Chip Ganassi Racing Teams announced Friday morning the signing of Tony Kanaan and the switch of engine manufacturers from Honda to Chevrolet in 2014.
The Brazilian will run with NTT DATA sponsorship, an organization he partnered with to run a Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Daytona Prototype entry at the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series' Brickyard Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July. NTT DATA was also the primary sponsor on Ryan Briscoe's Chip Ganassi Racing ride in last May's Indianapolis 500.
Kanaan, a free agent following a his third season with KV Racing Technology, was courted by numerous teams over the past few months and received offers from at least two, Ganassi and KVRT. The 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion, who signed what is believed to be a multi-year agreement, will fill the fourth seat in the Ganassi IndyCar stable alongside longtime friend Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, and Charlie Kimball.
“It is not all the time that you can find yourself as an owner with drivers that represent seven championships, five Indianapolis 500 victories and over 75 wins," said Chip Ganassi. "That feels pretty good. I think TK will add a lot to this organization, not only from his talent behind the wheel but also from his leadership skills off the track.
Kanaan's departure from KVRT leaves an open and fully funded 2014 seat available. The team has made an offer to Andretti Autosport free agent and three-time race winner James Hinchcliffe. Hinch, however, is still in negotiations with Andretti's team with a decision expected in the coming weeks. Once the Hinchcliffe domino falls, the fate of other free agent drivers Sebatien Bourdais, Oriol Servia, Simona De Silvestro, Justin Wilson, James Jakes and others will be determined.
"Tony Kanaan is an outstanding driver, a great teammate and a good friend. Over the last three years he has demonstrated his professionalism and more importantly, this year brought KV Racing Technology - SH Racing its first Indianapolis 500 victory," said KVRT in an e-mail statement. "The entire organization wishes him the best as he moves forward with his career. KV - SH Racing is and will continue to pursue negotiations with several top drivers and looks forward to competing for race wins and championships in the coming years."
Announced just moments before the Kanaan news, Chevrolet sent a press release announcing the addition of the four-car Ganassi team to the manufacturer's 2014 lineup. Ganassi becomes just the second team to formally announce an engine designation for next season, joining Schmidt Peterson Motorsports who announced a return to Honda in August.
“This decision makes a lot of sense for us for a number of reasons,” said Ganassi. “We feel Chevrolet has done a great job in their return to the IndyCar Series and because of our existing relationship with them in NASCAR. There are a lot of synergies that we will be able to realize in working with the same manufacturer across the two series. We are thrilled.”
Switching from a single turbocharger two the now required twin-turbos next season, Honda released the following statement on the move:
“On behalf of everyone at Honda, I’d like to thank Chip Ganassi and the entire Ganassi Racing organization for their efforts in our very successful, eight -year partnership in the Indy Racing League and INDYCAR, which included four driver’s championships, three Indianapolis 500 victories and more than 40 individual race wins since 2006.
“It may be worth noting that when our previous – and also very successful – association with the Ganassi organization in Championship Auto Racing Teams competition ended after the 1999 season, Honda went on to win 15 races over the next two seasons, including both the 2000 and 2001 driver’s championship, and the 2001 Manufacturers’ Championship.
“While this partnership is coming to an end, Honda and Honda Performance Development remain committed to achieving even greater IndyCar success in the future with our continuing and new partner teams. While Honda and the Ganassi organization are going our separate ways, we remain committed to winning the 2013 Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ championships, and our collective efforts for the final three races will be entirely focused on accomplishing those objectives.” - Art St. Cyr, President, Honda Performance Debelopment.