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Saturday, March 13, 2010

IndyCar Season Preview: Chip Ganassi Racing

There's not much left for one to say about the team that has won the past two IZOD IndyCar Series championships, or the drivers that have combined for the past three, other than the fact that winning is no longer an achievement, it's expected. Such is the case for Chip Ganassi Racing and drivers Scott Dixon (2008 champion) and Dario Franchitti (2007 and 2009 champion).

Ganassi cars won 10 of the series' 17 races last year and took 1-2 in the final standings, with Franchitti on top despite missing a year of competition in a failed NASCAR experiment. The title fight went down to the wire at Homestead, where Franchitti took the honors by conserving more fuel than his teammate - exactly how things played out in 2007 when the two drove for different teams. For the fourth consecutive year, neither Ganassi car finished worse than fourth in points, and for the first time, both Ganassi drivers eclipsed the 600-point total. All in all, the team had a dominant season.

There's not much to say about Ganassi, except that many are hoping he can put together a third full-time car for Graham Rahal. Ganassi admits to having tried to do so, but has cautioned that he isn't made of money. Rahal's sponsor last year, McDonald's, did join Ganassi in NASCAR, however, so there is the distinct possibility that he could pull some strings to reunite the two.

No third car at Ganassi has ever been quite as strong as the first two, but it'd be difficult anyway when the other two cars carry as much clout as Ganassi's lead teams. They may not finish 1-2 again this year, but neither will be any worse than outside the top five, so don't expect much change at the top. Many are saying that the title is Franchitti's to lose, after his successful "defense" despite a yearlong break. He could easily become the first driver to win back-to-back IndyCar titles since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2001 and 2002.

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