Graham Rahal says he hopes his new deal with Ganassi will be the start of a long relationship with the hugely successful IndyCar team.
Ganassi announced on Thursday that it would run two additional cars in 2011 for Rahal and Indy Lights graduate Charlie Kimball, alongside its established Target-backed lineup of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon. The team has won the last two titles with Franchitti, and also took Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Alex Zanardi and Jimmy Vasser to championship success in IndyCar or Champ Car.
"When you look at the history of this team, there is no one that's been better," said Rahal. "So for me, it's the perfect opportunity to come in and hopefully expand on a very young career.
"I hope that I can be here a long, long time. Of course, you need to succeed to do that, and I think that all of the tools and the people are in place to make that happen."
Team boss Chip Ganassi said he saw Rahal and Kimball as the "next generation" of potential champions for his squad.
"I think to have Charlie and Graham is a big, big shot in the arm for our team," said Ganassi. "I'm certainly not throwing out Dixon and Franchitti by any stretch. But these guys probably represent the next generation of drivers who are coming in and going to be around IndyCar racing for a long time. So what better than to get started now for a couple of guys who want to learn from two veterans like Scott and Dario? It's just a good opportunity for us."
After losing his full-time Newman/Haas drive last winter due to a sponsorship shortfall, 21-year-old Rahal had an episodic 2010 season that saw him appear with Sarah Fisher Racing, Rahal Letterman, Dreyer & Reinbold and Newman/Haas, though he eventually managed to contest all but five rounds. He said that securing a place in Ganassi's new second team was a relief after this year's uncertainty – but accepted that he now had to really deliver to justify the opportunity he had been given.
"I feel like especially coming off the year that I've just been through, it's a huge relief to find a home with a team of this quality," said Rahal. "Certainly, time and time again [Ganassi] has been the best in this series. And as Chip mentioned, to have guys like Dario and Dixon to learn from, I don't think there is a better combination. You have five championships and countless race wins between them.
"It's a huge relief, and it's a great step forward in my career. Certainly now that the work really starts as far as making sure that we can fill the shoes that have been left before us here."