American Legion Joins Chip Ganassi Racing

Chip, Ganassi Racing has added the American Legion to the sponsorship group for the 48 car, which will be shared by Jimmie Johnson and Tony Kanaan in 2021. American Lagion will be the primary sponsor for the Indianapolis 500 and one other race. The full announcement from the team is below.

Chip Ganassi Racing and The American Legion Announce Multi-Year NTT INDYCAR SERIES Relationship

Posted: December 01, 2020 Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) announced today a multi-year agreement with the nation’s largest veterans service organization, The American Legion, as a sponsor of the No. 48 Honda in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES represented by a combination of Seven-Time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson (street and road courses) and former Indianapolis 500 Winner and Series Champion Tony Kanaan (ovals).

“We’re excited about this new relationship with The American Legion as it allows us to further the sponsorship program on the No. 48 team with Jimmie and Tony, while also representing a very important relationship with an organization dedicated to supporting veterans,” said Chip Ganassi, team owner of Chip Ganassi Racing. “Jimmie in particular has a long-standing appreciation for the service of veterans, so it was just another reason why partnering with The American Legion on his debut in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES made sense.”

The American Legion will be featured prominently on Johnson’s No. 48 Honda during every race in the 2021 and 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The organization will also be the primary paint scheme for two races in 2021, including, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend. Kanaan, winner of the 2013 Indianapolis 500, will be behind the wheel for those races. 

“This is truly a win-win for all involved,” said James W. “Bill” Oxford, national commander of The American Legion. “Teaming up with Chip Ganassi Racing allows The American Legion to showcase how it strengthens America every day through its programs, advocacy and support of veterans and their families. We’re looking forward to bringing that message and our mission to race fans across the country.”

The announcement comes on #GivingTuesday, a day of global giving designed to help change communities and the world. As a result, Johnson, who has family members that have served in the military, will be making a $10,000 donation to The American Legion. Johnson hopes his donation will motivate fans and the public to support our veterans by donating $48 to The American Legion. The $48 pays homage to the number 48 car that he and Kanaan will drive. Donors can visit legion.org/48 to make a gift and help celebrate this new relationship and veterans across the country.

“Our family knows firsthand how important it is to recognize our veterans,” said Johnson, who’s grandfathers and brother-in-law served in the military.  “It’s exciting to be partnering with The American Legion to be able to show our appreciation to veterans and to continue to raise public awareness and support for this special organization.  Giving Tuesday is a great day to announce this partnership and a way for fans to show their appreciation for our veterans.” 

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.

Quick Thoughts- Gateway Race 2

Photo: The race on the pit road exit lane decided the race.

Passing has always been difficult at World wide Technology Raceway, and yesterday was an extreme example of it. When leader Takuma Sato couldn’t lap Ed Carpenter or even get close to him, it set the tome for a very processional race. It was definitely a race that could ahve been helped by a yellow flag or two.

While pit work is very much appreciated, I would rather see races won on the track. The pit crews were on their game this weekend, but on track action is what the series needs to showcase.

Sato showed no signs of an Indy hangover this weekend with a second, a pole, and an eight place finish. He is still fourth in points.

Points for the weekend– Dixon 81, O’Ward 79, Newgarden 69, Sato 67

Congratulations to Rinus VeeKay for his career best fourth place finish Sunday. VeeKay finished sixth on Saturday. He has improved a lot this year after a shaky start at Texas. The rookie is carrying Ed Carpenter Racing this season.

Conor Daly and Carlin is a great pairing. This weekend he earned his third and fourth top tens from his five oval races with the team.

Last year at Gateway vintage cars dropped oil on the track just before qualifying. This year the first responders parade, which was great, also left some fluid on the track. I understand the need for prerace presentations, but Indycar might want to begin the festivities a little earlier to allow for these issues to be resolved.

Was yesterday the last race of 2020 where fans will be allowed? Jay Frye said he is 80-90% certain Mid Ohio will take place, but he said nothing about fans being able to attend.  The Harvest Classic is iffy for fans. and I am stoill skeptical about St. Pete running or running with fans.

