Kanaan ready to team up with “brothers” Franchitti and Dixon

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With his forthcoming jump to Chip Ganassi Racing now officially set, Tony Kanaan can likely look forward to at least one more shot at an IZOD IndyCar Series championship in the twilight years of his career.

But the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner is also looking forward to teaming up with good friends Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, as well as American rising star Charlie Kimball.

Franchitti and Kanaan were teammates in the early-to-mid 2000s at Andretti Green Racing (now Andretti Autosport), and together with the late Dan Wheldon and Bryan Herta, created a “Four Muskeeters” sort of lineup that is still remembered for both its accomplishments on the track and a tight-knit nature off of it.

Following today’s announcement, Kanaan called Franchitti and Dixon his “brothers” but also said he looked forward to working together with everyone in the stable – and facing the pressure that’s sure to go with being part of the Ganassi organization.

“Charlie, I know he’s a young up-and-comer and this year, he’s been extremely fast. But Dario and Dixie are no-brainers – we’re good friends outside the track, and Dario was my teammate for years,” he said. “People don’t realize how close we all were before I joined this team, so while it’s a new home for me, my brothers already live there. I think it’s going to be great.

“All the eyes are going to be on us. It’s a lot of championship, a lot of Indy 500s, a lot of race wins. And I know [team owner Chip Ganassi] doesn’t expect any less from us. But it’s a good problem to have.”

Kanaan has been long been a key part of IndyCar’s core, but for the last few years, he’s still had to battle for sponsorship in the midst of a global economic downturn.

He had been vocal about his money struggles during the summer, and at one point during the season, a potential program in NASCAR was mentioned as a possibility for him. But he’ll be staying in open-wheel and driving for one of its most important and successful teams with backing from NTT Data.

“I remember that was the first question that I asked Chip: ‘What do I need to bring?,'” said Kanaan, referring to funding. “And he said, ‘Your helmet.’ And that was like a big weight off of my shoulders.

“That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to work together to capture some of the stuff that I had, because I think it will be really a shame to my sponsors that have been with me in the hard times [if they can’t] come to an organization like this if they have the opportunity. We’re still going to work on it, but that has not been the point for me to come to work for Chip.”

“…[Finding sponsors] was a responsibility that I never wanted. But by default, I had to have it. I’m not saying I’m gonna give up [on that] and say, ‘Good,’ but the deal was not anywhere near depending on me bringing anything apart from my services.”

And thus, for the first time in several seasons, Kanaan can finally put all of his focus on the race track. One wonders what that could do for him in regards to pursuing the 2014 championship.

Graham Rahal survives Road America to finish eighth

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Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing faced a roller coaster of a race during the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday.

He was a rocket off the initial start, jumping from sixth on the grid up to fourth exiting turn 1, but was almost immediately ordered to surrender a position for blocking. He quickly slipped back to sixth, and then began plummeting down the order as he battled an oversteer condition that saw his car chew through its rear tires more quickly than others.

Forced to abandon the planned three-stop strategy, he and the No. 15 Gehl Honda team switched to a four-stop plan that saw him drop well outside the top ten at times.

However, they kept plugging away and rebounded nicely in the second half of the race to eventually finish in eighth. While he would have liked to finish higher up the order, Rahal knows that he and the team got everything they could out of it.

“The car was a handful today. I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy,” Rahal revealed post-race. “We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it. I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today. We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem. We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend.”

The eighth-place finish keeps Rahal in the championship hunt. Rahal now sits seventh in the standings, 11 points behind fifth-place Josef Newgarden and 72 behind championship leader Scott Dixon.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

Ed Jones continues steady run with seventh at Road America

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Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones has made waves in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a string of solid performances that belie his rookie status.

And Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America was no different.

The 22-year-old battled an oversteering car most of the weekend at Road America, and had to navigate a little carnage late in the race as Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both fell through the field with front wing problems.

However, Jones weathered all storms to finish an impressive seventh, his fifth finish inside the top 10 this year, and his best finish since his third place at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil.

“It was a really tough race,” Jones said of the effort. “We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up.

“Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”

The seventh-place run sees Jones maintain his position in the top ten in the championship. He currently sits tenth in the standings, three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

Vilander replaces Bird at AF Corse for Nurburgring WEC round

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AF Corse has confirmed that Toni Vilander will race the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE in next month’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nürburgring in place of Sam Bird, who is tied up with Formula E commitments in New York.

Vilander currently races full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Risi Competizione, and appeared at the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks ago.

The Finn won the WEC GT drivers’ title in 2014 and last raced full-time in the series in 2015, but will return at the Nürburgring in place of Bird, who confirmed on Monday that he would be prioritizing his Formula E commitments on the July 16 weekend.

Vilander is relishing the opportunity to race alongside Davide Rigon in the No. 71 Ferrari, and is eager to bounce back from an early retirement at Le Mans.

“I’m happy to be able to return to the FIA WEC with the 488 GTE of AF Corse team. This is my chance to cancel the disappointment of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as soon as possible,” Vilander said.

“Car number 71 is in the top places of the championship standings, and I will give all I have to achieve the best possible result at Nürburgring, to help Ferrari in the manufacturers’ championship and Davide Rigon in the drivers’ ranking.”

British GP expands to four-day schedule, F2/GP3 practice set for Thursday

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The British Grand Prix weekend will expand to a four-day schedule next month as Formula 2 and GP3 practice running gets shifted to Thursday.

On-track running for all Formula 1 events traditionally takes place across three days – Friday to Sunday, bar Monaco, where practice is on Thursday – with support events following a similar format.

Silverstone has confirmed its schedule of events for the British Grand Prix weekend, with F2 and GP3 practice slated for Thursday July 13.

F2 practice will run from 15:30 to 16:15 local time at Silverstone on the Thursday, followed by GP3 running from 16:45 to 17:30.

Both support series will hit the track again on Friday for their respective qualifying sessions, taking place after F1’s second practice in the afternoon.

The remainder of the race weekend will go ahead as usual for F2 and GP3, having one race each on both Saturday and Sunday.

The F1 schedule for the weekend remains unchanged, with FP1 and FP2 on Friday, FP3 and qualifying on Saturday, and the race on Sunday.

Both Renault and Williams will take part in special show-runs during the grand prix weekend as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations.

You can see the full British Grand Prix schedule here.