Motor racing: IndyCar signs title sponsorship deal with NTT

(Reuters) - IndyCar announced a multi-year agreement with NTT on Tuesday that will make the Japanese tech giant the title sponsor of North America’s premier open-wheel racing series.

FILE PHOTO: May 28, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Will Power poses for a photo with the Borg Warner Trophy the day after winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

NTT replaces Verizon as title sponsor of the series. The first race of what will now be the NTT IndyCar Series is the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg on March 10.

The financial terms and length of the agreement were not disclosed but media reports said IndyCar’s asking price was $30 million annually compared to the $10 million paid by Verizon.

As part of the deal, NTT is the official technology partner of IndyCar, the IndyCar Series, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 beginning in 2019.

Mark Miles, chief executive of Hulman & Company which owns IndyCar, said NTT’s sponsorship will offer a way to attract a new generation of fans to motor racing.

“We see (NTT) 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,” Miles said at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“I think about... 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.

“So I just think we have a great fit... we’re in seventh gear already.”

NTT is the parent company of NTT Data, which is the principal sponsor of Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 10 IndyCar and also has a deal with McLaren in Formula One.

IndyCar had been searching for a new sponsor since Verizon informed the series in 2017 that it was not interested in renewing its contract. Verizon served as the title sponsor for five years, replacing IZOD in 2014.

Miles said IndyCar floated around the idea of NTT as a sponsor last September and quickly sealed the deal at a meeting in Tokyo to which they brought along Takuma Sato, who in 2017 became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

“We were invited to Tokyo, and there we had a meeting together which I’ll never forget,” said Miles.

“Takuma Sato, one of our best-known drivers and champions who happens to be a hero in Japan, was with us, and by the end of that discussion, we said, ‘Let’s get this done’.”

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris