Kanaan To Drive Ovals for Ganassi

Photo from CGR Teams Twitter page

2013 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2004 Indycar series champion Tony Kanaan signed a two year deal with Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the oval portion of the schedule for car 48. Former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson will drive the road and street portion of the schedule in the 48.

Kanaan drove the ovals for A. J. Foyt Racing in 2020 in what was supposed to be his farewell tour. There are are just four oval races at three venues on the 2021 schedule.

CGR also announced that they have renewed their sponsorship with NTT Data.

The official announcement from Chip Ganassi Racing:

Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) announced today an agreement with Indianapolis 500 Winner, NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion and 17-time race winner Tony Kanaan to a multi-year deal to pilot the No. 48 Honda entry for the four ovals on the calendar, complementing the 13 road and street course events being contested by seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson.

Kanaan will re-join CGR (2014-2017) alongside Johnson, former teammate, six-time and reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion and Indianapolis 500 Winner Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson and CGR newcomer Alex Palou.

Longtime CGR and Kanaan partner NTT DATA along with Bryant, also a longtime sponsor of Kanaan and former sponsor of CGR, return to CGR, and will both have primary paint schemes as well as associate-level relationships on the No. 48 Honda and other CGR entries that will soon be announced.

NOTES OF INTEREST:

  • NTT DATA, TK and CGR: NTT DATA began its relationship with CGR in 2013 at the Indianapolis 500 partnering on the No. 8 NTT DATA entry. Kanaan first competed with CGR in 2013 in an NTT DATA-backed Daytona Prototype fielded in the Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he drove to a second-place finish. NTT DATA maintained an associate partnership with CGR on the No. 83 Indy car, became a primary partner on the No. 8 entry for the 2014 season, and then on the No. 10 entry, driven by Kanaan, in 2015 and has been on that car ever since. NTT DATA is also the official IT services partner to CGR. 
  • About Bryant: Bryant has a rich tradition in auto racing and is the longest-standing non-automotive sponsor at the Indianapolis 500. Legends like Eddie Sachs, Roger Ward, Cale Yarborough, Scott Brayton, Chip Ganassi, Stan Fox and Janet Guthrie have all driven under the Bryant Racing banner, earning a total of 16 previous race victories on other tracks. The 2021 season will mark the 14th of 15 NTT INDYCAR SERIES seasons during which Bryant has worked with Kanaan.
  • By the Numbers: In 23 seasons of Indy car racing, Brazilian Tony Kanaan has 383 starts, 17 wins, 15 poles, 78 podiums and over 4,000 laps led. He began his career in 1998 and was the 2004 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 Winner. He remains the all-time leader in consecutive starts with 318 consecutive Indy car starts, having started every race since Portland in 2001 through the first race of the 2020 season in Texas. Kanaan has been a fan favorite for decades in the series and always maintains one of the largest followings on social media in the series.

Zanardi Well Enough to Transfer; Kirkwood Gets a 2020 Do Over

Some bits of positive news:

Alex Zanardi, two time Indycar champion and paralympic gold medalist, continues to recover from his hand cycling accident last June. Zanardi suffered neurological and facial damage when his cycle hit a truck during a race in Tuscany. He had been in a facility in San Rafaella, but is moving to a rehabilitation center in Padua, which is closer to his home.

“The patient has reached a generally stable physical and neurological condition that permitted his transfer to another hospital equipped with all the necessary clinical specialties and closer to the family home,” said a spokesman for the San Rafaella hospital.

Kirkwood Returns to Andretti for Indy Lights

For 2021 Kyle Kirkwood will be where he was supposed to be in 2020. The 2018 USF200 champion and 2019 Indy Pro 200 champion will finally get to drive in Indy Lights for Andretti Autosport, where his 2020 season was going to take place.

Kirkwood spent the past season in IMSA, which is not a bad alternative. For one thing, he received some experience doing pit stops, which drivers don’t get in Indy Lights. I look for Kirkwood, who will be in car 28 for Andretti, to be a strong contender for the title.

Indycar Notes: Indy Lights Looks for Expanded Grid; Ganassi, Montoya Make Sports Car Moves

Some good news for Indy Lights. HMD is teaming with Global Racing Group to field a total of four cars in the Indy Lights field in 2021. Global Racing won the 2020 Formula Regional Americas title with Linus Lundqvist driving. HMD, owned by Henry Malukas ran David Malukas and Toby Sowery in 2019 Indy Lights. Sowery won a race in 2019.

