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Indy Racing Takes First Lap

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NEW YORK-The Pep Boys Indy Racing League's first TV spots offer up brief comic character studies of drivers when they're not chasing a checkered flag. Billings are nearly $10 million.
Four branding spots from Wieden & Kennedy broke this month, and 10 more are due, plus local TV, print and radio in support.
"We tried to base as much as we could off the vibe we got from the drivers," said Chuck McBride, creative director at the Portland, Ore., agency. That vibe was often sly and humorous, and led the agency to film scenes that locate the silly, obsessive and playful in some of the world's fastest men.
One spot shows Eddie Cheever Jr. pulling over when he spots a pin on the track. Picking it up, he complains, "Have I gotta do all the work around here?" In another, Buddy Lazier snacks raceside. Handed some water, he acts like he's in a pit stop-taking a swig and tossing the bottle down.
The tag is, "You had to be there."
IRL vice president of sales and marketing John Newcomb said the target is the "low-hanging fruit"-sports fans who might easily be drawn to racing.
The spots break at a difficult time for the IRL, which last week tried to bar a Sports Illustrated reporter who had criticized the league from covering the May 30 Indy 500, the biggest of its 11 races. Facing a media boycott after the Chicago Tribune returned its own press credentials in protest, the league backed down and gave SI its pass. ƒ
The ads break at a dicey time for the Indianapolis client. The Chicago Tribune and Sports Illustrated last week threatened to boycott the May 30 Indy 500-the biggest of IRL's 11 races-after the league denied an SI reporter who had criticized it press credentials. The IRL reinstated the writer, and both publications will cover the event. ƒ