Indy 500 Drivers Find Crypto Craze Fuels Need Sponsorship

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INDIANAPOLIS — If he won one of motor racing’s pinnacle races, Conor Daly would gladly take the seven-figure payout awarded to the Indianapolis 500 champion and deposit traditional American cash straight into his bank.

Oh, and throw in some digital bucks too.

“We have bitcoin bonuses in our contract, so we win,” Daly said with a smile, “then there will be bitcoin floating my way.”

The IndyCar driver is among a growing number of athletes getting into crypto gaming. In Indy, where the culture has traditionally been steeped in bricks more than bitcoin, the move to cryptocurrency sponsorship may still be a curious concept for the nearly 300,000 fans who will fill the track on Sunday. But inside the paddock – and the locker rooms of the sports world – new forms of digital money are helping to pay bills and salaries for teams and athletes.

Team owner Ed Carpenter is a strong supporter of cryptocurrencies. Ed Carpenter Racing is better known in the paddock in May as the Bitcoin Racing Team, as Daly and Rinus VeeKay both drive Chevrolets sponsored by BitNile, which owns and operates a data center in which it mines Bitcoin.

Do you have all that? Rick Mears in « The Yellow Submarine », it is not.

Motor racing series drivers around the world are hoping sponsorships and paint schemes can spark fan interest in learning about the often convoluted, almost mythical digital currency.

The more fans that dive into the crypto market, it is thought, the more likely these companies are to invest in the race.

Cryptocurrencies are a digital asset that can be traded on the Internet without relying on the global banking system. They were promoted as a way for those with limited means to build wealth by investing in the next big thing.

They are also highly speculative and often lack transparency, which significantly increases risk. Bitcoin and Ethereum, the most popular cryptocurrencies on the market, have plunged in value this month, leaving skeptics wondering if crypto companies are in the game for the long haul.

“It just doesn’t seem like a viable long-term way of doing things,” said Stuart Madnick, professor of information technology at MIT Sloan School of Management. “The long term, in the eyes of many people, is next week.”

NASCAR driver Landon Cassill, a crypto enthusiast, has an Xfinity Series sponsorship with Voyager Digital, a crypto-asset trading platform.

“Clearly, crypto markets are volatile,” Cassill said. “But I’ve been in space for a long time now. I prepared for these. I think anyone who is a veteran of the space knows market volatility. I hold a crypto that is definitely down. I also negotiate the market. I trade it on Voyager. I have made good transactions in the past two weeks and I am satisfied.

Sports leagues and teams were among the first legitimate businesses to grab crypto cash.

Downtown Los Angeles, home of the NBA’s Lakers and Clippers, NHL’s Kings and WNBA’s Sparks, changed its name last year to Arena as part of a $700 million over 20 years. has been on a spending spree over the past year, securing sponsorship deals with Formula 1, the UFC and the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens – while also buying the Philadelphia 76ers uniform sponsorship patch .

General public acceptance has also accelerated: Fidelity Investments, one of the nation’s largest retirement account providers, announced earlier this month that it would begin allowing investors to put Bitcoin into their 401(k) accounts.

Carpenter spoke at the Bitcoin 2021 conference and became an advocate in the industry paddock. . He is confident that virtual currency companies can function as a stable sponsor, providing crucial funding for racing teams.

« It’s something I still believe in for the long haul, » he said. “I don’t watch his day-to-day volatility probably as much as others. I think the people we work with and associate with feel the same way.

Landing sponsorship in races is as much about networking as winning checkered flags. Mingle with corporate bigwigs is a little easier with traditional sponsors such as beer and candy companies and car dealerships. Trying to sound hip to the latest trends with blockchains and NFT lingo can be tricky.

« It can be a difficult space to network and talk smart, » Cassill said. « The lingo and the ins and outs, the inner baseball of this space, is so new that if you haven’t been there for four or five years already, it’s hard to really know what’s going on without really making headlines. newspapers. . Space moves so fast.

Daly closed his deal on a wild night in Las Vegas.

“People always say, Conor, you spend too much time in Vegas. I was like, guess what, got me a job this time, you losers,” Daly said.

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