The four car effort will double the current size of the field with the four cars from Andretti Autosport. Dan Andersen, owner of the Road to Indy, expects 11-13 cars on the grid in 2021.

Ganassi to Run DPi Cadillac in IMSA

Chip Ganassi Racing reenters IMSA with a DPi Cadillac entry next year. Ganassi ran the top class of prototypes in the Grand Am series and also entered Fords in the GTLM class through 2019. He takes over the Cadillac entry from Wayne Taylor, who is switching to Acura. Drivers have not been named, but I expect Scott Dixon to be the extra driver for the endurance races.

Montoya Signs with Dragonspeed

Juan Pablo Montoya will drive for Dragonspeed int he World Endurance Championship in 2021. The two time Indianapolis 500 winner drove for Team Penske Acura in IMSA the last three years, winning the championship in 2019. he finished the season with a second place overall at the Sebring 12 Hour race last Saturday.

Montoya will team with Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley. Hanley drove Dragonspeed’s entry in the last two Indianapolis 500s. The team will not compete in any Indycar races in 2021.

Quiet at Coyne

We may have gotten spoiled the last couple of years as Dale Coyne Racing had their driver lineups set by Christmas. The quiet from the Coyne shop seems strange, but this is the way it used to be with the team.

I think some news may be coming soon, and it involves a possible new owner in Indycar. Stay tuned.

Requests

What stories would you like to see for the final six weeks of 2020? History? Reprints of previous articles? Let me know. I’m thinking of publishing some my non-racing creative writing, but I like you guys too much to bore you with that.

I will have at least one more column before Thanksgiving. Stay safe, mask up, and wash your hands.

A Title for Helio at Last

It appeared to be over almost before it had begun. Helio Castroneves watched helplessly from the pit stand as Ricky Taylor had trouble leaving the pits after the Penske Acura’s first pit stop 45 minutes into the 12 Hours of Sebring. A boost issue forced the car back to the garage and cost them 11 laps on track. They would need help to win the IMSA Weather Tech championship. The help came from an unlikely source.

Wayne Taylor Racing, starting the day two points behind the Team Penske duo, looked to be in a solid position to overtake the season leaders. A collision between Scott Dixon, in the Taylor Cadillac and Oliver Jarvis in one of the Mazdas, forced dixon to pit. The team needed to replace the radiator, putting them five laps behind. While still ahead of the Penske car, the Taylor entry couldn’t make up enough positions to gain the three points they needed for the lead.

With the focus on the two cars, the Action Express entry was now in a position to jump into the series championship. hey were well underway until the 10th hour, when Pipo Derani tangled with Juan Pablo Montoya in the other Team Penske car. Derani received a drive through penalty, ending the title hopes for Action Express.

Thus Helio Castroneves, in his final race for team Penske, finally won a title for the Captain. Castroneves had finished second seven times in Indycar for Penske despite three Indianapolis 500 victories and 30 race wins overall. Castroneves begins a new Indycar chapter in 2021 when he drives in six races for Meyer Shank Racing.

Helio’s perseverance in pursuing a championship is admirable. he put in a lot of hard work. It took a little longer than he hoped to finally realize one of his goals.

Indycar Well Represented at Sebring

Indycar drivers and team owners had a good day and night at Sebring. In addition to Castroneves winning the season championship for team Penske, Ryan Hunter-Reay drove for the winning Mazda entry, and Simon Pagenaud was a part of the Team Penske Acura entry which finished second. Two time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya also drove the runner-up car.

Meyer Shank Racing won the season championship in the GTD class with drivers Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry, edging Wright Motorsports by two points. meyer Shank will move to the DPi class next season, taking over one of the Acura entries. Will Castroneves be a part of this venture too?

The Michael Shank Acura, winner of the IMSA Weather Tech GTD title

Other Indycar drivers- Sebastien Bourdais finished fifth overall in his final full time ride. Bourdais will pilot the number14 for A. J. Foyt racing in Indycar in 2021.

Colton Herta ended the night fourth in class driving for RLL.

Sebring- A Race With Many Lasts Could Produce a First

Team Penske could end their time in IMSA with a championship

The Mobil 12 Hours of Sebring, delayed from March, is on for Saturday. Normally the second race of the IMSA Weather Tech Championship, the oddities of 2020 have conspired to make it the last race of the season. Thirty-one cars in four classes will take the green just after 10 am Saturday morning.

