Arrow McLaren SP will field Tony Kanaan at Indy 500 with sponsorship from NTT Data

McLaren Kanaan Indy 500
Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

The cold war between Zak Brown and Chip Ganassi took another turn Tuesday when Arrow McLaren SP announced it had signed both a Ganassi sponsor and Tony Kanaan to drive the Indy 500.

Kanaan spent four seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing and drove a Ganassi entry in the last two Indianapolis 500s. The 2013 winner finished third this past May at Indy.

Kanaan will be sponsored by NTT Data for his 22nd Indy 500, and the technology and business solutions provider also will be the primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist for 10 races on the No. 6 Chevrolet.

NTT Data had been a Ganassi sponsor since 2013 and was the primary sponsor for 2020 champion Alex Palou, who spent most of the IndyCar season locked in a battle to move from Ganassi to McLaren in 2023.

Mediation led to a resolution in which Palou would finish the remaining year on his Ganassi contract and can test for McLaren’s Formula One team. But Palou’s sponsor is headed to McLaren early; Palou can’t drive an Indy car for McLaren before he makes his official move in 2024.

“We welcome the opportunity to partner with McLaren, a long-term and valued client, and to demonstrate how sponsorships simultaneously build awareness and enhance business-to-business relationships,” said Bob Pryor, CEO of NTT Data Services.

Brown and Ganassi have feuded for years, but the tiff reached a new height when Palou in July rebuked a Ganassi announcement that the option on his contract for 2023 had been picked up. He said he instead was moving to McLaren, which led to several civil court filings and the ultimate resolution for Palou to complete his Ganassi contract.

Also, McLaren team president Taylor Kiel left the organization after the season and is expected to be announced as a Ganassi executive as soon as his non-compete clause expires. Kiel is the stepson of longtime Ganassi managing director Mike Hull.

Kanaan, who spent four of the final six years of full-time IndyCar competition with Ganassi, is slowly moving toward retirement. His third-place finish at Indy in May made the Brazilian eager to return again in 2023 at age 48.

“I feel extremely lucky to get another shot racing in the Indy 500,” said Kanaan, who will be part of McLaren’s first four-car Indy 500 lineup alongside Rosenqvist, Pato O’Ward and 2015 winner Alexander Rossi.

“I’m excited to work with Pato, Felix and Alexander and race with the Arrow McLaren SP team. My biggest battle in last year’s race was against these three drivers so working with them and driving with them will be exciting for all of us,” Kanaan said.

Rosenqvist started his IndyCar career with Ganassi and drove the No. 10 sponsored by NTT Data for two seasons. Rosenqvist moved to McLaren ahead of the 2021 season, the first year of NTT Data’s last Ganassi contact extension, and Palou replaced Rosenqvist as the driver in the No. 10.

“I look forward to representing NTT DATA once again,” Rosenqvist said. “They’re a great partner and are committed to the series.”

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”