The first through fourth finish for Chevy powered cars Sunday was a bit of redemption for their showing at Indianapolis.

I thought Indycar threw the yellow awfully fast when Sato hit the wall. He kept going and maybe should have been black flagged. I don’t think O’Ward would have caught or passed newgarden in any case.

I’m glad that Tony Kanaan had one top ten finish this weekend in what may have been his final Indycar race outside of the Indianapolis 500. He has been a great driver and very popular with the fans. I know many fans who became interestd in Indycar because of him. Sponsorship may prevent him from running more races. If that is the case, I want to say thank you, Tony. You have been a great ambassador for the sport.

Iowa Preview: A Different Format for Different Times

Photo: Last year’s race ended early Sunday morning after a 4 hour rain delay. Photo: USAToday.

The 2019 Iowa race began on Saturday and ended on Sunday. The reason was a violent rainstorm that hit the track about two hours before the scheduled start. This year the event begins on Friday and and ends on Saturday. It is by design. The strange times we live in and schedule postponements have made this event a doubleheader, with two night night races.  The fourteenth race at Iowa Speedway will feature the first doubleheader at the track and the third different qualifying format in the race’s history. Here are some things to look for this weekend.

TK’s Last Lap

Tony Kanaan, who won this race in 2010, will be driving his final race at Iowa as his oval only season continues. After this weekend, Kanaan will have just two races remaining, the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500, and the race at Gateway.  His number 14 car for A. J. Racing will feature a classic livery of Bryant Heating and Cooling, a long time sponsor in the series.

tklastlap

Photo from @AJFoytRacing Twitter account

Kanaan will be the Grand Marshall for Friday’s race, giving the command from the cockpit of his car. In addition to winning in 2010, Kanaan has a second place in 2011, and three third place finishes in 2012, 2013, and 2014.  Ryan Hunter-Reay is the only other driver to have as many top three finishes at Iowa.

Qualifying

Iowa has become the place to experiment with qualifying. In 2012 and 2013, grid positions were set by three heat races. The heats were determined by practice times.  This was not a popular format with the drivers or fans. In the heats drivers drove cautiously so they didn’t damage their cars before the race. A crash in one of the 2013 heat races put an end to this experiment. I doubt we will ever see qualifying races again in Indycar.

This year, in the interest of time and to take a bit of workload off of the crews, There will be one qualifying session on Friday afternoon. The qualifying run will still be two laps. rather than average the laps, the first lap will set the grid for Race 1 on Friday, and the second lap will set Saturday’s grid.

Race 1’s lineup should look much as we would expect, with the usual suspects up front. Traditionally, the second qualifying  laps at Iowa see a significant drop from the first lap. Race 2’s lineup could look very interesting. Someone might steal a pole for that race.

Veterans vs. The Kids

At road America the younger drivers, those with less than three years of experience, shined. At Iowa, I think we’ll see the veterans dominating. At least three of the younger drivers have never raced here. This weekend is just the second oval race for Alex Palou. His race at Texas ended early as he was collected by Rinus VeeKay, who hit the wall and slid down the track.

VeeKay hopes to make up for his poor showing at Texas, where team owner Ed Carpenter was frustrated with his driving. I think we will see a much better result from VeeKay this time around.

Will Scott Dixon start a new winning streak? This is one of the tracks where Dixon has never won. He showed a lot of strength at Texas, and I look for another good weekend for the five time champion as Chip Ganassi Racing looks to stay undefeated in 2020.

I think Team Penske will finally break through to win at least one of the races. Josef Newgarden has won twice at Iowa and is the defending winner. he nearly won a third time in 2018, when James Hinchcliffe got by for the victory. He should have a strong two races.

Will Power has just two poles hereand has not won. he has been s pressing a bit this season. This may be the weekend thta gets his season back on track.

