Amid the elation of another advancement in what has been an ongoing series of announcements positive in nature, Mark Miles expressed confidence that he could now change his big-picture perspective about the state of INDYCAR racing.
“I’m tired of saying we’re positioned for growth,” said Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, owner of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Now I can say, ‘We’re growing.’”
In introducing NTT as the IndyCar Series’ new title partner during the North American International Auto Show last month in Detroit, Miles reiterated that the “red-letter day” was a continuation of the series gaining momentum. NTT, a worldwide telecommunications company which grosses nearly $110 billion annually, also became the official technology partner of INDYCAR, the NTT IndyCar Series, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR Brickyard 400.
“This is a global giant and they are on the cutting edge,” Miles said.
A week earlier, Miles was excited to unveil an expanded TV schedule with NBC Sports Group in the first season of a multiyear deal that will televise all 17 races under one umbrella, including eight on NBC – most notably the 103rd Indianapolis 500. NBCSN will air nine races.
“They're increasing the number of INDYCAR races that will be on free-to-air, on network television, so it goes up by three, which is a 60 percent increase,” Miles said. “Every one of the network races gets two to three times the audience that a cable race gets, so we know in and of itself, that's going to be a significant boost in the viewership of the series.”
Welcome news has just kept coming since the NTT and TV schedule announcements. Title sponsor agreements were signed or renewed at four INDYCAR venues – Gateway Motorsports Park, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Road America and Long Beach. The Indianapolis 500 added a valued presenting sponsor in Gainbridge.
Earlier this week, it was announced that Firestone extended its agreement to remain the official tire of the NTT IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 through 2025. And on Thursday, the launch came for INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold, the direct-to-consumer streaming product that will feature live NTT IndyCar Series practice and qualifying sessions, same-day race airings, live Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires races and more than 200 hours of INDYCAR programming content.
Another new partner is Speedway, named in early January as the official fuel of the NTT IndyCar Series and official convenience store for INDYCAR and IMS.
“This company is fantastic,” Miles said of Speedway, based in Ohio. “They’re Midwest in their roots but national in their scope. They now have 4,000 stores from coast to coast, and as well as they will be providing the fuel we need to race, they will also be promoting (INDYCAR) in their stores, and this is really a terrific platform.”
Looking ahead, Miles said the work is never done, including an evolving NTT IndyCar Series schedule. There are two new races in 2019, the INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) on March 24 in Austin, Texas, and the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sept. 22. The latter marks the return of Indy cars to the famous Laguna Seca road course for the first time in 15 years.
COTA’s official introduction to the series begins next week with INDYCAR Spring Training, a two-day open test on Tuesday and Wednesday for full-season entries and several part-time cars. It’s the only series-mandated gathering prior to the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10.
The first day of INDYCAR Spring Training is open to the public for $20; free for those who have purchased tickets to the INDYCAR Classic race weekend. Buy tickets for INDYCAR Spring Training or the INDYCAR Classic race weekend here.
Tuesday’s open test day will also stream live on IndyCar.com. Seven cameras will be positioned around the 3.4-mile permanent road course to catch the action, with Kevin Lee of NBC Sports and Mark Jaynes, Anders Krohn and Jake Query from the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network calling the action. Streaming begins at 11 a.m. ET Tuesday.
“We can't wait to see these guys in these cars on that track, in that market,” Miles said of COTA. “We expect to get a lot of young techies and millennials out to begin to appreciate Indy car racing, and to get to the WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca for the finale is going to be special.”
The March 10 season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, will air live at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.