Chevrolet’s Bowtie Brigade in IndyCar gets bigger with Ganassi


Chip Ganassi Racing took advantage of this afternoon’s track repair delay at the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston to announce that Tony Kanaan would join the team in a fourth car sponsored by NTT Data next season.

But we all knew it was only a matter of time before that particular announcement went official. However, Chevrolet still made sure there would be a surprise by announcing that the Ganassi camp would defect from Honda and take on Bowtie power in 2014.

It’s a major development for Chevy. If it retains Andretti Autosport, that would see Chevrolet supply all three of the IZOD IndyCar Series’ “Big Three” teams. Ganassi and Team Penske and Andretti, which would be 12 cars.

Chevrolet’s Jim Campbell said the manufacturer could go above its 40 percent of the field threshold, a number set by IndyCar as a part of its contract.

Meanwhile, Honda is now set to lose its top American open-wheel franchise.

“This decision makes a lot of sense for us for a number of reasons,” Ganassi said in a statement. “We feel Chevrolet has done a great job in their return to the IndyCar Series and because of our existing relationship with them in NASCAR.

“There are a lot of synergies that we will be able to realize in working with the same manufacturer across the two series. We are thrilled.”

With the Ganassi NASCAR and IndyCar programs soon to both be under the Chevy banner (the NASCAR program having been with Chevy since the 2009 season), the obvious question is whether or not Ganassi’s sports car side will do the same.

That group currently runs with BMW power in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, which is soon to merge with the American Le Mans Series into the TUDOR United SportsCar Series.

However, both Ganassi team managing director Mike Hull and Chevrolet’s Campbell didn’t quite point in that direction during this afternoon’s press conference.

“I don’t know about that,” Hull said about the possibility of consolidating all of Ganassi’s programs with Chevy. “The opportunity has come to be able to do this and we’re excited.”

Campbell would only say that he’s been pleased with his company’s sports car efforts thus far.

“If you look at how we’re structured…With our Corvette program in ALMS, we’ve run with Pratt & Miller and won seven of 14 24 Hours of Le Mans,” he said. “We have a terrific lineup on the Daytona Prototype side – this year, Wayne Taylor Racing won the championship with Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli.

“I like our sports car lineup, and as I look forward, our opportunity to partner with Chip is stock car racing and open wheel.”

Chevrolet and Honda are currently tied for the 2013 manufacturer’s championship, with Honda having won five of the last six races to close their early season gap. But it appears that Chevy has gained the early edge for 2014.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.