IndyCar's rosy outlook key to Ganassi growth

HOMESTEAD FL - OCTOBER 01: Team owner Chip Ganassi talks with Dario Franchitti of Scotland driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda after winning the pole position during qualifying for the IZOD IndyCar Series Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on October 1 2010 in Homestead Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Only he knows for sure, but "momentum" is likely today's Word of the Day on Chip Ganassi's desk calendar.

In announcing the addition of a new two-car satellite with American drivers Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball to compete in the Izod IndyCar Series for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, the titular owner used the word "momentum" over and over again in both a webcast press conference and the media teleconference that followed.

"The level of excitement and momentum in IndyCar right now, that was the impetus," said Ganassi when asked about the timing for the new teams. "The snowball coming down the mountain is getting bigger and bigger."

 

The new team - the Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing No. 38 driven by Rahal and the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing No. 83 piloted by Kimball - will be located in a shop separate from the Target Chip Ganassi Racing home of two-time and defending series champion Dario Franchitti and two-time former champion Scott Dixon.

Mike Hull, managing director of Ganassi Racing, said the two groups will work cooperatively, sharing resources and information because "there are only so many hours in the day." Asked about the difficulty of managing the oversight and logistics for two IndyCar teams located in different locations, Hull laughed and said "It's going to be a case study for the Harvard Business School."

Both Rahal and Kimball expressed pleasure at having the opportunity to race for a winning organization like Ganassi's, and for having the opportunity to work with and learn from Dixon and Franchitti. In response, Ganassi said - several times - that bringing two youngsters into the stable was in no way a message about the future of Dixon and Franchitti with his organization.

"There's a lot of momentum in the Izod IndyCar Series right now, and that presents opportunities for drivers like Charlie and Graham," said Ganassi. "We have to keep our eyes on the next generation coming along; what better way to do that than to have them on the team?"

Rahal came into contact with Service Central during his brief stint last year with Sarah Fisher Racing. Calling his association with Ganassi a dream come true, Rahal said "To succeed you've got to be with the best team. Time and again, Chip Ganassi Racing has proved they're the best."

As a diabetic, Kimball's association with pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk is both practical and professional: he uses the products of the company that has sponsored him for the past two Firestone Indy Lights seasons for his medical condition. Both the company and Kimball intend to use his racing as a way to prove "that diabetes does not have get in the way of your dreams," said Camille Lee, VP of Diabetes Marketing for Novo Nordisk.

Asked how much impact IndyCar's current positive outlook had in securing new full-time sponsors for Rahal and Kimball, Ganassi said: "You can be the best salesman there is, but if there isn't interest on the other side, people who want to get involved in IndyCar, it doesn't matter."

Much of Thursday's discussion centered around the fact that Rahal and Kimball are American drivers, the addition of which many IndyCar watchers feel is important to the continued growth of the series in the U.S.

"The fans have been saying, ‘We need more American drivers,' and there's a flock of them coming in," said Ganassi, who added nationality was less important than talent to him as a team-owner. Ganassi pointed out the importance of open-wheel feeder series in creating the current tide of homegrown talent bubbling to the top.

"The fruition of all these U.S. drivers coming along indicates what started four to five years ago," he said. "There was a place for American drivers to go that wasn't NASCAR."

The new Rahal-Kimball teams will be housed in a shop owned by drag racing legend Don "The Snake" Prudhomme in Brownsburg, Ind. One of the more interesting tidbits to come out of Thursday's media availabilities was Ganassi saying he thought Prudhomme's interest in IndyCar may go beyond being a landlord: "His eye is on 2012."

Speaking of 2012, Ganassi said it is his policy not to discuss contracts so there is no indication if the new Rahal-Kimball teams are one-season or multi-year deals. Asked about technical preparations for the new generation car to be used in 2012, Hull said there was point in talking about it until the series decides upon and publishes a set of rules.

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