Chip Ganassi Racing’s expansion is the IZOD IndyCar Series’ gain – two young American drivers who will compete for the full 2011 season on a new team.
Ganassi announced the addition of Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing with Graham Rahal in the No. 38 car and Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing with Charlie Kimball in the No. 83 entry at a news conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The companies were involved in INDYCAR during the 2010 season and expanded their partnerships, which created opportunities for the drivers and team.
"It is an exciting day for our team and an exciting time for IndyCar racing," Ganassi said. "Sponsorship is the lifeblood of motor racing, and to have people that think alike along with you along the way and understand how you operate and how you want to operate your business is nice. So to have both companies come to the center stage is exciting to bring them both along as partners.
"We as a company need to stay competitive. We need to stay at the forefront. I think you have to constantly be looking at who is coming along, what drivers are coming along. I'm not pushing (Scott) Dixon and (Dario) Franchitti out the door yet, but they are of a different era, you might say, than these two guys. We wanted to make sure we had an opportunity, if at all possible, to work with them."
The reigning IZOD IndyCar Series championship team plans to invest $3.3 million to locate the team in a facility leased from drag racing legend Don Prudhomme in Brownsburg, Ind., which is expected to create up to 30 new jobs. Mitch Davis will be the team manager and Target Chip Ganassi managing director Mike Hull will oversee the program. Prudhomme said this year he'll "stick his toe in the water," and look to become more involved in 2012 as the IZOD IndyCar Series introduces its new car and engine platforms.
“It really is a dream come true,” said Kimball, 25, who competed the past two seasons in Firestone Indy Lights. “The whole championship is something special. I think it really rewards an all-around driver and getting the opportunity to utilize the Road to Indy ladder system -- from F2000 when I competed in that in 2003 to Indy Lights the last two years and now moving into the IZOD IndyCar Series – is great.
“It’s still sinking in that I’m going to be on the grid in a full-size IndyCar next year.”
Rahal, the youngest race winner in major North American open-wheel racing history, competed in 12 races during the 2010 with four different teams.TBC Retail Group announced in October that it has signed a multi-year spokesperson and sponsorship association with the 21-year-old driver to represent its family of tire and automotive retail brands (Service Central, Tire Kingdom, National Tire and Battery, Merchant’s Tire and Auto Centers and Big O Tires).
“This is -- other than winning the Indy 500 or a championship -- the best day a driver could have," said Rahal, who has made 60 IZOD IndyCar Series starts (one win, 12 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes). "Last year was interesting -- a lot of ups and downs. It makes you appreciate it when you get an opprtunity like this. I have been working diligently, specifically over the past several months, to get into one of Chip's IndyCars, and now that dream has become a reality with the help of Service Central and many others.
"Like Chip often says, I'm looking forward to the next race, which is in St. Petersburg in March. I'm thrilled to be a part of this great organization and look forward to making the most out of this opportunity."
Target Chip Ganassi Racing employs 75 associates at its Indianapolis facility that houses the IZOD IndyCar Series program for Franchitti and Dixon -- who have a combined five IZOD IndyCar Series championships -- and the championship-winning Grand Am program.
“Working with Chip Ganassi and all of his crew, giving me the opportunity to learn from champions like Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and alongside Graham Rahal is another aspect of how I’m going to try to shorten the learning curve,” said Kimball, who finished fourth in the Firestone Indy Lights championship this past season (five podium finishes). “I’m not underestimating the size of the task ahead of me and I’m really looking forward to using all the tools both within Chip Ganassi Racing and through my partnership with Novo Nordisk going forward.”
Novo Nordisk is a healthcare company with an 86-year history of innovation and achievement in diabetes care. Kimball was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007, and the company was his primary sponsor during the 2010 season.
“Novo Nordisk partnered with me at the beginning of last year, but I’ve been using their insulin since the day I was diagnosed in 2007,” Kimball said. “So my relationship with them started well before they even knew who I was. Together, to make that step using the history, the heritage, the success of Chip Ganassi Racing, stepping onto the main stage with them is extra special.”
Rahal and Kimball will be among the seven American drivers on the grid in the 2011 season opener March 27 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Last year, there were three.