Chip Ganassi’s team has done almost everything there is to do in terms of winning American open-wheel races between CART, Indy Racing League and now INDYCAR iterations.
One thing it hasn’t done, yet, is win on the streets of Baltimore.
The Target and secondary “G2” squads are 0-for-2 since the race’s introduction in 2011. In fact, the team has yet to even score a podium, with the Penske, Andretti, KV, Schmidt and now-defunct Newman/Haas Racing having secured five of the race’s six podiums.
But the Ganassi team couldn’t be hotter coming into the weekend. Even despite the penalty assessed to Scott Dixon Sunday in Sonoma, the team has secured nine of the last 15 IndyCar race podiums. Dixon has three wins, Dario Franchitti has four third-place finishes, and Charlie Kimball has a win and a second-place result for the Novo Nordisk camp since Pocono July 7, the first race after a team test at Sebring in late June that has paid huge dividends.
A year ago, Dixon and Franchitti made it into the Fast Six and Kimball had his best qualifying effort of the season in seventh, although he would have to start 17th because of an unapproved engine change that cost him 10 spots on the starting grid.
A win for Dixon here would prove pivotal in the championship chase, as he enters the weekend trailing Helio Castroneves by 39 points. Meanwhile a win for Franchitti would break a winless drought dating to Indianapolis 2012. Will Power’s Sonoma win was his first since the race before the 2012 ‘500, and if that’s a sense of anything, then maybe it will be Franchitti’s day on Sunday.
Franchitti has won at 23 different circuits in his illustrious IndyCar career dating to his rookie season in 1997, while Dixon has triumphed at 20 different venues. Baltimore would be another notch on the belt for either of them.
We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.
And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.
After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.
In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.
Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.
“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.
“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.
“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”
Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.
“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”
Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.