Ganassi Racing introduces driver identification, mentor program


Chip Ganassi Racing won’t be giving Devlin Defrancesco money, a ride or sponsorship.

Instead, the 15 year old go kart driver from Toronto, Canada will be getting Tony Kanaan.

Last Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, CGR introduced Defrancesco and Kanaan as the first of 10 pairings in its first class of the “Generation Ganassi” driver identification and mentor program.

The program is aimed to help drivers between 13 and 18 chart their way through the world of auto racing. It partners the driver with one current CGRT driver, a CGRT racing competition person and someone from CGRT business operations.

The application process opened Friday and will close on Jan. 31 with the class being announced next March.

Candidates must complete an online application process including basic background questions and a brief video essay answering why they should be selected to enter the program. Submission of a video that highlights their racing achievements, interaction with family and friends and personality is also encouraged.

“I think one of the things for me that was extremely important growing up was to understand how to behave, how to talk to the media, how to talk to the sponsors,” Kanaan said. “If you’re born with the talent, you have the talent. That’s imminent. But nowadays, it’s such a competitive field that you have to have something more. I think with an organization like this, the kids can benefit from a lot, just not taking to all of the drivers that we have but experiencing different series that we have.”

Kanaan, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, will serve as mentor to the 2013 Canadian National Junior champion in karting who is part of Carlin’s efforts in the FIA Formula 4 Championship.

“Overall I think this a great opportunity, professionally,” Defrancesco said. “To be watched by a team such as Chip Ganassi, who is so renowned in motorsports due to them competing on multiple fronts and I feel very grateful for this opportunity and everything that’s been done for me so far.”

But his relationship with Kanaan is not a new one.

While Kanaan says Ganassi had his eye on Defrancesco “for quite a bit,” the IndyCar driver has been working with him since he was 8 and racing a go kart at Homestead-Miami Speedway, 50 minutes from where Kanaan lives.

“I remember going to the Florida Winter Series, it happens every January,” Kanaan said. “I was just watching and asked, ‘Who is that kid?’ At the time he was 8 years old and a crazy 8 year old. I have an 8 year old right now and I’m kind of glad he’s not as fast as Devlin was because I would have a heart attack.”

Kanaan told Defrancesco then that he didn’t think he had the money to be a sponsor but that “If I can give you any advice when you’re going through the experiences I’ve been through and try to guide you through your career, I’m up for it.”

Defrancesco took the opportunity with “two hands.”

Kanaan believes there’s plenty of driver talent to be found, but that auto racing as an industry can be “so ungrateful sometimes” compared to other sports.

“If you’re a basketball player and you’re really good, you’re going to make it to the NBA, one way or another,” Kanaan said. “In racing how many guys are probably better than Tony Kanaan or better than Kyle Larson or Jamie McMurray, but they never got the opportunity? …  We’re not going to be able to discover all of them.”

But every year, 10 hopeful drivers will be.

Supercross: Enzo Lopes will race with ClubMX in 2024

Lopes ClubMX 2024
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Coming off his best Supercross season to date, Enzo Lopes has re-signed with Muc-Off / ClubMX Yamaha and will race for the team in 2024. The deal is for Supercross only.

Enzo Lopes won his heat race in Denver and finished fourth in the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

Lopes debuted in the Supercross series in 2019 on a Suzuki and scored his first top-10 finishes in his last two starts of that season. Showing consistent improvement, he earned six top-10s in eight Main events the following year and finished fifth in the 250 East standings. In 2022, he scored his first top-five at Daytona and finished in the top five in points again.

“I am happy to be returning to ClubMX for another season,” Lopes said in a press release. “It is like family to me there and that is very important. Although I had many options, staying where I am makes the most sense for many reasons. The bikes are great, the people are great, the tracks are amazing, and I am surrounded by people that care about me. We all want to win and together we will get there.”

While he improved his season-best performance by only one position this year, it was nevertheless a breakout season. Lopes barely missed the podium three times in 2023 with fourth-place finishes at San Diego, Seattle, and Denver.

His strong performance him rumored to be speaking with factory teams.

“We could see the growth from Enzo every time he gets on the bike,” said team owner Brandon Haas. “We all knew it was just a matter of time before he would be noticed by everyone, and we are proud of him on many levels. He had some heat race wins and qualified fastest at three events this season. It would be hard not to be noticed going that fast. He had a big decision to make and we are glad he chose to stay with us at ClubMX.”

Lopes had three podium finishes in heat races this year, including a win preceding his fourth-place finish in Denver.

Lopes will join Jeremy Martin, Phil Nicoletti and Garrett Marchbanks, who announced a two-year extension with the team in January, at the ClubMX team.