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.”

Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato welcomes ‘Baby Borg’ to the family

Photos: Michael L. Leavitt
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Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.

The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.

Try putting that on a mantle in your house.

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.

“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.

“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”

Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.

And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.

“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.

“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.

“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”

Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.

Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.

“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Michael Andretti celebrates his 5 Indy 500 wins as a team owner, and Takuma Sato celebrates his first Indy 500 win
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.

“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.

Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.

It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.

Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.

“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.

“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.

“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”