This race might play out differently than the race would have at its normal spot in the schedule. In the spring, the race occurs just after the return of Daylight Savings Time. The race is run in just a bit more than two hours in darkness. This weekend, teams and drivers will contend with slightly less than half the race run after sunset, which is around 5:32 pm Saturday. Strange things happen at Sebring after dark, which will make the second half of the race interesting.

IMSA Farewells

Sebring will be the final race for the Team Penske Acuras in the DPi class and the Porsche 911s in the GTLM class. The Porsche team has been a popular mainstay in the IMSA series for a long time.

This weekend also sees some drivers leaving the series. Oliver Gavin is running his final race as a full time drive with the GTLM Corvette. Renger van der Zende and Ryan Briscoe take their final stints in Wayne Taylor Racing’s Cadillac. Taylor will switch to one of the Acura cars next year.

Helio’s First Title?

Helio Castroneves could win his first major series title. He and teammate Ricky Taylor lead the Wayne Taylor team of Briscoe and van der Zende by just two points heading into this weekend’s finale.

Castroneves, who finished second four times in his Indycar career, will have to fend off a familiar nemesis to secure his championship. Six time Indycar champion Scott Dixon is the third driver for Wayne Taylor Racing. Dixon edged Castroneves for the Indycar title in 2008 and 2013.

Castroneves signed with Meyer Shank Racing to run six races in Indycar in 2021, and he is likley to be the extra driver in the endurance races for Shank next season. Shank assumes control of the second Acura prototype in 2021.

Should Castroneves take the championship, at certain Indycar races the grid could feature an IMSA champion, a seven time NASCAR champion(jimmkie Johnson), a three time Australian Supercar Champion (Scott McLaughlin), a four time Indycar champion(Sebastien Bourdais), and Dixon, the newly crowned six time Indycar titlist.

Indycar Drivers in the Field

Several Indycar drivers, current and former, will be driving this weekend, most of them in the Prototype class. By car number-

5- Bourdais

6- Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud

7- Helio Castroneves, Alexander Rossi

10- Briscoe

55- Ryan Hunter- Reay

25- Colton Herta (GTLM BMW for Rahal)

Coverage begins on NBCSN at 10 am, switches to NBC from 3-6, then ends on NBCSN at 6.

Indycar Notes: Open Seats, A Loss for Lights, Ganassi Back in IMSA

Meyer Shank’s announcement of a second, part time car with Helio Castroneves puts another car on the grid for a third of the season, but several full time rides have yet to be filled.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is expected to return with DHL at Andretti Autosport. Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner, has had a great relationship with DHL for the past six years. I’m not sure for how long the new deal will be. I expected Hunter-Reay to be Indy only starting in 2021.

Meanwhile, Andretti’s 26 car is still open, and there has been no news about the 98. Marco Andretti is assumed to still be in the 98, and James Hinchcliffe is presumed to drive the 26.

Other open full time rides-

Dale Coyne has not announced drivers for either of his two cars. I would not be surprised to see two new faces there next season.

A.J. Foyt Racing- Nothing yet for the 4 car.

Ed Carpenter Racing- Will the 20 have a road/street driver while Ed runs the ovals? Will Conor Daly have a full time ride and Ed brings a third car for the ovals?

Carlin Racing- I assume Max Chilton will be back for the 500 and the road/street portion. An oval driver for just three races may be hard to find.

Chip Ganassi Racing- Who will fill the oval portion for the 48?

By my count I have five open full time seats and up to three part time rides at this time.

Belardi Closes Lights Program

Brian Belardi, one of the anchors of the Indy Lights program, has closed his racing venture. Belardi has been a foundation of Indy Lights for the past decade, fielding cars for drivers such as Gabby Chaves, Zach Veach, Felix Rosenqvist, Peter Dempsey, Anders Krohn, Aaron Telitz and Shelby Blackstock.

I thank Brian Belardi for his dedication and for contributing to the series for such a long time.

It will seem strange to not see a Belardi car in the series. I understand there is some very positive news coming for the top rung of the Road to Indy soon.

Ganassi Returns to IMSA Prototypes

Chip Ganassi Racing will return to IMSA’s prototype class in 2021, fieldi9ng a Cadillac powered entry. Ganassi essentially takes over the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac as Taylor switches to Acura next year.

There is a deep pool of available drivers, including former Indycar drivers Ryan Briscoe and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Ganassi last ran in IMSA in 2018, running Ford’s GTLM cars. I miss those cars. He has run prototypes in the past.

