Chip Ganassi Racing Teams’ reunification with Honda Performance Development is proving to be seamless so far.
After spending three seasons and scoring the Verizon IndyCar Series championship in 2015 with Chevrolet, the Ganassi organization has returned to the manufacturer that has delivered 78 of the team’s 102 Indy car wins as well as nine championships.
The team officially began its third stint with Honda when driver Tony Kanaan took part Thursday in a test at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill. Kanaan has enjoyed an equally successful relationship with Honda for all but one season from 1998-2011, scoring the 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series championship and 15 of his 17 career wins with Honda power.
Having success with both manufacturers, including a 2013 Indianapolis 500 win with Chevrolet, Kanaan feels indebted to both manufacturers and supports the team’s decision.
“I won the championship with Honda and won Indy with Chevy,” Kanaan said at Gateway. “I’m grateful for both of them.
“It was a choice that the team made (to return to Honda). I support them 100 percent. I always had a great relationship with them and am happy to be back.”
While change in any situation can be difficult, Kanaan noted that his familiarity with the people at HPD has helped make the changeover less stressful.
“It makes it a lot easier,” he said. “It’s the same people we can relate to. Some of the engine guys are the same guys that we worked together back in the Champ Car days, not even INDYCAR.
“You can just pick back up and you know everybody’s name already. It’s not like a new classroom where you’re like, ‘This is all new friends.’ It’s a lot of people that I know. It’s great, I think actually it makes it good for competition as well.”
CGRT and Honda first teamed up in CART in 1996, with immediate success. Ganassi drivers Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997-98) and Juan Pablo Montoya (1999) reeled off four consecutive championship seasons. Ganassi switched to Toyota in 2000, joining the Verizon IndyCar Series along the way in 2003.
The team was reunited with Honda in 2006 and enjoyed another run of success through 2013 that totaled 48 wins – including three at the Indianapolis 500 – and five more season championships. Mike Hull, managing director of Chip Ganassi Racing, noted that the team’s success with HPD in the past is key in making the transition successful.
“We’re in the infancy stage at this moment, to be honest,” Hull said. “The reality is that Chip Ganassi Racing has a great history with HPD, Honda of America, Honda of Japan, and our technical groups seem to match up together.”
Hull added that the change will challenge the team to keep getting better in the years ahead.
“I think it helps us evaluate ourselves more fully, it allows us to look at technology that is slightly different from where we’ve been,” Hull said. “I think moving forward it is a terrific partnership for several years.”