Ganassi confirms Kanaan and a switch to Chevrolet in 2014 (UPDATED)

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Tony Kanaan’s long-awaited move – after it was reported a week ago by the Associated Press – to Chip Ganassi Racing has been confirmed this Friday in Houston. He will pilot the NTT Data entry.

“It definitely is a special day for me and my family,” Kanaan said in a hastily announced press conference. “Coming back to work with Charlie, Dario and Dixon, we will be a very successful four-car team. Looking forward to future. It’s exciting for IndyCar.”

The bigger and perhaps more surprising news is that the team is switching from Honda to Chevrolet power for the team’s four cars: Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.

This means CGR is now under the Chevrolet umbrella for both its IndyCar and NASCAR programs. Per discussions with both Target Chip Ganassi Racing team manager Mike Hull and Jim Campbell, vp of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, GM, there has been no determination made as to the status’ of the team’s prototype program for the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship.

“This thing happened quick with Chevrolet,” Ganassi said. “They have shown they have a great product, and it gives us a great opportunity for our team. This consolidates our manufacturers.”

Ganassi also addressed the question of how long this has been in play, and perhaps whether Ryan Briscoe was an option for the fourth car had he not injured his wrist at Toronto earlier this year.

“It’s a good question; I hadn’t thought of it. We were wanting to get back to a fourth car and this falls into the category of if Dario doesn’t crash in a stock car, would he come back and win three straight championships in IndyCar. You can be hurt in this business,” he said.

Kanaan’s car number was not announced. The move to Chevrolet means Ganassi, Team Penske and Andretti Autosport are all slated to have that powerplant in 2014.

UPDATE (4:25 p.m. ET): Kanaan’s current team, KV Racing Technology, has issued a statement on the Brazilian’s decision to join Chip Ganassi Racing next season:

“Tony Kanaan is an outstanding driver, a great teammate and a good friend. Over the last three years he has demonstrated his professionalism and more importantly, this year brought KV Racing Technology – SH Racing its first Indianapolis 500 victory. The entire organization wishes him the best as he moves forward with his career. KV – SH Racing is and will continue to pursue negotiations with several top drivers and looks forward to competing for race wins and championships in the coming years.”

Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
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Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”