After coming close to signing with Chip Ganassi in 2008, Tony Kanaan has finally inked his first contract with the team. But the reigning Indy 500 winner won't be partnering with his close friend Dario Franchitti or the other Ganassi open-wheel drivers in the IndyCar Series.
The 2004 IndyCar champion will share the No. 02 Riley-BMW Daytona Prototype with 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona winner Joey Hand at the Grand-Am Rolex Series race on the Indianapolis road course on July 26, giving the defending Indy 500 winner a chance to win his second race at IMS in a span of three months.
NTT Data, which sponsored Ganassi's Indy 500 program for Ryan Briscoe, will support the No. 02 car in a one-off at the Brickyard Grand Prix.
“Any day that you're invited to drive at Indianapolis is a good day, especially with a top team like [Ganassi],” said TK. “Not a lot of drivers have the chance to race twice at Indy on the same year, so I'm obviously excited about driving the No. 02 NTT Data car during the Brickyard weekend and putting on a good show for the fans. I would like to thank NTT Data, Chip and everyone at the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates for this opportunity.”
Currently sixth in points, Kanaan and his KV Racing team are on a two-week break between IndyCar events, allowing the 38-year-old to make his second Rolex Series start of the season after racing in the GT category at Daytona. And with TK in the final year of his contract with KV, it would be tempting to draw a conclusion from his one-race stint with Ganassi, but RACER is told a return to KV is the most likely outcome for Kanaan in 2014.
For Hand, the factory BMW DTM driver who won the Rolex 24 while driving for Ganassi, racing at Indy has been a lifelong goal.
“It's big!” he told RACER. “Number one, I get to be back with Chip Ganassi and that always means you have a chance to win. It's especially exciting to be at Indy; it's my first time racing anything there, and to be there with Tony, the Indy 500 champion, is just amazing.”
Hand spent his early years working up through the open-wheel ladder trying to become an Indy car driver, and looks forward to sharing a car with one of his heroes.
“Tony and I actually go way back,” he revealed. “We had dinner once when I was coming up in the sport, and since them, we've always kept in touch and now I get to go racing with him…with a team that wants to win, and that's everything I could dream of having. I'm a really happy guy.”