Ganassi switch to Honda could create serious competition with Chevrolet — finally – Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS — The offseason reunion of Chip Ganassi Racing and Honda Performance Development created something for the two leading manufacturers that the Verizon IndyCar Series has not seen for quite some time: serious competition.
With Ganassi signing a multiyear deal to reignite its Honda partnership for the 2017 season and beyond, Honda and Chevy are now more evenly divided competitively than in years past when Honda took a backseat. Honda now fields a two-car advantage, despite A.J. Foyt Racing switching two cars to Chevy.
Now, two of the top dogs in — Ganassi Racing and Team Penske — stand on opposite sides of the street in terms of manufacturers and enter the season presenting Honda and Chevrolet a fair and fighting chance to validate the performance and quality of its brand.
This should be fun.
“Oh, I think it’s going to be the biggest battle of the year,” said Ganassi driver Tony Kanaan, who won the 2013 Indianapolis 500 in a Chevy. “Chevy has won the manufacturer’s championship the past five years, so Honda is not happy about that, and that’s probably one of the reasons that we’re back with them. That’s going to be their goal.”
Kanaan is right; the battle was widely unbalanced last season with Chevrolet winning 14 of 16 races. Honda seized the 100th running of the Indy 500, finishing 1-2, as well as winning the 500 in 2012 and 2014. Otherwise, it has fallen short to Chevrolet in recent years.
The change comes after the Ganassi endured a near-fruitless 2016 campaign. Scott Dixon won races in Phoenix and Watkins Glen, the lone victories for Ganassi.
“Chevrolet was more of a turnkey operation, and they offered quite a bit of support,” Dixon said. “Honda is a little more raw, but can be tailored quite a lot. I think that’s definitely a big change from what we’ve had for the last three years, but I also think that’s good for motivation.”
The transition also presents Ganassi with a steeper learning curve and requires a back-to-the-basics approach, which Dixon doesn’t think is a bad thing after “such a bad season” in 2016. Dixon, a four-time series champion, finished sixth in the standings, the first time in 11 years he wasn’t in the top four.
After examining the basics, though, Ganassi drivers are already echoing the words of other Honda drivers in boasting about the superior qualities present in Honda, particularly in terms of torque.
“I think we’ve made the right decision, especially because the Indianapolis 500 is the thing everyone wants to win,” Ganassi driver Max Chilton said, “and that’s the stronger engine for that race.”
The first glimpse at how each manufacturer will fare comes next month during the preseason open test at Phoenix International Raceway on Feb. 10-11. The first race of the season is March 12 at St. Petersburg. Fla.
Power adjusting well to fatherhood
Team Penske driver Will Power’s offseason has only gotten busier since the birth of his first son over the holidays. Power’s wife, Elizabeth Cannon, gave birth to Beau William Power in late December, weighing at 9 pounds, 4 ounces and measuring 21 inches. Ever since, Power has been training in the arts of crib-building and the diaper pit stop.
“It’s like dropping a wheel nut,” Power said of changing his son’s diaper. “It’s like, ‘Oh God, again, no.’ But yeah, you get good at it. Lift the legs up, put it under there, tabs. It’s unbelievable, such a little thing needs so much maintenance. It’s unbelievable. There’s nothing else on earth that requires so much attention at a young age.”
NAPA backs Rossi again
Andretti Autosport on Wednesday announced NAPA Auto Parts would pair again with reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi for a seven-race, co-primary sponsor during the 2017 season. NAPA and Rossi, who joined forces for the 100th running of the 500, will reunite for Andretti’s No. 98 car for the season opener in St. Petersburg. Rossi also will bear the sponsorship for races in Long Beach, Indianapolis, Road America, Watkins Glen and Sonoma.
Hinchcliffe insists he ‘still can’t dance’
James Hinchcliffe understands why his stint on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” might lead people — even his girlfriend — to assume he has become a great dancer, but he wants to make it clear: He still cannot dance.
“What people don’t realize is, unless it’s that very song and that same routine and I have a professional on the other side … I don’t know the woman’s steps in any of the routines. I can’t actually do it,” Hinchcliffe said. “I could do it for 90 second a week in a very specific set of circumstances, but basically (my girlfriend) and I have to go to dance lessons. I still can’t dance.”
Follow IndyStar reporter Jordan J. Wilson on Twitter: @Wilsonable07.