On March 27, INDYCAR announced a multiyear entitlement extension with NTT and NTT DATA, making the partnership, which began in 2019, one of the longest running in the sport’s history. The significance is far-reaching.

From innovative technology powering the INDYCAR Mobile App to information assimilated from the race cars to NTT’s Smart Solutions platform utilized at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the company with business-to-business goals is helping the NTT INDYCAR SERIES reach its goals.

Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment, said the partnership has extended beyond initial internal support to providing services INDYCAR SERIES fans can enjoy.

“At the beginning (of the contract), it was cameras and some software that (gave us) tools we wouldn't otherwise have,” Miles said. “It's now moving way past that and beginning to be something we are proud to put forward to our fans so they can have information readily available to them and have the best possible experience (at IMS).”

As an example, fans have used the app to determine which IMS gates and parking lots were the busiest on the morning of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. This year, that type of important information will extend to concession stands, and that is only scratching the surface of what NTT DATA can provide, said Bob Pryor, the company’s CEO.

“What is the best way to get into the track? What is the fastest line?” he said of the benefits to fans. “If I want to go get a hamburger, a hot dog, what is my shortest line to get it? At some point, we can do online ordering.

“Those things enhance the fan experience, and (they) are great aspects of that ‘Smart’ entertainment platform that we want to build on.”

Pryor said the lessons learned at IMS, which hosts the largest single-day sporting event in the world each May, can be applied to any city or company with large campuses.

“How do we protect them, keep their employees safe, navigate difficult logistics?” he said.

NTT DATA also has helped the process of scanning of tickets at IMS gates become a more efficient process. And then there’s the assimilation of race-car data that is almost limitless, not only for INDYCAR SERIES teams but also for fans, both on the INDYCAR Mobile App and watching broadcasts.

With the help of NTT DATA, a new version of the INDYCAR Mobile App debuted at the start of this season with a modernized look, upgraded navigation and enhanced pre-race, live-race and post-race experiences. The app already featured fan favorites such as driver-specific telemetry, live timing and scoring, multiple in-car cameras and driver-to-team radio communication.

Penske Entertainment chairman Roger Penske said NTT is “transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways.”

Said Miles: “For me, data analytics that is fan-facing is underway, and it was used this past year. It will only grow in its importance. When (NTT DATA) can take the telemetry data off the cars – (140) points of data from the cars – and then apply (artificial intelligence) to that, they create content that race fans, whether it’s on NBC or social media, want to absorb. The deeper they engage, the better.

“I think we’re just scratching the surface there. Expect big things (to come) in that area.”

Fans can have real-time access to key in-race aspects such as head-to-head driver battles for position, pit stop performance impact, fuel strategies and tire wear, leaderboard predictions, weather impact and other such intricacies of the sport.

Behind the scenes, Pryor said NTT DATA has brought clients to INDYCAR SERIES races during the five years of this partnership, entertaining and educating them in a way no other sport can provide.

“Probably the most popular thing our clients can do is when we strap them in a (two-seat) INDYCAR,” he said. “They get to experience what it feels like to do 180 miles an hour on a track about 6 inches from the wall. They kind of get it!

“I would say from that standpoint, it’s one thing to see a race on TV, it’s a whole different experience to be there at the track, meet the drivers, kind of be able to go into the garages, see the technology of the cars – behind-the-scenes technology.”

Every opportunity to introduce someone new to the sport is an opportunity for the sport to grow. Pryor noted that NTT and NTT DATA have some of the world’s largest companies as customers, and many of those are consumer facing.

“We’re a (business-to-business) company, (but our) customers are large enterprises both in the commercial and public sector,” he said. “At the same time, almost every client we serve tends to have a large consumer market. That’s true of the largest banks in the world, financial service firms, manufacturing companies, health care concerns.

“From that standpoint we want to see a bigger and bigger (INDYCAR) fan base. We want to grow the fans both on the track and through other digital technologies. So, being a part of this, being able to have this kind of venue, while intangible, has huge value to us. It is in line with our corporate goals, vision (and) values of a company.”