|Ganassi adds 2 drivers to IndyCar-winning team|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 16 December 2010 11:18|
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Chip Ganassi believes his two IndyCar winning drivers can still win championships.|
He's just starting to look for their successors.
On Thursday, Ganassi's team took a major step by expanding its two-car stable to four full-time cars after hiring 20-something American drivers Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball.
``Look, I don't want to push Dario (Franchitti) or Scott (Dixon) out the door, but I think you need to keep an eye on who's coming in the door, too,'' Ganassi said. ``What better way to do it than by having these two guys on your team and having them getting firsthand knowledge rather than learning from afar?''
By adding Rahal and Kimball, Ganassi will now field the biggest, and perhaps, best IndyCar team next season.
Franchitti, a 37-year-old Scot, has won two Indianapolis 500s since 2007 and three of the last four points titles, including the last two with Ganassi's team. Dixon, the 30-year-old from New Zealand, won Indy in 2008 and owns two points titles.
With both still on top of their game, Ganassi hopes a youthful infusion will make his team one of the series' most dangerous for another decade.
``These guys probably represent the next generation of drivers and they'll be around IndyCar racing for a long time,'' Ganassi said.
Most IndyCar fans know what Ganassi has in Rahal, the 21-year-old son of 1986 Indy winner Bobby Rahal. Graham became the youngest pole-winner and race winner in series history in 2008 when he was driving for the McDonald's-sponsored car of Newman/Haas/Lanigan. In 2009, he finished seventh in the points standings with the same team.
But last season, Rahal, one of America's brightest hopes, struggled to find sponsorship. He had seven top-10 finishes in 12 starts, driving for four different teams.
Now, with Service Central joining forces with Rahal for a full season on the No. 38 car, he can focus on racing.
``Coming off the year I've just been through, it's a huge relief to find a home with this team and to have guys like Dario and Dixon to learn from,'' Rahal said. ``There was only one place we all felt we needed to be to succeed, and you had to be with this team.''
Kimball is more of an unknown.
The 25-year-old spent the last two seasons in Indy Lights and is best-known for being competitive despite his battle with type 1 diabetes. Novo Nordisk, a healthcare company that develops new technologies for diabetes care, will sponsor Kimball's No. 83 car.
``Today is a dream come true for me to move up to the pinnacle of IndyCar racing and to do it with a team like Chip Ganassi Racing and to do it right,'' Kimball said. ``It's a great opportunity.''
Ganassi is coming off his best season as a team owner and arguably the best season of any American team owner ever. He won NASCAR's Daytona 500 and the Indy 500, the first owner to ever achieve the double, then topped it off with Franchitti rallying to take the IndyCar points title.
Now, Ganassi is using his NASCAR experience as a roadmap for IndyCars.
``What we're going to do is have two two-car teams, I'd say it's going to be a lot like what (Rick) Hendrick does,'' Ganassi said. ``That's sort of the template for four cars.''
IndyCar has added 14 new sponsors in the last 12 months. Ganassi's move gives the series seven American drivers, including Danica Patrick and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
``That's a breath of fresh air,'' Ganassi said of the American resurgence. ``I don't want to take anything away from Dario Franchitti or Scott Dixon, but we do want to keep our eye on the next generation of drivers.''
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