By Michael Eubanks
NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, has signed a multiyear agreement to become the entitlement sponsor of the IndyCar Series, the series announced Tuesday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
NTT, which stands for Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. replaces Verizon, which was the title sponsor of the series from 2014 until the end of last year.
The partnership, which is rumored to be around $10 Million annually, also makes NTT the official technology partner of the IndyCar Series, as well as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400.
“We are thrilled to welcome NTT as our new title sponsor. INDYCAR’s rise in popularity is a testament to the fact that we’ve made the sport as accessible as possible to our fans and we plan to continue in that mission,” said Mark Miles, President and CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR.
NTT is no stranger to IndyCar Series competition. A subsidiary, NTT Data, is the primary sponsor the #10 Chip Ganassi Racing car which will be piloted by Felix Rosenqvist this upcoming season.
A relatively unfamiliar name in North America, NTT hopes to leverage their sponsorship of the series to become more of a household name.
“This is a huge chance for us to let people know who NTT is,” said NTT Executive Vice President and Head of Global Business Tsunehisa Okuno. “Everyone knows about IndyCar and there is room for growth in the European market and the Japanese market. NTT is a global company and North America is a very important market for the brand. We think we could offer something exciting with NTT and Indy by using the NTT technology.”
NTT approached INDYCAR in September to inquire about possibly becoming the entitlement sponsor. Over the fall, both parties remained in contact, and INDYCAR officials, along with Japanese driver and 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato flew to Tokyo in November to make a pitch which sealed the deal.
“IndyCar 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,” said Okuno.
“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 the Indy 500.”
With a Japanese entitlement sponsor, it would not be unreasonable to believe that a race in Japan could once again become a mainstay of the IndyCar Series schedule. After all, the series raced at the Honda-owned Twin Ring Motegi from 1998 to 2011.
However, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth will remain as the sponsor’s “home” race for at least 2019. The company’s U.S. headquarters are in nearby Plano, TX
NTT is also currently developing a new mobile app for the series that will replace the one offered by Verizon. The previous app was only available to Verizon subscribers.
The first race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series takes place on the streets of St. Petersburg, FL and airs live on NBCSN.