Tony Kanaan, Tsunehisa Okuno, and Scott Dixon

They’ve driven Chip Ganassi Racing cars sponsored by NTT DATA and are two of the most successful, recognizable and popular drivers in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Series champions Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan echoed each other with their enthusiastic endorsement of NTT as the series’ new title partner as the 2019 season approaches.

Dixon referred to the union of INDYCAR and NTT as “a perfect marriage.” The five-time and reigning series champion drove an NTT DATA-sponsored entry to victory at Road America in 2017. NTT, a global telecommunications giant, is the parent company of NTT DATA, which initiated the three-month process of bringing the two parties together. The multiyear deal naming NTT as entitlement sponsor and official technology partner of the IndyCar Series was announced in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. At the ceremony, Kanaan and Dixon helped present a commemorative racing helmet emblazoned with the NTT IndyCar Series logo to Tsunehisa Okuno, NTT executive vice president, head of global business (shown above).

“There was definitely a strong period in 2017 when we ran a lot of NTT DATA paint schemes,” Dixon said of his No. 9 Honda. “They’ve always been a great group to work with. It’s cool to see how they’ve activated the No. 10 car program, but also now stepping it up to a major role in being the title sponsor of the IndyCar Series. The technical side and what they can do as a company to expand and just the sheer size of the company, I think it’s going to be fantastic. INDYCAR can help them with exposure and the partnership is going to be really good.”

Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, owner of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, put into perspective NTT’s presence in the global market.

“They have 80 percent of the global Fortune 500 companies as customers,” Miles said. “If you take AT&T and merged it with (previous series title sponsor) Verizon, you still wouldn’t have a company as big as NTT.”

Dixon and Miles spoke specifically about how NTT will be able to showcase its technological capabilities in developing the series’ mobile application. The INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA is now available for iPhone and Android products.

“I think $4 billion in R&D can obviously go a long way,” Dixon said of what NTT spends each year on research and development. “Just the enthusiasm, with what they can do with the application and all that, it’s going to be really productive.

“We all know we have the greatest racing in the world. Between NTT and the new NBC TV deal – which we’ve seen the rewards already with the advertising in line with the NFL – it’s going to be a big season for everyone.”

Kanaan, the 2004 series champion and fellow Indianapolis 500 winner, said NTT DATA was the key factor in him joining Chip Ganassi Racing and driving for the team from 2014-17. NTT DATA has been a Ganassi sponsor for eight years.

Kanaan’s most recent of 17 career victories came driving an NTT DATA entry in the 2014 MATV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

“They became good friends,” Kanaan said of the NTT DATA employees he met. “They’re an awesome company to work with.

“We developed together the Hitoe shirt, which I wore under my suit and it gave me all the information in my body: my body heat, my muscle strength, dehydration and my heart rate. It was awesome. We developed that for three years. … It’s an awesome company to be associated with. They’re going to be a great title sponsor for us. Technology-wise, they’re huge.”

Kanaan’s Hitoe undershirt, made of fireproof Nomex with electrically conductive nano-fibers, acted as fireproofing protection and sensor. He was able to better understand how his body reacted to race conditions, specifically at particular tracks where he squeezed the wheel with too much force. Hitoe is a Japanese word for a kimono with no lining.

Kanaan begins his second season driving for legendary A.J. Foyt this year and will take record streak of 300 consecutive race starts into the season. And while he is removed from having NTT as a team sponsor, he’s excited at the prospect of NTT as series sponsor.

“It's a lot of familiar faces,” Kanaan said of NTT. “I have good friends at NTT, so I'm really excited for INDYCAR.”

The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season contains 17 races, starting with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10. All races will air live on NBC or NBCSN, along with the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.