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Ganassi Trimming His IndyCar Program

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 21 2017

Team owner Chip Ganassi will field just two IndyCar entries in 2018 and only Scott Dixon will return to the team.

Eleven-time open-wheel champion Chip Ganassi Racing will contest the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season as a two-car team, with only Scott Dixon returning from the organization’s recent four-car lineup.

Team-owner Chip Ganassi confirmed the anticipated downsizing in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. Dixon, a four-time series champion, will remain in the No. 9 Dallara/Honda following a third-place finish in the final 2017 point standings. Dixon _ the series champion in 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015 _ completed his 16th season with CGR Sunday at Sonoma Raceway as the longest-tenured driver in team history.

Dixon started the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma only three points behind Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, who claimed his first series title after a second-place finish to teammate Simon Pagenaud. Dixon finished fourth in his No. 9 NTT Data Honda after the 85-lapper in Northern California.

CGR’s No. 10 entry, driven by 2004 series champion Tony Kanaan since 2014, will be wheeled by a driver “yet to be determined.” Brendon Hartley is rumored to be joining fellow-New Zealander Dixon next season while native Brazilian Kanaan, who won his series championship for Andretti Green Racing, is rumored to be headed to AJ Foyt Racing in Waller, Texas.

“This decision was based on the fact that we felt we needed to get back to our core business of running TWO championship-caliber teams,” said Ganassi, who will mark his 29th season of Indy car competition in 2018. “It was a tough decision to make as it affects a lot of people. With news like this comes contraction and as such we had to let a number of good people go. The decision was not taken lightly but we felt it was best for our business.

“It is one of the toughest things you experience as a business owner _ especially because I am all too aware that it is the people that make any company tick. We will be back in 2018 and ready to compete for our 12th INDYCAR championship.”

The decision officially added Charlie Kimball, a resident of California, and Englishman Max Chilton to the free-agent ranks, while parking their respective No. 83 and No. 8 entries. Kimball is the first winning series driver with Type 1 diabetes, a condition diagnosed in 2007.

CGR originally expanded to a four-car operation in 2011 with a lineup featuring Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Kimball and Graham Rahal driving the No. 38 entry. Ganassi has fielded as many as five cars on either a one-off or limited schedule basis during the 2012, 2013 and 2015 seasons.

Dixon, 37, scored the team’s lone victory this year at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on June 25 working with longtime strategist Mike Hull. Dixon’s 41st career victory moved him to within one of tying Michael Andretti for third on Indy car’s all-time list. Dixon has won at least one race for an Indy car record 13 consecutive seasons.

Dixon was the lone title contender for CGR in 2017 during a season that saw rival owner Roger Penske’s drivers win 10 of 17 events and a second consecutive championship in their Chevrolet-powered Dallaras.  Dixon qualified on-pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway while Kimball posted his first career pole at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, raising the team’s all-time total to 89. Dixon’s win at Elkhart Lake was the team’s 103rd.

Ganassi’s open-wheel drivers have started 1,169 races since 1990. Arie Luyendyk posted the team’s first pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1993. Andretti, now the owner of rival Honda team Andretti Autosport in the Verizon IndyCar Series, scored CGR’s first victory at Surfers Paradise in Australia in 1994.

Ganassi’s list of open-wheel championship drivers includes Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997, 1998), Juan Pablo Montoya (1999), Dixon’s aforementioned four titles, and Franchitti (2009, 2010, 2011).

CGR also has celebrated Indianapolis 500 championships with Montoya (2000), Dixon (2008) and Franchitti (2010, 2012).

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 21 2017
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