IndyCar

IndyCar: Chip Ganassi Racing 2018 Review

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Editor’s note: For nearly the last two weeks, MotorSportsTalk has reviewed how each organization in the IndyCar Series performed in 2018 and also took a look ahead to 2019.

The teams we featured included Juncos RacingMeyer Shank RacingCarlin Racing, Harding Racing, AJ Foyt Racing, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser SullivanDale Coyne Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Schmidt Peterson MotorsportsTeam Penske and Andretti Autosport.

We conclude the series today with 2018 IndyCar championship-winning Chip Ganassi Racing.

Chip Ganassi Racing 2018 Season Review

Chip Ganassi Racing had an outstanding year. Not only did Scott Dixon earn his fifth career IndyCar championship – making him only the second driver ever (and the first in 51 years) to win five titles – but Chip Ganassi also claimed his 12th championship as an IndyCar team owner.

The organization expects very few changes during the off-season, with the exception of a driver change in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda. Ed Jones is out after one season and replacing him for 2019 will be Swedish native and former Formula E driver Felix Rosenqvist.

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SCOTT DIXON

Team name: No. 9 PNC Bank/NTT Data Honda

Years in IndyCar: 18 seasons (2 in CART, 16 in IndyCar)

Career wins and podium finishes: 44 (1 CART, 43 IndyCar) and 105 (3 CART, 102 IndyCar)

Best career single season finish: First place (all IndyCar in 2003, 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2018)

2018 final standing: 1st (IndyCar Series champion)

2018 final stats: 3 wins, 9 podiums, 0 poles

2018 best race finish: 1st (Belle Isle I, Texas, Toronto)

SEASON WRAPUP: Dixon cemented his name and reputation as the best IndyCar driver of at least the last two decades with his fifth career IndyCar championship in 2018. He never panicked or got flustered late in the season when Alexander Rossi, Will Power and 2017 season champ Josef Newgarden were chasing him. Dixon lived up to his nickname of “The Iceman” to the core. He simply went out and did his job, supported by one of the most underrated support teams on and off pit-road in the sport.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: At the age of 38, and with championships in three of the last six seasons (as well as third-place finishes in two of the other three seasons), Dixon just keeps getting better and better. He’s definitely in the prime of his career and is a strong contender to win another one, two or maybe even three more championships before he eventually retires. Only A.J. Foyt has more titles – seven. But Foyt has 67 career wins to 44 by Dixon.

QUOTE (following the season-ending and championship-clinching race at Sonoma): I can’t thank everybody enough – the team, my teammate (Ed Jones), everybody involved. This doesn’t come without a lot of hard work. We had a lot of grit. … Rossi did a hell of a job, he’s been pushing so hard this year. He’s a huge talent and one that’s going to win many championships throughout his career. I’m just stoked for everybody. And Chip, this is mega, man. Their 12th (championship). … Man, this is so awesome! I can’t believe that it’s actually happened. You always feel these situations so much that it’s never going to happen. I can’t thank everybody enough for this, it’s so cool.”

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ED JONES

Team name: No. 10 NTT Data Honda

Years in IndyCar: 2

Career wins and podium finishes: 0 and 3

Best career single season finish: 13th (2018)

2018 final standing: 13th

2018 final stats: 0 wins, 2 podiums, 0 poles

2018 best race finish: 3rd (Belle Isle II)

SEASON WRAPUP: The 2016 Indy Lights champion and native of Dubai, Arab Emirates, drove for his second team in as many years (Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and CGR in 2017). He had some strong runs, including Long Beach and Belle Isle I (finished 3rd in both races). His performance fell back between Iowa and Pocono, but he rallied for top-10 finishes in two of the last three races (8th at Gateway and 10th in the season finale at Sonoma). Overall, he showed signs of progress and improved from his 14th place season finish (with just one podium) in 2017 with DCR.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Jones has been replaced in the No. 10 CGR ride for next season by Swedish native and former Formula E driver Felix Rosenqvist. Jones remains a free agent as of this writing. There are only a few seats still open for the 2019 IndyCar season, but Jones showed enough in 2018 that he should get a chance to improve even more in 2019. There is a rumor that at least one team is very interested in him, but no deal has been consummated as yet.

