, and I can believe it.”
Wilson said he was surprised by the number of fans who stood in line for autographs, considering the lack of racing events in Louisiana.
He said he believes there’s a market waiting to be tapped into in New Orleans.
“I’ve been amazed at how many racers are already here,” Wilson said. “People are wandering up here that race go-karts, and I think it’s fantastic. There’s already a motor sports background down here. There’s racing down in Louisiana, and now we’re just bringing IndyCar racing.”
Both Andretti and Wilson said the Grand Prix would be critical, considering it would be one of the first events of its nature in a state primarily known for its organized sport culture.
But Andretti said he thinks IndyCar racing has the potential to thrive in the state, beginning in April.
“I think people will come out and check it out, and we’re hoping they’re going to be hooked,” Andretti said. “It’s the type of thing that I think you have to experience live. Once you experience it live, you’re going to want more.”
On Sunday, Andretti, Wilson and 2014 IndyCar season champion Will Power will appear on Convention Center Boulevard from 9-11 a.m. and 3-6 p.m. offering autographs, photos and rides in a street-legal IndyCar.