Verizon IndyCar Series drivers were asked to rank the five most interesting storylines leading into the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg that opens the 2017 season on March 12. Today, we feature the last of those five.
No. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing’s move from Chevrolet to Honda
Yes, this is No. 1 on the list of interesting stories leading into the season, largely because it has such far-reaching effects.
It could lift Scott Dixon to a fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship. It could help Tony Kanaan win a second Indianapolis 500. Maybe it takes Charlie Kimball or Max Chilton up a few steps in the point standings. Maybe it allows Honda to overtake Chevrolet.
Or, and let’s be honest here, it could be a hindrance to those goals and have no impact on the manufacturers’ battle if the transition takes longer than expected.
The fact of the matter is, the switch in powerplant and aero kit partner is interesting across all platforms. That’s why Verizon IndyCar Series drivers hotly debated its relevance before slightly slotting it ahead of Josef Newgarden’s move to Team Penske as the season’s most impactful story. The drivers know that Ganassi in an opposite-side-of-the-aisle fight with Penske is like taking in a Yankees-Red Sox battle for the American League pennant.
For the record: Chip Ganassi’s drivers have won six Verizon IndyCar Series championships since unification in 2008, compared to just two for Roger Penske’s operation. Andretti Autosport won the other, in 2012. However, Team Penske has won two of the past three and finished 1-2-3 in last year’s standings (and added Newgarden this year as a fourth gun in the arsenal). There’s no denying how much that stings at Ganassi headquarters.
The Ganassi and Newgarden stories received the same number of first-place votes from drivers – 10 each – but the deciding factor was Ganassi’s move affects more people. The next 17 races will determine which has a greater impact on the series championship.
Past top storylines: No. 5, Sebastien Bourdais; No. 4, Takuma Sato; No. 3, AJ Foyt Racing; No. 2, Josef Newgarden.