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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Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

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Michelin North America has named Tony Ménard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Ménard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, Ménard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. Ménard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”