IndyCar: Ganassi officially confirms Dixon, Target for 14th year together

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File this one under the “we can’t believe there really has to be a release on it” category, but there was a release anyway.

On Monday afternoon, Chip Ganassi Racing confirmed Target and Scott Dixon will return for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season, the pairing’s 14th consecutive year together dating to 2002.

Dixon, a three-time series champion, rallied to third in this year’s points standings after a tough start to the season.

“Although we finished 2014 strong, we didn’t have the year we wanted to, at least not by our standards,” he admitted in a team release. “I know the Target team is focused and ready to go for 2015, and I’m honored to be back driving the No. 9 again for the team.

“It’s really hard to believe this is my 14th year with Target Chip Ganassi Racing – it seems like only yesterday I was making my first start for them way back in 2002! The relationship the team has with Target is a true partnership in every sense of the word, and that’s why I am so proud to wear the Target firesuit.”

Beyond the traditional Target colors adorning Dixon’s No. 9 Dallara-Chevrolet, today’s release also indicated an increase in promotional efforts, which is perhaps the bigger news.

“In addition to sponsoring cars in both INDYCAR and NASCAR, we will be increasing our digital and broadcast support of the motorsports program,” Dan Griffis, Vice President, Experiential Marketing & Alliances, Target, said in a release.

“The new marketing initiatives will allow Target to remain one of the most recognizable brands in each series, both on and off the track. We look forward to sharing more details about these exciting plans with our loyal fans in the coming weeks.”

Tony Kanaan’s No. 10 program was not identified within the Target release, which is either an inadvertent oversight or an unintentional tease that a new primary commercial partner could be coming to that car.

In recent years, the No. 10 Target car has witnessed a rotating door of sponsors (and paint schemes) taking up residence in one or two-race deals, for companies that have their products at Target.

Ganassi will have further team announcements for its remaining IndyCar and TUDOR United SportsCar Championship programs on Wednesday, Friday, next Tuesday, December 16 and Thursday, December 18.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.