Aeroscreen and Cockpit Heat

The weather at Road America was cooler than expected. Iowa will be the first real test of the new modifications to the aeroscreen as Indycar tries to mitigate the heat in the cockpits. Teams are allowed to use a second cooling duct. the water bottles have been moved to a position so that the fluid does not get warm, and a crew member can give the driver a water bottle during a pit stop.

Racing at night should help as well. the aeroscreen will continue to be a work in progress this season and next. When the new chassis comes on line in 2022 and the screen is fully integrated into the bodywork, i think a lot of these problems will take car of themselves.

The Iowa COVID Plan

Iowa Speedway is going to great lengths to ensure the safety of the fans this weekend. They have limited ticket sales. A xcheck of their their seating chart shows large patches of seats not for sale. It appears that they are leaving two rows empty between where fans may sit.

Saturday is general admission and they are not selling any more tickets for that race. fans are encouraged to bring a blanket to sit on as no lawn chairs are allowed.

All cars must drive through a health screening station before entering the the track. I spoke with a representative of the track  yesterday who told me there will be five lanes open at that point for temperature checks. All cars will funnel into the health checkpoint. Masks are recommended but not required. I expect like Road America that we will see about 50% of the fans wearing masks.

enteriowa

The Last of the Brazilians?

We are approaching the end of a great time in the history of the Indianapolis 500 and the NTT Indycar Series. Word today from Team Penske that Australian Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin will drive in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis in May means Helio Castroneves will drive only in the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500. My feeling is this will be his last 500.

Earlier this month, Tony Kanaan announced 2020 will be his final year in Indycar as he runs only the ovals in the series. I could see him coming back for the Indianapolis 500, but I’m not sure for how long.  I think Kanaan may have a tough time getting funding for future rides.

The 104th Indianapolis 500 may be the last one for awhile with a driver from Brazil in it. Since Emerson Fittipaldi’s rookie year in 1984, I count 19 Brazilian drivers who have run in the race. I m ay be leaving a couple out.The early 2000s were the peak of the South American country’ s participation.  In 2003, Brazil finished first, second, and third. Gil DeFerran won, followed by Castroneves and Kanaan Four Brazilian drivers have compiled seven victories at Indianapolis. Castroneves has three and Fittipaldi has two. DeFerran and Kanaan each won once.

The high mark was in 2010 when seven Brazilian drivers started. Six starters were in the 2002 race .From 2003-2008, there were four drivers from Brazil in each race. Last year the contingent was just Castroneves, Kanaan, and Matheus Leist.

Among the other drivers from Brazil, I liked Raul Boesel, who I thought had a great chance at winning in 1993; Ana Beatriz, Vitor Meira, and Bruno Junqueira. Meira never won a race in his Indycar career, but came close several times. Junqueira has qualified several cars only to be displaced on race day.

The pendulum seems to be swinging back toward American drivers now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Trends of certain nationalities dominating the Indycar paddock are cyclical. It just doesn’t seem as if the Brazilian pipeline has many drivers in it right now.

It would be fitting if 2020 were the last 500 for both Kanaan and Castroneves. They grew up racing against each other. I think seeing them retire from the Greatest Spectacle in Racing together, while sad to mark the end of an era, would be nice.

 

 

 

It’s Been a Great Ride for Tony Kanaan; Five Oval Races Will Close Indycar Career

Photo: Tony Kanaan at Texas Motor Speedway in 2019. Courtesy Indycar, Chris Owens

It happens to every driver in time. It’s Tony Kanaan’s turn to retire. Kanaan announced today he will run the five ovals on the NTT Indycar Series schedule to end his Indycar career.  It’s always a little sad to see champion and Indianapolis 500 winner hang it up, but I like when a driver can leave on his or her own terms.

His final race will be at World Wide Technology Raceway August 22. He finished third there in 2019.

“I have no regrets,” Kanaan told a press conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this morning.  “This place (IMS) made me.”

