CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A hot chocolate company led by Hollywood stuntman and occasional racer Stanton Barrett has signed as primary sponsor for Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson at Chip Ganassi Racing.
This is the first entry into IndyCar for Huski Chocolate, a company headquartered in Stockholm that already does business in Formula One with McLaren and with the English soccer club Millwall.
Huski Chocolate is primarily located in ski resorts and touts its brand as using all-natural ingredients combined with real cocoa, cocoa butter and secret spices. The company expanded into North America two years ago and launched a chocolate milk in Europe last year.
The pairing of a Swedish company with a Swedish driver seems like a natural fit, but the connection is actually between Barrett and team owner Chip Ganassi. Barrett is the son of former stuntman Stan Barrett and the godson of the late Paul Newman.
He became interested in racing through his father and Newman, which led to a friendship with Ganassi. Although Barrett still dabbles in racing -- the Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen last year is among the 249 career NASCAR starts Barrett has made since 1992 -- his focus is on his other entrepreneurial ventures and his stunt work. Barrett also ran four IndyCar races in 2009.
"Motorsports is a really great platform to get a brand out there and develop a loyal customer base so IndyCar is a great fit because it is picking up aggressively and they are in good markets and has a positive global platform," Barrett said.
Barrett said he's known Ganassi at least 30 years, and flew with him late last season to discuss potential partnerships. Ganassi was in the process of shutting down his two-car sports car team, but he reallocated the personnel to create a third IndyCar entry to avoid heavy layoffs.
The talks were preliminary and Ganassi was not sure who the driver would be, but Barrett was adamant he wanted to be tied to a top-tier team. Ganassi teams have won 19 championships and more than 220 races, including four Indianapolis 500s, a Daytona 500, a Brickyard 400, eight Rolex 24 At Daytonas, the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"Chip had the choice in driver, he is pretty savvy in who he picks and I think it is a really great fit that Marcus was available," Barrett said. "For us, it just fell in line that he is a Swedish driver for a Swedish brand, and we will be able to market him quite well. But this was more about the program and being in IndyCar and the partners we could find."
Ericsson spent five years in F1 before moving to IndyCar last season to drive for Sam Schmidt. When McLaren came on as a partner with Schmidt for this season, the team replaced the two-driver lineup and Ericsson's contract was not renewed. He had one podium finish in 16 races.