Apr 26, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT
Although the result didn’t come for Mike Conway and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, it was still a big weekend for the team and new sponsor blu eCigs.
Blu is a new electronic cigarette that produces none of the tobacco smoke, ash or smell, but also allows for vapor production and consistency to replicate an actual cigarette. It had dabbled in NASCAR with a small associate sponsorship, but Long Beach marked blu’s first race as a primary sponsor in IndyCar. A blu display was hard to miss in the Long Beach Expo Center.
Actor Stephen Dorff, whose credits include “Backbeat,” “Somewhere,” “Blade,” “Cecil B. DeMented” and “Space Truckers,” among others, was on hand to help promote the product.
The event was Dorff’s first IndyCar race and his ride in a two-seater practically blew his mind.
“It was sweet! It was so fast,” Dorff said when describing the ride. “We talked about doing an appearance for blu, and waited for this event. The partnership with Bobby and Letterman’s team provides the whole kit and caboodle. Mike looks sick out there, and the car looks fast just sitting still.”
As blu tests the waters for future races – and Conway certainly helped with a Firestone Fast Six appearance and practice pace – it could mark an opportunity for cigarette sponsorship to re-enter racing more regularly.
For a generation of racing, between Formula 1 and IndyCar, tobacco sponsorship was ubiquitous. But within the last decade, almost all signage has been phased out owing to new regulations, and Marlboro’s naming support finally ended for flagship teams Ferrari and Team Penske.
Dorff, a smoker for 20 or so years, said blu began in more of a grassroots way, and he thought of them when eCigs began popping up.
“It’s a new alternative, and it’s generated more positive reactions,” said Dorff. “If they want, the guys on Mike’s team can smoke the blus at the track, but the people around don’t need to worry. It’s old mixed with the new, and brings in a modern feel. It’s not combustion but still has the flavor.”