Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

2018 IndyCar Preview: Chip Ganassi Racing

By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer

With the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season rapidly approaching, Motorsports Tribune is previewing each of the teams competing on the tour. The site’s IndyCar staff will break each team down, laying out their results from the previous season while previewing the year to come for the organization and their driver(s).

 Team: Chip Ganassi Racing

Drivers: Scott Dixon, Ed Jones

What Happened Last Year: Chip Ganassi Racing’s first year back under the Honda banner was a relatively quiet one, and ultimately the final year of the organization as a four-car team for the foreseeable future.

Scott Dixon managed to pull off the sort of year he’s known for, shrugging off a slow start and a harrowing crash in the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 to tally the team’s only victory and a third-place finish in the points standings.

His teammates didn’t fare as well.

Veteran Tony Kanaan gave the year his all, but in the end the Brazilian failed to win for the third-consecutive season. Kanaan came close to victory with a second-placerun at Texas Motor Speedway, but he finished no better than fifth for the rest of the season. The veteran ended the year on a career low, finishing 16th or worse in five of his final six races en-route to a disappointing 10th-place finish in the standings.

Sophomore Max Chilton bound back impressively from a 19th-place letdown in 2017, earning an unexpected fourth in the Indy 500 and parlaying his strong Month of May into a solid summer stretch. But in the end the Briton failed to completely capitalize on his early showing, slotting in 11th after two late DNFs at Pocono Raceway and Gateway Motorsports Park.

The worst driver in the Ganassi quartet was veteran Charlie Kimball. For a myriad of reasons the 2017 season proved to be an immense challenge for the Californian. He finished no better than sixth all season, had as many finishes outside of the top 20 (five) as he did in the top 10, and endured four DNFs along the way. The seventh-year IndyCa ace wrapped up the season in 17th, his worst result since 2012.

At season’s end Dixon’s performance stood in stark contrast to those of his competitors, a fact that foreshadowed the company’s future.

2018 Breakdown: The 2018 season will be one of change for Chip Ganassi’s squad.

Gone are Kanaan, Chilton and Kimball. The first is off to AJ Foyt Racing in search of a new beginning, and the latter two have made the leap to Carlin in the team’s first season of IndyCar competition. Only Dixon will return to CGR from last season, continuing a pairing that’s scored 41 victories and four championships over 17 years.

Joining the legend will be sophomore Ed Jones.

The Dubai native comes to to CGR after spending his rookie year with Dale Coyne Racing. His rookie season was a success by most measures, with a 14.2-average finish and a breakout podium performance in the Indy 500, even as he was burdened with unexpected pressure and expectation after veteran teammate Sebastien Bourdais went out with injuries sustained in a crash during Indy 500 qualifying.

No one’s certain of what to make of the coming year, CGR included. The organization will have to adjust after slimming from four teams down to two, and they’ll be hit with the same challenge of adapting to the new aero kits that over other organization faces.

But recent history shows that Ganassi should be situated as well as any to contend, particularly with the continued presence of Dixon – who has finished no worse than sixth in the series standings for 12-straight years.

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Aaron Bearden is a Contributing Writer for Motorsports Tribune, handling coverage of both the Verizon IndyCar Series and ABB FIA Formula E Championship. A native Hoosier, Bearden has attended races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since he was three years old. He can be found on social media at @AaronBearden93.