Kanaan leads Ganassi 1-2 to end 2014 on a high note (VIDEO)

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FONTANA, Calif. – Since IndyCar returned for the de facto second half of its season at Houston in late June, Tony Kanaan and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing crew had been bursting at the seams to break through to win.

Kanaan nearly podiumed there before being taken out under yellow, led 325 laps between Pocono and Iowa, posted a double podium at Toronto, and another third at Milwaukee.

So the winning potential for the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet this year has been obvious, but until Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway, had not been realized.

Finally, then, was the word best used to describe Kanaan, who capped off the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season with his first win since the 2013 Indianapolis 500.

“It’s a long time coming. For Target, with the 25-year anniversary. Finally,” Kanaan told NBCSN in victory lane.

“We had a team meeting this aftrernoon. If you win this afternoon you get to brag for seven months. At Chip Ganassi Racing, the winner gets your picture on the wall, and I finally get one now.”

For Kanaan, taking over the car previously driven by Dario Franchitti, it was important to secure at least one victory.

“It’s very emotional,” he said. “This 10 car has a lot of history so I didn’t want to go winless. I told Dario I dedicate it for him.”

Kanaan’s strong second half brought him up to seventh in the final points standings, and second in the Ganassi quartet.

Teammate Scott Dixon almost quietly ran to second in the race, and suddenly made it to third in the championship. He posted 11 top-five finishes this season.

With Dixon having won at Mid-Ohio and Sonoma, Ganassi went from no wins in the first 14 races of 2014 to three in the last four. Kanaan hailed the team’s forward momentum through the tail end of the season.

“We’re extremely confident as a unit. The team showed how quick we can turn. Now we’ll have the team spirit really good through winter, and I have seven months on top,” Kanaan said in the post-race press conference.

The win wasn’t the only bit of news revealed at the presser – Tony and wife Lauren Bohlander Kanaan confirmed Lauren will be expecting a child in late January.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.