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Lucas eager to expand IndyCar reach

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- With all due respect to the rest of the world, Forrest Lucas is glad American Ryan Hunter-Reay won the IndyCar championship.

Lucas is the co-founder of Lucas Oil, which among other things has the naming rights to the Indianapolis Colts' football stadium. He has a long history of involvement in racing, from sponsoring race teams and building tracks to sponsoring races and creating racing television programming.

Though his products are sold in 26 countries, Lucas couldn't have been happier when Hunter-Reay became the first American since Sam Hornish in 2006 to win an IndyCar title.

"I think it's very important that we have American names out there again,'' Lucas said. "We still need to have a little Formula One and some of that atmosphere to it, but it needs to be an American company for people here to root for it because people are watching to see their guy win.''

Lucas spoke during the "Lunch with Lucas'' program during the International Motorsports Industry Show on Friday.

Part of the program focused on Lucas' patriotism. The U.S. flag has been a part of the Lucas Oil shield since it was created in 1989 and the company's branding statement is "American Real.'' Lucas hopes he can play a part in bringing U.S. fans back to IndyCar racing.

"I think Indy racing kind of got off track years ago,'' he said. "Americans stopped watching Indy racing. They started watching NASCAR and NHRA and things like that, so I think it's very important that we have the Americans back in it, and it's extremely important that we're getting a lot of traction here.''

Lucas also owns MAVTV, which has naming rights for the IndyCar race in Fontana, Calif. American driver Ed Carpenter won the 2012 race, Hunter-Reay finished fourth, American Graham Rahal was sixth and another U.S. driver, Marco Andretti, was eighth. MAVTV has naming rights for two more years.

In June 2013, Lucas plans to launch Lucas Oil Network, an Internet television network that will offer a heavy dose of racing programming.

"In a time when motorsports are a little down, we are going forward just full bore,'' Lucas Oil spokesman Stuart Rowlands said.

Lucas explained that television is facing an uncertain future.

"There's a huge flux in television,'' he said. "Nobody really knows where it's going. Everybody's guessing and betting, and there's going to be a lot of people with their handhelds.''

Rowlands said Lucas Oil Network would immediately increase the company's reach.

"They're trying as hard as they can and this is the obvious way to do it,'' he said. "If we can't build the racetracks over there and there's no local television or cable networks, hey, if you can show your product on the internet, you can watch it on the computer.''

Lucas expects MAVTV to remain successful, but he's preparing for the day that television becomes less prominent.

"I wish everybody could watch television, but so many people are going to quit watching television and start watching internet television,'' he said. "We're trying to cover all bases. We're not abandoning standard television, we're just trying to get out there and get the rest of it because we are a worldwide company and we want to get more worldwide. We're just trying to be good businessmen.''

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