What would really be fun is if Penske and Ganassi could run IMSA at the same time. It seems like only one of the two top Indycar teams has a sports car operation in any one year. At any rate, there should be a few more opportunities for Indycar drivers to run in the endurance races.

back tomorrow with a Sebring preview as this odd racing season wraps up.

Wickens Goes Karting

A little late with this, but another inspiring step towards recovery for Robert Wickens.

Castroneves Returns to Indycar; 6 Race Program with Meyer Shank

Three time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves will run six races in the 2021 NTT Indycar series in Meyer Shank Racing’s second car. Castroneves willenter the events at Barber, Long Beach, the Indianapolis 500, The IMS road course race in August, Portland, and Laguna Seca.

Castroneves, 45, has run in the IMSA Weather Tech series the last three years for Roger Penske’s Acura team. he and teammate Ricky Taylor could clinch the championship this weekend at Sebring. Castroneves has run the Indianapolis 500 the past three years. In 2020 he also raced in both races at the Harvest Grand Prix at IMS for Arrow McLaren SP.

Michael Shank slowly built up to a full time schedule with current Indycar driver Jack Harvey. He ran a six race schedule, then a 10 race program, and in 2020 became a full time program. he plans to follow a similar schedule with the second car.

With Penske dissolving his sports car team and Shank assuming one of the Acura prototypes, it is not a huge leap to think that Castroneves will fill the rest of 2021 in the IMSA series.

Museum Underground

Photo from IMS Museum website

As the elevator reached the bottom floor, I felt I was entering hallowed ground. My Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Basement tour was just moments away. The museum recently began offering tours of what had until now been a very exclusive area of the building. It was like the Speedway’s Forbidden City. People I know who had the fortune to see it seemed sworn to secrecy about its contents. Some of its treasures have been revealed in the From the Vault collection exhibit running currently on the main floor. The exhibit rotates items. there were a few new vehicles upstairs this trip.

My knowledgeable guide, Dennis, and I walked down a quiet hallway past large solid doors with big security combination locks on them. It lent an air of mystery and somberness to the area. We stopped in front of a set of double doors. Dennis opened them. It was pitch black. When the lights finally came on, the hair on my arms stood up and I felt a chill. For someone like me who loves classic cars, I thought I had gone to heaven.

My excitement was tempered a bit when Dennis said I could not take pictures. Since I was already there, I decided to proceed with the tour anyway. Just to the right of the door as we entered were three Formula 1 cars. The first one was Michael Schumacher’s rookie car. next to it sat one of Mario Andretti’s F1 machines, the Parnelli Jones owned car. Dennis took a picture of me standing next to the Schumacher car.

I’m not sure how many cars reside in the basement, but there were double rows of automobiles, race cars and passenger cars, all around the perimeter walls. Dennis told me some car will be sold because the museum’s future focus will be cars that have some relationship to the Speedway. others belong to the Hulman-George family and will be returned to them.

One of the race cars that caught my eye was a dirt/speedway car from the early 1950’s. Jimmy Bryan drove it to second place in the 1954 Indianapolis 500. Jim Rathmann, Bob Sweikert, and A. J. Foyt also drove the car. it wears the livery of Dean Van Lines. This car compares to the Boyle Maserati in having a string of outstanding drivers in the pilot’s seat. The Maserati was driven by Wilbur Shaw, Ted Horn, and Bill Vukovich.

Some other vehicles of note are Mary Hulman’s Rolls-Royce, which she drove just one time to the grocery store. The car attracted so much attention that she hired a chauffeur to drive it after that. I liked the early 1900s Apperson and the Duesenbergs that reside in the depths of the museum. There are also several of the actual pace cars. Of note is the original 1996 Dodge Viper that was scheduled to pace the field, but was pulled at the last minute because it contained Japanese parts. Another version of the Viper, which also sits in the vault, led the field to the green that year.

A single row of vintage cars along the wall to the right includes an 1886 Daimler and a Benz of the same year. these were basically carts with bench seats and a rudder for steering with a tiny motor in the back. Some other cars along that wall, from 1916, have roots in the Hulman-George family. Tony George was driven to school in one of them.

The 30 minute tour costs $100 and online reservations are recommended at indyracingmuseum.org. I had planned to just visit the museum and make a reservation for the tour another day. Since it was early and they had no tours scheduled, I got to take the tour immediately. .