Kanaan has driven in 18 Indianapolis 500s, winning in 2013. He won the pole in 2005 and led in each of his first seven races. He has eight top 5s and qualified in the top 6 from 2002 through 2009 with three front row starts.

Kanaan completed every lap in the 2004 Indycar series and win the series championship. He is the first driver to complete every lap in a season. He has 17 wins and 15 poles in his career.  His best years were with Andretti Green Racing in the early 2000s. He won the 500 driving for KV Racing.

He has always been a fan favorite. He plans to be “a lot more engaged with the fans” at the races he isn’t running in 2020. Look for Kanaan at the autograph sessions at the road  and street course events as well as the ovals.

When the green flag waves at St. Pete, it will end Kanaan’s streak of 317 consecutive Indycar starts.  In a sport with such brief seasons, I find that an amazing statistic.IMG_7537

Kanaan at Laguna Seca last season. The season finale becomes his road race finale in the series. Photo: Mike Silver

Kanaan insists while he may be closing his Indycar career, but he’s not done racing.

“I don’t want anybody to think I’m retiring and I’m disappearing. First of all, I still can drive. We’ve been in talks. Five years or so in this room we started it; we’ve been in talks with IMSA and a bunch of other series. Even Formula-e, you talk about stock car in Brazil. People are like, so what are you doing, what are you doing next year, and I think this will open an opportunity for me to do — Tony Stewart is like, when are you coming back to Eldora. Now I think I can do all those things. ”

Indycar is approaching a point where several of the current big names will be closing out their careers in the next couple of seasons. We have five occasions to honor a driver who has reached the pinnacle of the sport. If you get to one of the ovals this year, make it a point to seek Kanaan out, and tell him how you appreciate what he’s done.

 

 

 

 

Kanaan Leads Practice Session; ECR Struggles

Photo: Kyle McInnes

Tony Kanaan led this afternoon’s only track practice for tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500. Kanaan’s top lap of 216.354 was the only lap in the 216 range. Scott Dixon had the second best time with a 215. 761. Dixon’s lap came late  in the session. Simon Pagenaud in 5th and Charlie Kimball in eighth were the other Chevys  in the top ten. Alexander Rossi was fourth.

Rookie Santino Ferrucci led the session for a few minutes before settling for third quickest. Ferrucci was one of the few drivers who seemed to be able to pass cars  at will.

Ed Carpenter Racing struggled during the session. Spencer Pigot was 21st and Ed Carpenter was last. ECR usually does very well on super speedways. Points leader Josef Newgarden also had trouble finding speed, finishing 17th. Teammate Will Power ended 20th.

The Top Ten:

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Notes:

NBCSN did a nice job pointing out the different wickers teams were using. I’m glad the teams have options. Even thought the wickers configurations are difficult to see, it does give the cars some differentiation.

Rossi seemed to have the setup to be able to pull away from cars behind him.

Passing will be difficult tomorrow. Some of the attempted passes looked like what you see on a road course when a driver can get his nose up to the car but has to drop back. It looks like track position, fuel mileage, and good restarts will be keys to success Sunday.

I’ll be back to morrow with a quick morning preview and then post race coverage.

Race coverage begins at 2 pm on NBCSN. green flag around 2:45. Thanks for following along on this crazy, jumbled day.

 

Sonoma’s Final Finale

Indycar’s odd relationship with Sonoma comes to an end Sunday with the Verizon Indycar Series season finale. The 2019 schedule released two weeks ago does not have Sonoma on it. The final race next year will be at Weather Tech Raceway in Monterrey, on the other side of San Francisco.

Since 2015 Sonoma Raceway hosted the season finale and the track has done a great job presenting the new champion. The program has improved each year. The championship presentation is on the track’s front stretch with fans allowed to join the festivities.

Indycar first raced here in 1970 under USAC sanction. Dan Gurney won the 60 lap race. The series did not return to the track until 2005 as an IRL event. It has been on the schedule ever since.

