Wheldon to leave AGR for Ganassi Racing, or BMW UPDATE #11 Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon will remain in the Indy Racing League after all, but he will defend his championship with a different team. After exploring options in Formula One, the 27-year-old British driver decided to sign with Ganassi Racing rather than Andretti Green Racing, his team of the past three seasons. A news conference to announce Wheldon's signing is scheduled for today at Ganassi headquarters in Indianapolis, team spokeswoman Pat Caporali said Sunday. Wheldon couldn't hide his enthusiasm for the switch.
"I can't talk about it right now, but it's good," he said.
Wheldon will be joined at the news conference by team owner Chip Ganassi and returning driver Scott Dixon, the IRL's 2003 champion, Caporali said. Ganassi is not expected to field three cars as he did this past season.
Caporali said Ganassi also will confirm equipment changes for next season.11/28/05 Target Chip Ganassi Racing has scheduled a press conference today at 2 PM for what they call some exciting announcements (note the plural). 11/27/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. We never thought for a second that Wheldon was F1 material, and he certainly was not going to go from IRL and Indy 500 champ to a test driver role in F1. SPEEDTV.com reports that Wheldon has signed a contract to drive for Target/Ganassi Racing and will be formally introduced Monday at a press conference in Indianapolis.
The addition of Wheldon means that Ganassi will use Honda engines and the Dallara chassis. Wheldon used that combination to win nine races over the past two seasons, including Honda's first two victories at the track it built and owns in Japan. He won a league-record six races last season. Indy Star
It's believed Wheldon and agent Julian Jakobi were unhappy with Andretti Green Racing (AGR) because they offered him less of a retainer than teammate Dario Franchitti. Jakobi also represents Franchitti.
We also expect Ganassi to soon announce he will be running Honda engines in 2006 because we doubt Wheldon would be at Ganassi without Honda engines as Honda would not want to lose its defending double champion.
11/01/05 This is one of the craziest rumors yet. Dan Wheldon has zipped his lip as speculation bubbles that the 2005 Indy 500 winner will soon be named as BMW's 'Friday' driver for next year.
The 27-year-old Englishman, who is also the new champion of the IRL, was earlier linked to Honda and Williams but is believed to have now agreed a deal in principle with the Munich carmaker.
''There's a lot going on right now,'' Wheldon told ITV, ''and I can't say anything.''
He sang a similar tune to British specialist magazine Autosport by saying: ''I've been told I can't say anything.''
Sir Frank Williams' Grove based team, meanwhile, is believed to have still counted Wheldon among candidates to fill the 'Friday' cockpit for next year, as recently as the weekend.
A spokesman said: ''We have not made a decision (and) are not intending to make an announcement ... for several weeks.''
11/01/05 More rumors that Ganassi was lying through his teeth about not talking to Wheldon. 24-Hour News 8 has learned that Wheldon will soon sign on with Ganassi Racing. The IRL champ has turned down offers to stay with AGR and from suitors in Formula One. Wheldon had no official comment and referred Sports 8 to his management team, but the top Indy Racing League driver is heading to Ganassi next year, probably joining forces with former champion Scott Dixon. WishTV.com
[Editor's Note: We never thought for one minute that Wheldon was F1 material. The coup for Ganassi is that he gets AGR's Indy 500 winner and Indy Car champion. Ouch. And did Honda lose its defending champion to archrival Toyota, or does Chip get Honda engines too? If so, bye-bye Toyota as they will have no choice but to exit the IRL a year early rather than risk complete embarrassment on the race track with sponsorless Team Cheever as their top team.]
11/01/05 A reader writes, The Toyota thing is looking pretty dismal for Ganassi for 2006. He just got royally screwed by Honda. Honda picks up Penske for 06, says No to Ganassi (fact). Ganassi is looking at another terrible and vastly expensive year and his engines will be inferior (probably true). Is it possible based on these recent developments he says "screw it", I have Lolas, and is in Champ Car in '06 with Wheldon and Dixon??????? He did TGeorge a big favor jumping ship from CART, where he was the top dog, and it didn’t work out too well. Now he is left standing in the game of musical chairs when the music stopped re (competitive) engine supply for 06. It makes little sense that Wheldon will be a F1 test driver at his age. Why would anyone win a championship and then become a test driver, even if it is F1? Little good that has done Anthony Davidson, who is probably quicker than Wheldon, and certainly vastly more experienced in F1 cars. Especially with Wheldon having 3 whole road course races in 2-3 years. There has got to be one humdinger of an incentive for Wheldon to walk away from AGR and all the $$$ they offered if he goes to Ganassi. Driving the Grand Am shit-boxes just can’t be it. Name Withheld By Request
11/01/05 According to Dan Wheldon, Chip Ganassi was lying through his teeth when he said he wasn't talking to Wheldon about a possible ride in 2006. Wheldon becomes a free agent today, but he said a contract signing for 2006 is not imminent.
