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.

Daniel Ricciardo would relish being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo says he would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.

Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and expressed interest in joining teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to help him challenge for the championship.

The Australian says he would “love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”

Ricciardo says he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.

He says “there’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull) … and I would expect that environment everywhere.”