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.