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Double dip of testing for Ganassi lies ahead in Florida this week

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Chip Ganassi Racing Teams will have all eight of its cars split between its Verizon IndyCar Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship programs testing in Florida this week, with four cars each at two typical Florida winter testing hotbeds.

Per the team, the four-car Honda-powered IndyCar program will test on Thursday at Sebring International Raceway’s short course, in a makeup test for one affected by rain in December.

Then on Friday, the four-car Ford GT Le Mans program in the WeatherTech Championship will hit the high banks of Daytona International Speedway as part of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test.

CGR’s IndyCar driver roster – Charlie Kimball, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Max Chilton – will all be back behind the wheel on the road course Thursday at Sebring. This will be Kimball and Chilton’s first test in an IndyCar since the end of the season at Sonoma on Sept. 18.

The test will take place one day before the start of the Roar (Jan. 6-8), as Dixon and Kanaan will head north to Daytona to take up their roles in two of the four Ford GTs.

Kimball, who made the 100th start of his IndyCar career in the 2016 season-ending event at Sonoma, took to Instagram to reveal how much he is looking forward to getting some laps in, after a busy offseason filled with a number of partner events for Novo Nordisk.

As noted above, CGR had originally planned to test last month at Sebring along with Dale Coyne Racing, but the event was rained out. Coyne will make up days at Sebring later this month.

Here’s a quick recap of 2016 for the CGR drivers:

* Four-time IndyCar champ Scott Dixon was unable to defend his 2015 title, finishing sixth in 2016. Dixon had two wins, four podiums and two poles. And while his average start (6.2) was fairly consistent from previous seasons, his average finish (9.8) was his lowest since 2005 (14.4).

* Kanaan’s results have been better than his ultimate championship position the last three years, as he’s gone seventh, eighth and seventh since 2014. He looks to end a winless streak that dates to 2014 and finished on the podium twice last year.

* Kimball turns 32 on February 20. Even though he failed to win a race, finish on the podium or claim a pole, he still ended 2016 with his best IndyCar season finish ever: tied for eighth. He also had career bests for average start (10.9) and average finish (9.2).

* A rookie last season, Chilton returns for his sophomore campaign for CGR and in the IndyCar Series, looking for significant improvement over his rookie season in 2016: finished 19th, 0 wins, 0 podiums, 0 poles, led just two laps (of 1,903), average start (13.9), average finish (16.1), nine lead-lap finishes.

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Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

IndyCar.com
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Hunter McElrea bested 18 competitors to win the third annual Road to Indy USF2000 $200,000 Scholarship Shootout on Sunday at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

The two-day contest featured on-track competition in Formula Mazda cars as well as interview sessions and assessment from a panel of judges.

“I can’t believe it,” McElrea said at IndyCar.com. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true.

“They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit.

“I am just so happy. It is still sinking in, but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”

MORE: Michael Carter wins Mazda Road to 24 shootout

The 19-year-old McElrea was born in California, but reared in Australia.

As a result of winning the award, McElrea will compete in the 2019 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

McElrea won the Australian Formula Ford Championship this year on the strength of 13 victories in 21 races.

Early competition resulted in a final field of six drivers that included Jake Craig, Michael Eastwell, Braden Eves, Flinn Lazier and Ross Martin. They competed in a qualification session and 30-minute simulated race. McElrea won that race.

“Today was an incredible day,” said Tom Long, Mazda Motorsports factory driver and one of the judges. “There was so much talent here for the shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult.

“In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200,000 scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”