Today’s Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
- Ganassi confirms Kanaan, Dixon for 2015 season
- Hunter-Reay prepares to take on world at Race of Champions
- Chaves wins awards, races in Colombia
- Harvey honored by British Racing Drivers Club
- Ganassi confirms Kanaan, Dixon for 2015 season: Tony Kanaan, who closed his first season with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams with a victory in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season finale at Auto Club Speedway, will return to the No. 10 car with NTT DATA as the primary sponsor.
The 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner recorded five podium finishes in the final seven races of 2014. He’ll continue the legacy of the No. 10 car, which boasts 20 wins by Kanaan, Dario Franchitti (13) and Dan Wheldon (6) dating to 2006.
“I can’t wait to begin working with everyone at NTT DATA,” Kanaan said. “I know and have worked with them before so this will be great. As for the team, we really started to come together at the end of last season and although we ended on a high note with the win in Fontana I think we had a legitimate chance to win a few more times. We have a year under our belt working together now and I expect to be contending more consistently in 2015.”
NTT DATA, with its U.S. headquarters in Plano, Texas, began its relationship with the team on the No. 8 car driven by Ryan Briscoe in 2013 at the Indianapolis 500 and maintained an associate partnership role on the No. 83 car of Charlie Kimball. It also fielded a car co-driven by Kanaan at the IMSA Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. NTT DATA became a primary sponsor on the No. 8 entry driven by Briscoe for the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season and is the official IT services partner to Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.
“NTT DATA has been a great partner for the last couple of years and we are looking forward to much success and a long partnership with them,” Ganassi said. “Also, I think TK had a far better year than the numbers would indicate and his win in Fontana gives him and the team great momentum as we head into 2015.”
Earlier this week, it was announced that three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon would return for his 14th season with the team. He’ll drive the No. 9 Target car.
Dixon, who finished third in the 2014 championship standings, moved into a tie for fifth with Bobby Unser on the all-time Indy car wins list. All but one of his 35 victories have come as a member of Team Target.
Dixon and NASCAR driver Kyle Larson will be featured in 2015 in a new Target motorsports marketing program, according to Target vice president of experiential marketing and alliances Dan Griffis.
“Target is proud of our 25-year partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing and we look forward to a successful season in 2015,” he said. “The new marketing initiatives will allow Target to remain one of the most recognizable brands in each series, both on and off the track.”
- Hunter-Reay prepares to take on world at Race of Champions: It might be a fun, get-to-know-you all-star event, but once helmets are strapped on it transitions to a serious competition.
That’s Ryan Hunter-Reay’s assessment of the Race of Champions, which he’ll participate in Dec. 13-14 at the Bushy Park Circuit in Barbados.
The event brings together some of the world’s greatest drivers from major disciplines – the Verizon IndyCar Series, Formula 1, World Rally, Le Mans, MotoGP and NASCAR – for head-to-head contests in identical machinery on a parallel course.
Hunter-Reay, the reigning Indianapolis 500 Mile Race champion, competed in the Race of Champions in Thailand following his 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series championship season. The event was not held in 2013.
“It is all fun and casual, and everybody is patting each other on the back until you line up next to each other and it’s like the championship is on the line,” said the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., resident who will enter his sixth season with Andretti Autosport in 2015. “You have an opportunity to beat some of the best drivers in the world.”
Other competitors include Tom Kristensen (nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner), Romain Grosjean (Lotus Formula 1 driver, reigning ROC Champion of Champions), Jamie Whincup (six-time V8 Supercar champion), Petter Solberg (2014 FIA World Rallycross champion), José María López (2014 FIA World Touring Car champion), Esteban Ocon (2014 FIA European F3 champion), Mick Doohan (five-time 500cc MotoGP world champion), David Coulthard (13-time Formula 1 Grand Prix winner), Jolyon Palmer (2014 GP2 champion), Susie Wolff (Williams F1 test driver), Robby Gordon (four-time BAJA 500 winner and Hunter-Reay’s brother-in-law), and Kurt Busch (2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year).
