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Rank Driver Points
1 Will Power 671
2 Helio Castroneves 609
3 Scott Dixon 604
4 Juan Pablo Montoya 586
5 Simon Pagenaud 565
6 Ryan Hunter-Reay 563
7 Tony Kanaan 544
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31 Alex Tagliani 28
32 Townsend Bell 22
33 Pippa Mann 21
34 Martin Plowman 18
35 Buddy Lazier 11
36 Franck Montagny 8
Ganassi lands biggest pay driver deal in IndyCar history

by Mark J. Cipolloni
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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Chip Ganassi - like a Cheshire Cat - smiling all the way to the bank
How much does it cost to have Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti set up your car and have one of the best teams in the business screw it together for you?  We may never know exactly but AutoRacing1.com (AR1) sources say Chip Ganassi is in the final stages of an agreement for TBC Retail Group, (which owns Tire Kingdom, National Tire and Battery, Merchants Tire and Auto, and operates more than 700 stores nationwide) to pay Chip Ganassi Racing more than ten million dollars to field a car for Graham Rahal.

In addition, I hear that TBC will also pay Rahal his salary, and Chip gets to still sell associate sponsorship space on the car.  If Chip isn't the smartest businessman in IndyCar, I don't know who is.  The series certainly needs more astute team owners like him.

How astute is Chip?  Well he used the media to get more money out of TBC when he said in a recent interview that he was not going to run a 3rd car.  This strategy helped convince TBC to cough up more money.

Sarah Fisher Racing (SFR) offered the unemployed Rahal a seat in her team this year, where TBC (Service Central) was a sponsor, for four races resulting in an average finishing position of 17th.  Sometime during those four races Graham and his father became close with the executives at TBC which resulted in the October 3rd announcement that TBC would sponsor Graham for two years with an IndyCar team ‘to be determined.’  AR1 has determined that team is in fact Chip Ganassi Racing. 

Most driver agreements have strict non-compete clauses, usually 24 months, so a driver does not walk off with a team’s sponsor but it is unknown if SFR had Graham Rahal sign such an agreement.  It may be that the Rahals will be paying Sarah Fisher Racing the traditional 15% fee that teams and drivers pay to companies who find sponsorships or something has been worked out to compensate SFR appropriately to avoid any legal issues or just to do the right thing.

Graham Rahal will drive for the best team in IndyCar
This is good news for IndyCar as it desperately needs competitive Americans in the series.  This will place Graham Rahal at a top team with the best engineers, equipment, and teammates in association with an American company (TBC Retail Group was acquired by the Japanese Sumitomo Corporation in a billion dollar plus deal in 2005) that will hopefully activate a marketing campaign around its more than 700 U.S. stores with what may be millions of dollars of national media buys, track and in market promotions, as well as at track hospitality and help put fans in seats.

Graham Rahal has 60 IndyCar starts and one race win.  The one race win was at the second race of the 2007 IndyCar Championship, the rain plagued St. Petersburg Grand Prix. Graham had been entered at the first race of the 2007 season, the Indy 300 at Homestead Speedway, but a heavy crash in practice the day before the race resulted in the team withdrawing the entry before qualifying.

Graham’s first season was in 2007 (14 races 0 wins 0 poles) with the defending ChampCar World Series Championship team Newman Hass Racing paired with Sebastien Bourdais (14 races 8 wins 6 poles) who won the Championship again that year. 

In 2008 Newman Hass moved to the IndyCar series with the demise of ChampCar and Graham (15 races 1 win 0 poles) was paired with Justin Wilson (16 races 1 win 0 poles).  Wilson was surprisingly given the McDonalds sponsorship despite a consensus that it was the young American Graham Rahal that would be campaigning the McDonalds car. 

In 2009 Graham (17 races 0 wins 2 poles) was again with Newman Haas Racing this time in the McDonalds car however it was a disappointing season that saw the team go winless for only the second time since their founding in 1983, McDonalds withdrew and Graham’s contract was not renewed. 

In 2010 Graham was not picked up for the full season by any team and ran a partial season (12 races 0 wins 0 poles) with Sarah Fisher Racing (4), Newman Haas Racing (6), Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (1) and his father’s Rahal Letterman Racing (1) for the Indy 500.

2011 will find Graham Rahal back with a Championship team, Chip Ganassi Racing, with every opportunity to realize his potential to win races and fight for a championship, which has to make IndyCar happy if more Americans win races.

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