Report: Ganassi all but rules out Indy Lights program

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One of the popular rumors the last month or so is that Chip Ganassi Racing would be expanding its ever-expanding motorsports empire into the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, for 2016.

Trackside Online was first to report during the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca season finale last month that a high-profile IndyCar team was exploring Indy Lights. Here’s that report:

“Word around the paddock is that one of the big-two Verizon IndyCar Series teams is evaluating starting an Indy Lights team to the point that they have been contacting potential drivers.”

It grew to the point where RACER.com reported a couple weeks ago more on Ganassi’s potential would-be entry into the series.

However, as of Monday, those odds of a Ganassi Indy Lights program have grown slimmer, if not to a standstill, per a report from veteran motorsports journalist Gordon Kirby.

Kirby spoke to Ganassi directly, who had this to say of the team’s Indy Lights prospects:

“We have looked at it but I don’t know that it has any legs. If I wanted to go out and start an Indy Lights team and have a program for one year, I could do it. But I’m not looking for a one-year program. I want to do something that we can repeat year after year. I’m not interested in doing a one-year deal.”

A Ganassi Indy Lights program, in theory, would need to be multiple cars (at least two) to make the operational cost worth it. Then consider the staff requirements as well that would be needed.

Ganassi has gone about expanding his business, his race team, in the right way, and 2016 is bound to be one of the biggest seasons yet for the team.

The Verizon IndyCar Series program has three cars confirmed, with champion Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball all set to return and all having already tested this offseason. The team is working on procuring a budget for Sage Karam to continue in a fourth car.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series program will again be two cars, as Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson continue on. Meanwhile Rob Kauffman has been announced as a new partner earlier this summer, having bought into the team.

There’s a huge offseason focus on testing and development of the new Ford GT to race in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship, a total of four cars spread across two continents, and run in partnership with well-established Canadian engineering firm Multimatic. This four-car, manufacturer program is a leap from its single-car entry in IMSA this past season, a single Riley-Ford Daytona Prototype.

Additionally, the team’s Red Bull Global Rallycross season concludes next month in Las Vegas; Steve Arpin and Brian Deegan have primarily been the two Ford Fiestas, with Jeff Ward also driving in selected rounds.

So while Ganassi could have an Indy Lights program, it would need to be added in the correct manner, and judging by Ganassi’s comments to Kirby, it doesn’t seem likely to happen for 2016 – despite the rumor mill swirling in the last month.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.