As had been widely anticipated, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams announced Thursday that it is creating a new satellite IndyCar team, Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing, to contest the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series. Graham Rahal will lead the team, driving the No. 38 Service Central Dallara-Honda backed by TBC Retail Group. A second car, No. 83, will be driven by Firestone Indy Lights racer Charlie Kimball, with backing from Novo Nordisk, a world leader in diabetes care – a disease with which Kimball has had to overcome to pursue a racing career. The new entries will be housed in a separate race shop from the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team, which will continue to field IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon.
At the Homestead finale in October, TBC Retail Group announced it concluded a multi-year spokesperson and sponsorship association with Rahal to represent its family of tire and automotive retail brands, which include; Service Central, Tire Kingdom, NTB-National Tire and Battery, Merchant's Tire and Auto Centers and Big O Tires.
"This is the kind of opportunity every driver dreams of," said Rahal. "I have been working diligently, specifically over the past several months, to get into one of Chip's Indy cars, and now that dream has become a reality with the help of Service Central, and many others.
"Chip's 2010 season was definitely one for the ages – 19 wins, Indianapolis (twice), Daytona, another IndyCar Series Championship, I could go on and on– but like Chip often says, I'm looking forward to the next race, which is in St. Petersburg in March. I'm thrilled to be a part of this great organization and look forward to making the most out of this opportunity.”
Rahal, still just 21, has made 60 starts in the top levels of American open-wheel racing. He has one win, two poles, 12 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes, with 59 laps led.
The Novo Nordisk deal enables American racer Kimball, 25, to become one of the first drivers from the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights series to move up the official "Road to Indy" with a full season sponsorship. Kimball finished fourth in Indy Lights points this season, with four second-place finishes. He will become the first licensed driver with type 1 diabetes to race in IndyCar.
"We have sponsored Charlie for the past two seasons in the Firestone Indy Lights series and seen his development not only as a racecar driver, but also as a role model to thousands of people with diabetes," said Camille Lee, Vice president of diabetes marketing at Novo Nordisk. "We are excited to join Chip and the entire Ganassi organization to ensure Charlie's success not only on the racetrack, but also with Novo Nordisk to show that diabetes does not have to get in the way of your dreams."
Diagnosed with diabetes in 2007, Kimball monitors his blood sugar before, during and after each race.
"I am honored to join Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing and excited to be moving up to the IZOD IndyCar Series," said Kimball. "This is a dream come true and I am very proud to work with Novo Nordisk and continue to spread the message that diabetes does not have to slow you down."
Team owner Chip Ganassi, who now runs four cars in the IZOD IndyCar Series as well as teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Grand-Am Rolex Series, said the expansion was part of a natural development of his racing programs.
“It's no secret that we're always looking for ways to get better and expand our racing programs," Ganassi said. "Finding new ways to get better or go faster is what this business is all about, really. Graham has shown us all over the past few years that he can be a frontrunner in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and I welcome both him and Service Central to our racing program for 2011. This should create some excitement for the series both on and off the track.”
He said that the association with Kimball was also a natural progression.
“Many don't realize this, but we have had a relationship with Charlie for a number of years now," Ganassi added. "I have been keeping close tabs on him and his successes in racing from afar for a while now – whether he was racing in Formula 3 in Europe, or running in the Firestone Indy Lights Series the past few seasons. We're excited to have the opportunity to turn this longstanding relationship into a reality with Charlie and Novo Nordisk.”
The new team will be housed in a facility leased from drag racing legend Don Prudhomme in Brownsburg, Ind. Mitch Davis will be the team manager and Target Chip Ganassi managing director Mike Hull will oversee the program. Prudhomme, who was on hand for the announcement at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, indicated he may become more involved in 2012 as the IZOD IndyCar Series introduces its new car and engine platforms.
The addition of Rahal and Kimball brings the number of Americans set for full-time IndyCar rides to seven for 2011, up from three this year.