QUOTE (following the season finale at Sonoma): “It’s been a difficult year on the whole. We’ve had some very good runs but we’ve also been extremely unlucky, with several things that didn’t go our way and six races where we hemorrhaged points due to reasons ranging from punctures to mechanical issues and a couple of crashes – one of them while I was running second close to the end. Without that, I’m fairly confident we would have finished inside the top eight in the drivers’ table, and when you consider that six of the top seven overall are former champions, that would have been a pretty decent outcome. On the positive side, I’ve learned so much from working alongside both Scott and Dario (driving coach and 4-time IndyCar champ Dario Franchitti) and the opportunity to draw upon their wealth of combined experience – and I’m a stronger driver for that.”

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View from the pits: Reporters’ picks for the 103rd Indianapolis 500

INDYCAR / Jason Porter
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It’s Race Day in Indianapolis, and for the first time, the Indianapolis 500 will be on NBC.

Time will tell what impact Mother Nature has on today’s 103rd Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. But no matter what, prerace coverage begins today on NBCSN at 9 a.m. ET, then transitions over to NBC at 11 a.m. ET.

All month long, the INDYCAR on NBC pit reporters have been bringing you the latest breaking news and stories for the Brickyard. Now, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast and Marty Snider share their insights from pit road. Read on …

KEVIN LEE

Throughout the last two weeks, one common theme has been, “Don’t crash.” There were five crashes, and four of those teams/drivers ended up in the Last Row Shootout. Two of the three bumped (Patricio O’Ward and Fernando Alonso) were in backup cars following heavy impacts.

Several drivers have consistently been among the strongest. Simon Pagenaud (pictured, left) not only starts on pole but has been strong in race trim as well. All three Ed Carpenter Racing cars are fast and appear good in traffic. Alexander Rossi looks like he can put his car wherever he wants, and Scott Dixon has five championships and 44 IndyCar wins, so he must be watched.

In order, my picks for most likely to drink the milk are Pagenaud, Rossi, Ed Carpenter, Will Power and Dixon.

KELLI STAVAST

A week ago, no one could have predicted that two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and McLaren Racing would be bumped from the Indy 500 by a single-car, part-time effort of Juncos Racing and its driver, Kyle Kaiser (pictured, right).  But it happened, and Kaiser now occupies the 33rd and final spot in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

So what next?  I spoke with Kyle five days after the dramatic qualifying effort, and he told me he has never been happier to finish last and that he is still “buzzing” from that experience—an energy he hopes to carry straight through to the race.  He also told me that the response from fans has been positive with people stopping him in public (including at Chipotle) to hug him and congratulate him on making the Big Show.

But reality might have set in for the Californian who now lives in Indy.  During Carb Day’s final practice, the team struggled to get a good handling car for Kyle, who described the day as “challenging.”  But Kaiser also acknowledged that the team made some progress throughout the practice and at the very least collected some data that might help for the 500-miler on Sunday.

Whether he finishes 1st or 31st on Sunday, Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing will have plenty of fond memories to carry with them from the 103rd Indy 500.

MARTY SNIDER

First, we cannot wait to bring you guys the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. It’s an honor for our entire group to broadcast such an amazing event.

So what do we expect? I have no idea, to be honest. The weather will be a huge factor today. It might be a race to halfway if rain is forecast.  If it’s cooler (mid 70’s ambient, which it looks like it’s going to be), Alexander Rossi (pictured, left) was unstoppable in those conditions last Monday.

But Rossi was very unhappy with his car on Carb Day. For that matter, most teams were. But Rob Edwards of Andretti Autosport explained a few things to Rossi about all of the experimenting they were doing in final practice, and I think that team is in a much better frame of mind heading into the race.

I find it interesting that Simon Pagenaud’s team scuffed in literally every set of tires they will use for today’s race. The No. 22 camp is convinced (and they’re not wrong) that one of the keys to Will Power’s 2018 win was his ability to gain time on out laps after pit stops. Scuffing in tires helps that out lap time. It also allows teams to do a balance check on tires. Good thing they did: Kyle Moyer of Team Penske found two sets that had vibrations, which would have been bad in the race.

Bottom line, I haven’t seen anyone really stand out and show me they can beat Alexander Rossi yet. So I’m going with Rossi to win his second Indy 500.

Enjoy the show friends. It’s going to be a fantastic race!