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Inside IndyCar: Chip Ganassi Racing Has a Duo for the Future

Chip Ganassi is closing on long-time rival Roger Penske.

Oh no, not in Indy 500 trophies. He has a few more to go to catch the Captain’s 19. Instead, he’s narrowed the gap in something that rewards teams for months of hard work and consistent effort in the NTT IndyCar Series – the Astor Cup.

As things stand, pending any catastrophe, Ganassi’s driver Alex Palou will bring home the team’s 15th championship trophy over the next few weeks, which will close the gap to just two fewer than Team Penske. Further, it will be the team’s fourth in six years since the series went to the universal aero kit in 2018.

It seems the motorsports czar, who owns teams in multiple racing disciplines (who doesn’t in IndyCar?), has hit on a winning championship pairing that has been lacking since Dario Franchitti retired in 2013. 

The dominating fashion with which Palou has raced his No. 10 Honda is leaving his competitors behind while he waltzes to a second title. Scott Dixon moved to second place in points after his masterful fuel save at the Gallagher Grand Prix, so a 1-2 points finish is possible for the team. Add in Marcus Ericsson’s sixth place standing and they lead the way over Penske’s trio who currently sit third, fourth and seventh.

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If the standings don’t change, Ganassi would have three drivers in the top six in points for the third straight year. It’s become clear that after years of finding most of its success with the legacy No. 9 and 10 cars, the team has finally mastered the craft of getting all teams running well in their shop. 

The future for the team is not looking too shabby now either. 

With the recent news that Palou is not honoring a rumored Arrow McLaren contract, which might not be too rumored based on recent litigation (does it feel like deja vu?), Ganassi has locked in a clear alpha dog to lead the team in a post-Dixon world. A future without the Kiwi doesn’t appear to be on the horizon quite yet, to the delight of IndyCar fans who get to see his greatness continue, but it’s necessary to have a succession plan in place. 

After last year’s legal drama, the team’s fortune has turned to a resounding blaring of trumpets with Palou’s decision to remain at Ganassi. If Dixon maintains second in points, the team will sweep the first two steps in the standings for just the third time. 

The first was in 1998, during the stretch of the famed four-peat Ganassi put together after the Split, the first great driver era for the team. Using the Honda engine and Reynard chassis, with Firestone tires (don’t forget the Tire Wars!), drivers Alex Zanardi and Jimmy Vasser won 10 of the 19 races and destroyed the field to take the team’s third championship. Zanardi was a back-to-back champion, and Vasser had his last great season before joining Patrick Racing after the 2000 season. Overall, those two won 23 races and three championships.

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In 2009, the Scotsman Franchitti hopped into the No. 10 car and won almost as many races (five) as the car had all previous years combined dating to 2003 (six). Dixon would finish second. This duo would ignite a second run of greatness, as they took 28 wins, three consecutive championships and two Indianapolis 500s.

Now it’s Palou and Dixon. But beyond them, there are the results of the No. 8 team, which has racked up four wins with Ericsson since 2021. Even with the latest news that the Swede is moving to Andretti Autosport, the seat has to be the most coveted in the paddock.

The options are many for Ganassi to fill out his team for next season. The rookie Marcus Armstrong, who has done only a street and road course schedule, is on record with multiple news outlets that he wants to do the full season. Sitting in the pits at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during practice has a way of doing that to a driver – just ask Jimmie Johnson. So maybe that fills one ride. What of the remaining one?

How about another Swede? Marshall Pruett’s latest silly season report mentions Linus Lundqvist as a favorite. Add in Nathan Brown hearing that DHL may be going to Ganassi next year, and the team has a young driver with potential and sponsorship incoming.

As the 2023 season concludes and sits in the palm of Ganassi’s hand, the team’s future looks good. With the current trend, they might even overtake Team Penske sooner than later.

About the author

Tom is an IndyCar writer at Frontstretch, joining in March 2023. He also works full-time for the Department of Veterans Affairs History Office and is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. A native Hoosier, he's followed IndyCar closely since 1991 and calls Fort Wayne home. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomBlackburn42.

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