IndyCar lands communications company NTT as title sponsor

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IndyCar announced a multi-year title sponsorship deal Tuesday with NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan.

The series will be called the NTT IndyCar Series. NTT Data, a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., already sponsors a car for Chip Ganassi Racing and received enough exposure from that deal to warrant a larger piece of the open-wheel racing series. The season’s first race is March 10 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The partnership revealed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit also makes NTT the official technology partner of the IndyCar Series, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.

“IndyCar has grown in terms of all of our fan metrics and is a valuable global brand that NTT recognizes,” Mark Miles, president and CEO of IndyCar and IMS parent company Hulman & Company, told The Associated Press. “We feel great about it because they are a corporate giant in global communications and their strategy is to begin to expose the NTT parent brand, which in Japan is a company much like a merger between AT&T and Verizon.”

NTT replaces Verizon, which was title sponsor of the series from 2014 until it ended its partnership last season. IndyCar had nearly two years to replace Verizon, but the NTT deal came together rapidly at the end of last season.

The company approached IndyCar executives before the September season finale asking if it was too late to discuss the entitlement package, and IndyCar immediately opened talks. The broader deal was completed in roughly three months and sealed with a November trip to Tokyo in which IndyCar officials and Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato made a winning pitch to NTT.

“This is a huge chance for us to let people know who NTT is,” said Tsunehisa Okuno, executive vice president and head of global business for NTT. “Everyone knows about IndyCar and there is room for growth in the European market and the Japanese market. NTT is a global company and North America is a very important market for the brand. We think we could offer something exciting with NTT and Indy by using the NTT technology.”

NTT has already been developing a new mobile application for the series that will replace the Verizon app, which limited live content to Verizon subscribers. NTT also will use its proprietary platform to support the series and venues in delivering analytical insights.

“In an average two-hour race, IndyCar timing and scoring pulls in more than 50 million data ratings off the cars,” Miles said. “It’s fertile ground if we can turn it into digestible compelling content to the fans.”

Bob Pryor, the CEO of NTT Data Services, said the partnership with the Ganassi team helped the company recognize the potential in IndyCar.

“We’ve seen how NTT technology and innovation can help drivers and teams, and we believe it can also advance the sport and fan engagement,” Pryor said. “Also, the depth of the relationships we were able to expand with our clients, other sponsors, and the automotive industry as well as the brand awareness we were able to build, has and continues to be significant.”

NTT began as a Japanese telephone company that has grown into a $106 billion tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas. NTT Communications is a technology partner of McLaren Formula One.

IndyCar’s 2019 schedule includes 17 races, all of them in the United States except for a stop in Toronto.

Miles is trying to add two international events to the schedule that would run in February, and IndyCar has already visited Australia about a potential race. NTT supports IndyCar’s vision on expansion.

“There’s been an IndyCar race in Japan and we would love more IndyCar racing in Japan,” Okuno said. “If we could make it happen, it is a very good showcase to let Japanese clients know what we are doing in bigger markets.”

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IndyCar entry lists for Harvest GP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

IndyCar entry lists Indianapolis
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There are 25 drivers on the NTT IndyCar Series entry lists at Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course with a few new yet familiar faces for the Oct. 2-3 race weekend.

Four-time champion Sebastien Bourdais will make his season debut in the No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet (shifting Dalton Kellett to the No. 41) with AJ Foyt Racing, which he is joining full time next season. James Hinchcliffe, who had run three races with Andretti Autosport, will return in place of Zach Veach in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda. Helio Castroneves will drive Arrow McLaren SP’s No. 7 Dallara-Chevy for Oliver Askew, who is out with concussion-like symptoms.

Sage Karam, who has two IndyCar starts this year at IMS (the road course on July 4 and the Indy 500 on Aug. 23), also will return to the series in Dreyer & Reinbold’s No. 24 Dallara-Chevrolet.

HARVEST GP ENTRY LISTS: Friday l Saturday

Friday and Saturday of the Harvest GP presented by GMR will mark the second and third races this season on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. While the July 4 race on the circuit was 80 laps, Friday’s distance is 85 laps, and Saturday will be a 75-lap event.

Championship leader Scott Dixon led 26 of 80 laps to win the July 4 race at the IMS road course. With three races remaining in the series, the five-time series champion enters with a 72-point lead on Josef Newgarden.

Click here to see who’s on the IndyCar entry lists in Race 1 and in Race 2 for the Harvest GP presented by GMR at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.


START TIMES AND TV INFO FOR INDYCAR AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY ROAD COURSE (all times ET):

Thursday

IndyCar NTT Series practice: 2:25-3:40 p.m., NBC Sports Gold

IndyCar qualifying, Race 1: 6:20 p.m. (two groups/12 minutes apiece), NBC Sports Gold

Friday

—IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix, Race 1: 3:30 p.m. (green flag, 5 p.m.), USA Network, NBC Sports Gold

Saturday

—IndyCar qualifying: 10:20 a.m. (two groups/12 minutes apiece), NBC Sports Gold

—IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix, Race 2: 2:30 p.m (green flag, 2:31 p.m.)., NBC, NBC Sports Gold