TORONTO, Ontario, Canada — Story by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell – Robert Laberge/Getty Images photo – 2014 has been an unexpected down year for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, with no victories and few podiums, however with four races remaining in the season one of their veteran leaders, Tony Kanaan, has begun to turn the corner.
After a successful Toronto Grand Prix weekend Kanaan has notched a total of four podiums this season, including three straight. Despite the run of consistency, the ultimate goal still hangs in the balance – winning races.
“We still have a little bit to improve if we want to win races, but we’re heading in the right direction,” Kanaan explained after climbing from his racecar. “The team (is) struggling, but we’ve found different things. There is a lot of responsibility on our end, because I think Target gave us the budget to do everything, so we need to perform. Everybody is working really hard. I really want to give Chip a win so bad and Target (as well).”
Kanaan, 39, inherited his current ride at Chip Ganassi Racing after long time Ganassi driver Dario Franchitti was involved in a horrific crash last season, forcing him into retirement on the advice of his doctors. Since the transition over from KV Racing Kanaan has been held winless, something the former series champion is not worried about. Kanaan understands only time can help him return to championship form.
“I had a big responsibility at the beginning of the year replacing Dario (Franchitti),” Kanaan expressed. “That team was built around him. It was very unexpected, his retirement, so it takes time. Takes time to get to know people, takes time to get the chemistry together. You know, you have an engineer like Chris (Simmons), who worked with Dario for the past seven years, like I had Eric (Cowdin) for the past 12 (years). It’s takes time (to win races). The team was struggling, we found different things.”
“I feel much more confident and more comfortable now with the team, working with Chris and those things take time. Unfortunately, time is not what we have the luxury to have in racing. So, hopefully we can keep the momentum up and finish the season strong.”
Franchitti, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and four-time series champion, is now assisting Ganassi’s organization — something that has been helpful for Kanaan in the cockpit and in the transition to a new scenery this season.
“It’s great to have him (Franchitti),” Kanaan stated. “He’s a guy I can go to, he’s so fresh, he’s driven this car and some of my decisions at sometimes I’m not 100 percent secure, I always go to him. Like, ‘What should we do; should we start with red tires, black?’ And some of the things about the set-up that’s awesome. He has a good feel.”
“He happens to sit in my timing stand but he’s helping others as well, so I think it was the best investment Chip made to keep him around and I use him a lot. I really like it I’m getting used to having him around. He doesn’t come to all the races, so I missed him in some of the races in the past but he was a huge help this weekend.”
Regardless, Kanaan understands that in spite of Franchitti’s help it’s up to him in these final four races to score his first win with Ganassi and begin building his path toward a second career driver’s championship next season.