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.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III