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Friday, July 12, 2024

How a Regional Grocery Chain Is Hyping the Next IndyCar Series Race

  • Hy-Vee tapped Tim McGraw, Gwen Stefani, and Blake Shelton to perform at Iowa Speedway.
  • About 50 food trucks and pop-up stores are going to be available to race goers, campers.
Mike Dinovo/USA TODAY Sports

The IndyCar Series returns to Iowa Speedway this weekend after a one-year hiatus. 

In response, a regional supermarket chain is stocking the shelves — both literally and figuratively — to attract fans to the 7/8-mile oval.

“We wanted to create a destination race. So what’s gonna bring people to Iowa in the middle of the country, in the middle of the summer, to watch IndyCar?” Hy-Vee Chief Marketing Officer Anna Stoermer told Front Office Sports. 

The answer: Concerts by Tim McGraw, Gwen Stefani, and Blake Shelton, along with a food truck competition and pop-up Hy-Vee stores. 

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach has long blended concerts with racing, a task made easier with a storied race held since 1975 in the second-largest market in the U.S.

“You really have to give people a reason to travel,” Stoermer said.

As the only short track and sole doublehead on this season’s IndyCar schedule, the event has a unique appeal. 

But Stoermer still went to races over the last several months for inspiration in broadening it, asking herself, “What kind of a party could we bring to Newton, Iowa, that would make people wanna load in on Thursday and stay with us until Monday?”

That’s where camping amenities come into play. Newton is a town of about 22,000, and the nearest major population center is Des Moines, which has roughly 700,000 residents in its metropolitan area. 

“Camping is a big deal in the Midwest,” Stoermer said. “We are making sure that the campsites are ready to. We put in pop-up grocery stores thinking this will be a camping experience. Groceries can be delivered [to campsites] within two hours, so if they forget anything, we have them covered.”

Hy-Vee is approaching 300 stores, mostly in the Midwest. It’s been a sponsor of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing since 2020, a partnership that came about as a bit of a fluke. “[The Hy-Vee] logo got put on a Rahal car by accident,” Stoermer said. 

Taking the logo off would have been a bit of an ordeal, so Hy-Vee was asked if the team could keep it on the car. 

“We said, “Sure, go ahead and use our likeness. We’d love to have our brand out there,’” Stoermer continued. “And after that first race, we had people say, ‘Hey, when did Hy-Vee get interested in racing?’” 

“Then all of these business relationships started to come about. It became a really great business opportunity.”

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