Ganassi On The Grow in IZOD IndyCar Series
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Chip Ganassi announced Thursday that he is doubling his efforts in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Ganassi, who already fields cars for Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon – both of whom have won two series championships and the Indianapolis 500 for Target Chip Ganassi Racing – will add two more cars for 2011.
Driving those cars will be Graham Rahal, son of former Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, and fellow American Charlie Kimball.
Rahal will drive the No. 38 car and Kimball the 83.
The two new teams will operated as a “satellite” to the current Ganssi teams. The operation will utilize the Brownsburg, Ind. facility owned by former NHRA team owner Don “The Snake” Prudhomme.
Ganassi said his organization will operate as “two two-car teams. I would compare it to like what Hendrick Motorsports in NASCAR” where that team pairs the teams of Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson in one shop and Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in another.
“We think that is a model that will work better than four cars straight up,” Ganassi said.
Franchitti won the 2010 IndyCar championship.
Rahal, 21, is the youngest IndyCar Series race winner in history. He scored his only victory in the 2008 season-opener at St. Petersburg, Fla.
After being let go by Newman/Haas Racing after the 2009 season, he did not race full time last
Rahal has been approached by several racing operations – in IndyCar and NASCAR.
“Who hasn’t had their eye on Graham?” Ganassi said.
“This is the best day, other than winning the Indianapolis 500 or a championship, that a driver can have,” Rahal said.
Kimball will move up from the Indy Firestone Lights Series and will be making his debut in the IndyCar series.
Thursday’s announcement that the two Americans will drive full time in 2011 comes in the same week that Panther Racing announced that Californian J.R. Hildebrand will drive for it next season.
Last season, only three Americans – Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick and Ryan Hunter-Reay – were IndyCar regulars.
Ganassi, asked about the hiring of two more Americans, said he is more into hiring good drivers than in their nationalities. But, he said, “The fact that both (Rahal and Kimball) are Americans is great.”
Prudhomme, who was forced to fold his NHRA operation after the 2009 season, said he will be involved in the Ganassi team on a limited basis.No Comment