‘Turtles’ to sponsor Chicagoland NASCAR race

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Come September, no one will be able to accuse turtles of being slow anymore.

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Chicagoland Speedway on Wednesday announced that Nickelodeon will sponsor its September 18 race in the form of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400. As has been the case the past five years, the Joliet event will kick off the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Adding a Chicago flair to race weekend will be South Side native Hebru Brantley. The world-renowned artist, whose studio work is popular with celebrities such as Jay Z and George Lucas, will design the race’s trophy as well as other Turtles-branded paint schemes for the event.

“He’s a superfan of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,’ and when I found that out I felt like it was the perfect storm,” said Anthony DiCosmo, senior vice president of sports marketing and development for Nickelodeon. “He’s got a huge buzz, worldwide really, but [in Chicago]he’s really hot. We’re excited to bring his interpretation of the Ninja Turtles to life.”

Scott Paddock, president of Chicagoland Speedway, said that each of the four famous “heroes in a half shell”—Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael—will be represented on cars at the race and that those announcements will be made throughout the summer.

“There’s so much going on with ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ this year,” DiCosmo said. “We have the movie coming out with Paramount, the toys have been on fire at retail and we have a bunch of new episodes coming out on Nickelodeon. So it just felt like the energy was behind it and the fandom is definitely there. It’s one of those properties where the kids are loving it and the dads grew up on it.”

In the meantime, organizers revealed that Illinois native Danica Patrick will drive the April O’Neil No. 10 car. Her car also was designed by Brantley.

“I think it’s a really nice play on girl power because that’s something critical to us,” DiCosmo said. “We expect a number of other drivers to be involved. You can’t just have April in the race; she’s going to need some friends with her.”

Last year, Nickelodeon sponsored the SpongeBob Squarepants 400 at Kansas Speedway. That race also featured cars adorned with cartoon characters, and drivers rushed to pick their favorite.

“When someone picks Larry the Lobster over Mr. Krabs, fans were kind of in an uproar,” DiCosmo said. “Isn’t it unbelievable I’m saying this? A lot of [the drivers]wanted to pick their own character.”

Race organizers said the Turtles were a natural partnership seeing as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” hits theaters June 3. Two of Chicagoland Speedway’s previous races have been sponsored by the “Fast and Furious” movie franchise.

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