Satellite Enters IRNLS Orbit

Hey, did you hear the one about the two entrepreneurs getting together to form an Indy Racing Northern Light Series team?

Yes? Oh well, here goes anyway.

Lifelong race fans Tom Kutz and Al Kennon have gone from watching IRNLS races on TV to joining the all-oval series as owners of Satellite Motorsports. They insist, however, that their endeavor is serious business, not the latest in a long line of hopeful owners announcing their plans before having any idea of what they were getting into.

In fact, Kutz and Kennon have made no official announcements whatsoever. Not because they can’t, but because they don’t feel the timing is right. They still have to sign a primary sponsor and sew things up with driver Jimmy Kite.

“We want to build something for the future,” said Kutz, president of Satellite Motorsports. “I’m in this for the long term.”

“We want to go out there and race but business sense says no,” Kennon said.

By business sense, Kennon, Satellite’s vice president, means expenses and revenues. Right now, Satellite has no primary sponsor, but that’s OK. The team has almost seven full months to find a company willing to put its name on the side of an IRNLS car for next year.

Kutz and Kennon aren’t too worried about the length of a sponsor search anyway. They’re already a year ahead of their scheduled 2003 debut.

“Everything just kind of fell into place and it made sense to do it in 2002,” Kutz said.

Kutz and Kennon first kicked around the idea of starting an IRNLS team in March. The two were hanging out with Kite at a Dave & Busters when talk turned to forming a racing team. The more Kutz and Kennon looked into the specifics, the more they realized it was possible.

“That’s when we really got it going,” Kutz said.

Kite entered the picture naturally. Kite and Kennon were childhood friends in Farmington, Mo., and the two kept in touch throughout the years. With Kite out of a ride for most of 2001, he topped Satellite’s list of potential drivers.

In May, Kite failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in a one-race deal with McCormack Motorsports, kicking Satellite’s plans into high gear.

“We really got serious at that point at the end of May,” Kutz said. “We strongly considered running the last three races of the season, but I don’t want to go out there with blank side pods.

“If we had a sponsorship right now, we could easily run St. Louis, Chicago and Texas. We’re in position to do that.”

They’ll be in a much better position when High Performance Marketing finds the team a sponsor. HPM is a company specializing in helping small race teams find companies to back them. Kutz has been pleased with the results so far.

“There are several companies we have approached that we’re still working with, and they’re like, ‘Wow, we didn’t think of this,’” Kutz said. “The IRL’s been super in helping us. There were kind of shocked we got so far without them.”

One sponsor is even considering funding a two-car team.

“That would be awesome,” Kutz said.

Although they have some time to find a primary sponsor, Kennon subscribes to the theory that “the sooner, the better.”

“We will have a very active winter if we sign a big sponsor,” he said. “We would want to test at every track, if the IRL lets us.

“Hopefully in the next few months our marketing company will have some good news for us.”

Once Satellite shores up its funding, the team will likely utilize an Infiniti-powered G Force chassis, although that is not set in stone.

“Our ideal is Infiniti,” Kutz said. “Chevy certainly makes that interesting for next year.”

As for car numbers, 62 and 72 are the front-runners.

“I printed off all the open numbers, gave my 1-year-old son a marker and had him take a stab at it,” Kennon said.

Satellite Motorsports will be headquartered in St. Louis not Indianapolis, where most teams call home, and Kutz described that decision as one of the hardest so far for the upstart team.

“We struggled with that decision,” Kutz said. “It’s a tough one. The whole reason was we wanted to be off of the hectic schedule there (Indy).”

The team has investigated a couple of existing facilities and has kicked around the idea of custom-building a shop to house a team of 10 to 15 people.

Hiring is a little ways down the line, though.

“We’re kind of hanging in the background,” Kutz said. “I want to do it right. I don’t want to be a one-shot wonder. It’s not as hard as I thought it would be, but it’s not easy.

“It’s been a ride.”

But not a joke.

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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