First-lap crash in IndyCar opener eliminates multiple contenders at Barber


A crash on the opening lap of the NTT IndyCar season opener at Barber Motorsports Park was costly for many of the series’ big names.

The six-car incident started with an uncharacteristic mistake by two-time series champion Josef Newgarden, who spun in the middle of the pack while cresting the hill in Turn 5.

The No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet’s wreck also collected the cars of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Max Chilton and Rinus VeeKay (who managed to avoid the damage of the other cars).

Jimmie Johnson, who started 21st in his IndyCar debut, slammed on the brakes and skirted the wreckage without affecting his No. 48 Dallara-Honda.

“I got loose coming over the hill, I just got loose in the wake,” Newgarden, who leads IndyCar with three victories at Barber, told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “I thought I had the car and then touched the grass. Once I touched the grass, that pitched me sideways.

“I feel really bad for anyone that got involved in that. Obviously, my mess created a bigger mess. So any of the cars that got involved I’m real sorry because obviously, it was us that tipped it off.

“Shame, I felt we had a really good car. Just needed to file in at the start. But would of, could of, should of. We’ll come back; we just have to bounce back at the next one.”

Chilton and Rosenqvist returned after repairs but were multiple laps down. The crash eliminated Newgarden and Hunter-Reay, and Herta’s team still was working on repairs in the pits after 20 of 90 laps.

“Such a disappointing start,” said Herta, whose team already had repaired the No. 26 Dallara-Honda after a crash in practice Saturday. “Man, that sucks. Just waiting for (Newgarden) to find a direction to spin in, and unfortunately, he just kept going straight.

“I’m ready to get out of here and get going for St. Pete.”

The yellow flew a second time after a single-car spin in Turn 13 on Lap 9 for Johnson, who rolled away unscathed.

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.