DETROIT — Welcome to the NTT IndyCar Series, where racing and fully integrated technology and communications have come together to create a new era in motorsports.
In what was described as a “red-letter day” by Mark Miles, president and CEO of Human & Company, owner of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, global giant NTT was introduced Tuesday at the North American International Auto Show as the series’ new title partner in a multiyear agreement.
“I think this relationship is perfect,” Miles said. “We are a global brand, and when I think about racing, I think we're international, so you think about the team owners, you think about drivers from all over the world. I'm sure that was part of how NTT saw us, but we see them as a giant technology and communications company. When I think about the future growth of INDYCAR, what's more important than developing technology? It drives our racing, our teams. Everybody in the paddock needs data in usable form to improve.
“We take 50 million data records off the cars in an average two-hour race. To me, that's content. With NTT, we can make that usable and compelling content for fans that will continue to grow the sport and attract younger fans.”
NTT, with headquarters in Tokyo, grosses nearly $110 billion annually and spends $4 billion each year on research and development. The company will also be the official technology partner of INDYCAR, the NTT IndyCar Series, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.
NTT DATA has been a visible car sponsor and team partner in recent years with Chip Ganassi Racing, including Scott Dixon’s 2017 triumph at Road America. Dixon, a five-time series champion, as well as 2004 champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan, joined Miles on the Cobo Center Atrium Stage.
Tsunehisa Okuno, NTT executive vice president, head of global business, excitedly expressed the hope that this partnership would last forever.
“The Indy car racing is getting more popular also in the Japan market, mainly thanks to the Japanese driver, Takuma Sato, who won the championship two years ago, the Indy 500,” Okuno said. “There was a special TV program in Japan, and I clearly remember during the program Mr. Sato, impressed us by saying that he saw something very special, very different after he became the champion of Indy 500.
“So I personally expect to see something very different through the cooperation with INDYCAR and the other partners, and NTT would like to bring something very exciting to the INDYCAR fans.”
INDYCAR President Jay Frye was also on hand with team owners Chip Ganassi and Bobby Rahal, as well as representatives from INDYCAR’s engine manufacturers, Jim Campbell, General Motors’ U.S. vice president, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, and Art St. Cyr, Honda Performance Development president.
Frye and Mark Sibla, INDYCAR’s chief of staff, initiated talks with NTT to start the process in September. Progress culminated with a November trip to Tokyo to close the deal.
“This is something that affects the entire paddock from the broadcast partners to the promoters to the teams,” Frye said. “We couldn't be more proud to partner with a global brand like NTT. I want to send a big thanks to them for all their hard work.”
NTT replaces Verizon, which Miles has continually praised as a title sponsor for helping grow the series for the past five years.
“I think it was important that NTT DATA had this history with INDYCAR, which will mean that we hit the ground running,” Miles said. “We're in seventh gear already.”
Dixon, the reigning series champion, sees an ideal fit.
“With how the two companies are going to work together, I think it's going to be fantastic for branding, pushing it,” he said. “We have the greatest racing in the world, and we're going to be able to push it together. But it's the perfect marriage, and looking forward to the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series to kick off.”
Miles and Frye presented Okuno with a special INDYCAR helmet, complete with the new series logo, to commemorate the partnership.
“There will be more days like this in the future, but to help get us started, we hope you'll appreciate this helmet from the NTT IndyCar Series and find a nice place for it in Tokyo,” Miles said.
“Thank you very much,” Okuno said with an appreciative smile. “Should I put it on? Maybe I should learn how to drive (a race car).”