It’s officially one or the other time for Mike Conway in 2015, with WEC calendar out


Today’s FIA World Endurance Championship calendar release will have an impact into the Verizon IndyCar Series in terms of any of its drivers participating in WEC races next season.

Particularly Mike Conway, who’s been IndyCar’s part-time badass de jour the last two seasons and is attempting to figure out his future.

Conway has served as Toyota Racing’s reserve driver for 2014 and made his WEC debut at Austin last month. He may get the opportunity for one more WEC start this season, but surprisingly was not nominated to fill in for Nicolas Lapierre in his absence this weekend in Fuji.

In looking ahead to the 2015 WEC calendar just released, there are at least three and potentially up to five direct head-to-head conflicts between WEC and IndyCar.

The confirmed ones first:

  • March 27-28: WEC Prologue Paul Ricard; IndyCar St. Petersburg
  • April 12: WEC Silverstone; IndyCar NOLA
  • May 31: WEC Le Mans Test Day; IndyCar Detroit

Granted, two of those three are official tests. But while Conway could afford to miss the test days as a reserve driver this year, it’s unlikely he’d be able to miss them as one of Toyota’s six regular full-season drivers.

The other two come if 2014 dates change weekends once they’re officially confirmed by IndyCar, and those would be at Toronto and Sonoma.

Toronto is expected to land a June date given the Pan-Am Games forcing a move from its usual July slot, and there’s only has two weekends it could realistically slot in – June 13-14 or 20-21.

If IndyCar moves its Iowa race to June 20 as is possible given a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday, June 19, then there’s only one option.

That would pose another direct conflict, with Le Mans, June 13-14.

Of course that wouldn’t affect just Conway, but any IndyCar drivers who would want to run the midsummer endurance classic and would be able to if their contracts and schedules allow.

The potential last conflict would occur in August. Sonoma’s date was tentatively listed on the preliminary Pirelli World Challenge schedule as August 22-23 but is now likely to be the last weekend in August, per ticket renewal forms. That would run head-to-head with WEC at the Nurburgring on August 30.

So here’s what this means for Conway: he’s either in or out for one or the other. He can’t do both in terms of IndyCar and WEC, unless he only runs selected IndyCar rounds on non-conflicting WEC weekends.

And if he’s out in IndyCar, there’s a 2014 race-winning No. 20 CFH Racing Chevrolet seat that will need a driver for road and street course races. It would be a perfect landing spot for an American like JR Hildebrand or Conor Daly, for instance.

The ball is still in Conway’s court, but he’s now at the point where he’ll need to clone himself if he wants to keep the same schedule.

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.