"This can’t be possible." That’s what D-A Lubricant Co. President Gisella Miller says was running through her mind as a deal to become the first presenting sponsor of the Indianapolis 500 came together late last year. "An Indiana company being the presenting sponsor of the 100th anniversary, it’s awesome," said Miller, during a special Indy 500 edition of Inside INdiana Business Television. And she says the month of May has provided validation for doing the three-year deal, valued at approximately $5 million, to promote the company’s new consumer brand, PennGrade Motor Oil. Miller says the company is already eyeing a national retail deal for PennGrade. "I think we’re probably several months away from there," said Miller. "We are already talking with someone and there will be a test market in Indiana."
D-A Lubricant Co. has had connections to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and motorsports dating back to the 1950s when it sponsored teams and even had its name on a chief mechanic’s award at Indy.
The company was once led by legendary Indianapolis business leader Tom Binford, the longtime chief steward of the Indy 500, whose father founded the company in 1919.
After more than 50 years away from motorsports, D-A Lubricant returned with a splash in 2015, announcing a sponsorship deal with Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Its earlier acquisition of Pennsylvania–based Brad Penn Lubricants is part of a strategy to create a consumer brand and to use motorsports to grab market share. D-A rebranded Brad Penn to PennGrade Motor Oil and recently began production at its Lebanon facility.
Miller says the Indy 500 sponsorship has created buzz around the brand and high expectations.
"The number of calls we’re getting and people recognizing us and saying, hey, we want the product and where can we buy it… it’s pretty nice," said Miller, whose father worked at the Speedway for more than 20 years. "The possibilities are unlimited, really."