The 27-year-old British driver confirmed Monday he's considering a spot on Ganassi Racing's IRL team as well as a position as a test driver for a Formula One team. Wheldon is not expected to rejoin Andretti Green Racing. He said he does not expect his status to be finalized until next week. Indy Star
10/30/05 SPEED News Sunday reports that Chip Ganassi has denied talking to Wheldon, which means the F1 rumors might have some truth to them. Besides Williams and Honda, Wheldon's name has also been connected with a possible test driver role at BMW Sauber. Our guess is that the Indy 500 winner and IRL champion will end up as a test driver for the Honda B team behind rumored to be regular drivers Takumo Sato and Anthony Davidson. Robin Miller reports AGR offered Wheldon $3.5 million to stay in the IRL, but he turned it down. Why so much money? Because it's a major blow to the IRL and AGR to lose both the Indy 500 and Indy Car Champion in one fell swoop.
10/30/05 According to this SPEEDTV.com article, Wheldon will sign a deal to drive for Williams or BAR Honda F1 team as a test driver in 2006 with an option to race in 2007. "I have not signed a deal with anybody," said Wheldon on Saturday night. "My agent (Julian Jakoby) and I have had conversations with F-1 teams, that's no secret."
Asked if he was headed for Williams, the 26-year-old native of Emberton, England replied: "That's not true." Then, he added: "But you're on the right track."
Wheldon, who captured this year's Indianapolis 500 and the IRL title, is under contract with Andretti Green Racing but that expires Nov. 1. Kevin Savoree, one of AGR's co-owners, told a prominent member of the IRL community over the weekend that his team had likely lost the IRL champ to F-1 and last week Wheldon told two of his crewmen that he was leaning towards a Williams test drive. [Editor's Note: This is a major blow to the IRL who will lose both their defending Indy 500 champions and their defending Indy Car champion. At first it was thought he might stay in the IRL with another team, but if the rumor is true he will move to be a test driver in F1, the IRL has lost all that marketing value. Then again, Danica Patrick is their marketing focus, not Wheldon. Perhaps that's why he left. Is Wheldon F1 material? His road course performance in the CART ladder series and in the Indy Cars this year was mediocre at best. We suspect he will struggle in F1.] 10/30/05 Rumors suggest that Penske may also be trying to get Dan Wheldon, but this makes no sense unless Castroneves is moving elsewhere or Hornish is moving to NASCAR sooner than expected. 10/28/05 We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' today as we heard the same thing last night. If Ganassi steals AGR's Indy 500 and IRL Championship winner we bet that won't sit too well with the AGR brass. Indy Racing League champion Dan Wheldon might have slipped this week when asked about a possible defection from Andretti Green Racing, the team with which he won the Indianapolis 500 in May. On the subject of possible negotiations with Ganassi Racing, Wheldon said: "I don't know about that. I've been away." But when asked about another 2006 option, at Panther Racing, he was definitive: "We haven't talked to them." Chip Ganassi said the pursuit of Wheldon "is a good rumor," but Ganassi is a crafty interviewee and is known to covet a winning driver to pair with -- and challenge -- 2003 IRL champion Scott Dixon. Mike Hull, the managing director of Ganassi Racing, said Wednesday the team's driver lineup figures to be set "within a few days." Whether the dots can be connected to Wheldon is uncertain. But it's worth noting that most driver contracts expire at the end of the month of the final race. In Wheldon's case, that's Monday. Indy Star 10/27/05 Latest rumors say there's a good chance defending Indy 500 winner and IRL champion Dan Wheldon will not be back with Andretti Green Racing. We know he was trying to get a ride in F1, but have not heard anything on that recently. Trying to get more details.....