Hunter-Reay and Busch, Andretti Autosport teammates for the Indy 500 in May, will represent the U.S. in the Nations Cup competition.
“I look forward to working with Kurt again,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s an honor to be the company of champions from around the world.”
The ROC Nations Cup features a group stage in which each nation races against others in its group, with the four most successful progressing to the knockout semifinals.
Each driver initially has one race against a driver from the opposing team, competing head-to-head on the parallel track as in the individual Race Of Champions. If the score is tied at 1, the two winning drivers battle it out in a third race to determine which team advances.
The lineup of cars include the Ariel Atom Cup (an exoskeleton two-seat dune buggy-like car with a rear wing that is powered by a Honda 4-cylinder I-VTEC engine), a rear-wheel drive Audi R8 LMS (factory-built GT3 competitor) and an ROC car (single-seat, closed-canopy buggy). Other cars will be announced later this week.
Practice is at a premium.
“You get two laps in each car and the next thing you know you’re at the event, so experience matters a lot just in knowing what you can do with the cars in a short amount of time,” Hunter-Reay said. “This will be a longer track and my second go-round, so I think the key for me is knowing not to drive too hard. These are not IndyCars with a lot of downforce and Firestone tires. These are cars with street tires and they move around a lot.”
- Chaves wins awards, races in Colombia: Gabby Chaves, the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion, was named Colombia’s “Driver of the Year” and “Star Driver” a few days after he teamed with Juan Gonzalez and Juan Alzate to win the 6 Hours of Bogota sports car race Dec. 6 at Autodrome Tocancipa in Colombia.
The trio covered the 250 laps on the 1.68-mile circuit with a two-lap advantage over the second-place team. Chaves also co-drove to victory in the Super GT class (fifth overall) with Juan Piedrahita (seventh in 2014 Indy Lights standings with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian), Diego Mejia and Oscar Tunjo. Chaves co-drove to the class victory in 2013.
“I am very happy to be closing out 2014 with a bang,” said Chaves, a native of Colombia who lives in Miami. “The 6 Hours of Bogota is regarded as one of the most important endurance races in South America, and to be able to not only win the overall race but in two classes is just amazing.
“I drove a total of four hours in two different cars. Hopefully such a great season can help facilitate my transition into the Verizon IndyCar Series for 2015.
“I’d like to thank all the INDYCAR, Mazda Road to Indy and Andersen Promotions staffs for being so helpful regarding the scholarship and my negotiations for 2015.”
Chaves, 21, is scheduled to test a Verizon IndyCar Series car Dec. 17 for Bryan Herta Autosport at Sebring International Raceway. The team’s 2014 full-season driver, Jack Hawksworth, signed in October with A.J. Foyt Racing for the 2015 season. Chaves tested in September for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Chaves, the 2013 Indy Lights championship runner-up, recorded four victories, including the Freedom 100 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, for Belardi Auto Racing this past season. The championship carries a $750,000 Mazda Road to Indy scholarship to assist with the advancement to the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series.
On Nov. 30, Chaves won the second race of the Race of the Stars karting event, which benefits the Formula Smiles Foundation set up by Juan Pablo Montoya and his wife Connie, at Autodrome Tocancipa.
- Harvey honored by British Racing Drivers Club: Jack Harvey, who finished second in his debut season in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, was named winner of the Earl Howe Trophy at the annual British Racing Drivers Club luncheon on Dec. 8 at Silverstone Circuit.
The Howe Trophy is awarded annually to the highest-placed British driver in the Indianapolis 500 or to the British driver who has established the most meritorious performance of the year in North America.
Harvey won four races and four poles for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian, losing out on the championship to Gabby Chaves on a tiebreaker.
“Thank you guys. I’m honored,” Harvey wrote on his Instagram account.