- Ryan McGee, ESPN Senior Writer
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STP, an iconic brand and logo as recognizable as any in sports, announced Wednesday it is returning to big-time racing with sponsorships in NASCAR's Sprint Cup and Nationwide series, at numerous racetracks as well as in the NHRA.
The brand has been largely absent for 11 years in major American motorsports, concentrating more on local track sponsorships. But STP is returning with an aggressive sponsorship plan that will have the familiar "racer's edge" mantra not only back on cars on the track, but throughout tracks nationwide in a deal with International Speedway Corp.
It begins with NASCAR's split weekend of June 4-5, when the Saturday night Nationwide Series event at Chicagoland Speedway will be the STP 300, and the Sunday afternoon Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway will be the STP 400.
That same weekend, Richard Petty's famous No. 43 car, driven by AJ Allmendinger, will carry The King's 1972 STP paint scheme, marking the first time that car has carried those colors since a two-race deal in 2006.
The ISC properties in the STP deal are Daytona, Talladega, Richmond, Darlington, Michigan, Chicagoland and Kansas. The company also has signed a multiyear sponsorship with Speedway Motorsports Inc.'s Infineon Raceway, including title sponsorship of its Wednesday night drag-racing series.
"Since our initial sponsorship with Richard Petty almost 40 years ago, we've understood the power of racing and the ability to connect with our consumers through the sport," said Dave Lundstedt, CEO of Armored AutoGroup, which owns STP. "We are excited to be continuing that relationship with the fans and adding another chapter to our storied racing history with a diverse stable of sponsorships."
Two weeks ago, STP announced a three-race primary sponsorship and full-time associate sponsorship of two-time NHRA Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon. And it will continue its sponsorship of Tony Stewart's World of Outlaws team.
"It totally makes me feel like I'm a kid again," said Pedregon, who christened the black STP paint job at the NHRA's most recent event in Las Vegas. "You think about watching Richard Petty or Ronnie Peterson in Formula One or seeing it out here at the drag strip when I was a kid. Or watching the Indy 500 on TV and seeing those pit crews in the Indy 500 with their STP gear on. Mario Andretti I mean, it's like, no pressure, right?"
STP has long been known for its connections to Indy racing greats Andretti, Parnelli Jones and Gordon Johncock, but especially prominent is the relationship the company still has with NASCAR Hall of Famer Petty.
"Honestly, I don't know if a lot of people even know that STP stepped back from NASCAR for a while," Petty said last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, wearing his trademark dark shades with an STP logo etched on them. "They became such a part of the world over here that I think a lot of fans just assume they're still out here all the time. It'll be neat to have this comeback."
Ryan McGee is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
11dTom McKean, ESPN Stats & Information