I describe Sonoma as a great track for race cars, but not a great track for racing. The winner is usually determined by who wins the pole or whoever is in a position to take advantage of the pole winner’s misfortune. Attendance has not been great here, but there will be problems improving it at the new venue.

There has been some drama here, however. In 2006 Tony Kanaan held on to second place with a broken wing, taking points away from contenders chasing teammate Dario Franchitti, allowing Franchitti to gain valuable points on his way to the season title. In 2015, Juan Pablo Montoya came into the race with a sizable points lead and had the championship well in hand. A collision with teammate Will Power cost him enough positions to allow Scott Dixon to win the race and the Astor Cup.

I enjoy the track and the surrounding countryside.It’s a beautiful drive to Sonoma and Napa from the track viewing the hills and vineyards. I will miss breakfast at the Fremont Diner and having a drink at Ernie’s Tin Shed. I’m not sure that Weather Tech Raceway will see better racing, but the scenery should be at least as good.

On Wednesday look for my complete race and championship preview on Wildfire Sports.

Road America Thoughts and Other Musings

The race-

Road America 2018 206

A tight battle on lap 1 for fifth through ninth in Turn 5. Photo: Mike Silver

Not the best I’ve seen, but hardly the worst. I enjoyed watching Josef Newgarden turn in a flawless performance yesterday afternoon. He had pressure from Ryan Hunter-Reay all day long, but the Chevy was too strong on road America’s long straightaways. Alexander Rossi once again nearly stole the headlines from the winner, but not for the reason he usually does. More on the controversy later. Scott Dixon didn’t qualify as well as he hoped- he missed the Fast Six- but managed to be the only leader besides Newgarden to lead any laps. Dixon finished third and increased his points lead.

Best drama of the day happened just before the green flag when Will Power, who started second, was nowhere to be found as the field roared into turn one. An engine issue put him out of the race for his third DNF of the season. Outside of May, Power has really not had a great year. He drops from third to fifth in the title chase.

Tony Kanaan tried to use a four stop strategy to move up, but the caution free race didn’t allow that plan to work. Kanaan finished 14th.

Alexander Rossi- Series Villain?

Indycar has needed rivalries and villains to give the series some spark. Have they found them? The season began with hopes of a Rossi/Newgarden battle for the title. That hasn’t materialized, but a Rossi/Robert Wickens feud may be brewing. Wickens and Rossi collided in turn one at the start. After their collision on the white flag lap at St. Pete, the animosity seemed to have died down. It may be on again. Takuma Sato also took issue with Rossi’s driving in yesterday’s race. He and Rossi had contact in turn 5 later in the race.

Rossi had a suspension problem which dropped him to a 16th place finish. He is now tied with Hunter-Reay for second, 45 points behind Dixon.

I like Rossi’s style. He is bold and relentless and can pass anybody anytime it seems. He is also unapologetic. As long as he isn’t ruining other drivers’ races, I’m fine with his racing.

Road America Renews for Three More Years

Yesterday morning Road America President George Bruggentheis announced that Indycar will return to Elkhart Lake for three more years. This has been one of the more successful events on the calendar. Sunday’s crowd was equal to or may have topped the great attendance in 2016. The track instantly become my favorite road course the moment I entered the track.

On the Flip Side…

The not unexpected news that ISM Raceway in Phoenix would not return in 2019 became official over the weekend.  Crowds were virtually nonexistent and the racing was not great. There was little excitement or presence for the event the two times I went to the race.

It’s sad to lose such a classic track, but the newer cars don’t always perform well on the older tracks.

The series is looking for a replacement in that that calendar slot. Many fans have made many suggestions. It needs to be a warm weather locale, and preferably another oval.

I’m wondering if other schedule changes are in the offing for next season.

On to Iowa

Next up for Indycar is Iowa, the most fun oval on the schedule. You may have heard this before in this space, but I hope this the last daytime race and beginning in 2019 this is again a night race.

I have a couple features planned for later this week and next week. Enjoy the week off.