Overheard at Watkins Glen, Ganassi to drop 2 cars (2nd Update)

Chip Ganassi the latest team owner to fall victim to years of horrible TV ratings on NBCSN
Chip Ganassi the latest team owner to fall victim to years of horrible TV ratings on NBCSN

UPDATE Ganassi has laid off 40 staff members due to the downsizing but most are hoping to find jobs at Rahal, Andretti or SPM

09/20/17 AR1.com were the first to break this news during the Watkins Glen weekend below, it is now 'fact' that the Ganassi IndyCar team will reduce from 4 to 2 cars next year per below. Things are dire in the IndyCar paddock as sponsors are fleeing due to nine years of horrible ratings on NBCSN. Roger Penske is going to have to spend some of his millions to keep a 4th car running to help prop up the car count. We have updated our 2018 Silly Season page accordingly.

Media Statement from Chip Ganassi Racing:

Chip Ganassi Racing has experienced much success so far in 2017. In the just concluded INDYCAR season Scott Dixon and the No. 9 team competed for a championship and ultimately finished third in the standings. Both CGR NASCAR Cup teams are in the Playoffs as well as the No. 48 XFINITY team. Both of our Ford GT programs in IMSA and WEC are also competing for championships. Despite the success we are experiencing, we have decided to return our INDYCAR program back to two cars beginning with the 2018 season.

Statement from Team Owner Chip Ganassi:

“We will be returning to a two car team beginning in 2018 with Scott Dixon in the No. 9 and a yet to be determined second driver in the No. 10. This decision was based on the fact that we felt we needed to get back to our core business of running TWO championship caliber teams. It was a tough decision to make as it affects a lot of people. With news like this comes contraction and as such we had to let a number of good people go. The decision was not taken lightly but we felt it was best for our business. It is one of the toughest things you experience as a business owner – especially because I am all too aware that it is the people that make any company tick. We will be back in 2018 and ready to compete for our 12th INDYCAR championship."

After hsi win, we spotted Alexander Rossi dancing on the bar at Seneca Lodge
After his win Sunday, we spotted Alexander Rossi dancing on the bar at Seneca Lodge


It was a great weekend of racing at The Glen this weekend with close battles in all the series racing. Unfortunately the crowd was sparse, which is typical for a NASCAR owned track. They do not promote an IndyCar race like they do a NASCAR race.

Contrast that with Gateway last weekend. Not a NASCAR owned track and the crowd was very large. Gateway's schedule is not inundated with so many races that the market cannot support them all. Ditto with Pocono – they have two NASCAR Cup races and an IndyCar race in the span of about 8 weeks. The crowd was decent, but not stellar.

Phoenix has two Cup races hence the IndyCar race has very few fans in attendance. The market cannot support all three. In the past every IndyCar race at a NASCAR owned track, or one that has two Cup races has failed. IndyCar needs to find tracks like Gateway where the IndyCar race is the event for the year.

This was the final year of the IndyCar contract with Watkins Glen. Will they be back given the small crowd? Time will tell but Watkins Glen is a perfect track for IndyCars and it would be a real shame if it did not continue. The race needs a title sponsor.

A lot going on at Watkins Glen this weekend as many drivers are maneuvering for a 2018 seat. We hear that Andretti Autosport hopes to announce their 4th driver for 2018 in the next two weeks. Drivers hoping to land that ride include Zach Veach, Jack Harvey and James Hinchcliffe. However, Harvey tells us he'll probably only have enough money for 1/2 a season next year.

Word is that Ganassi Racing may very well be down to a 2-car team in 2018. Many drivers would like to land the #10 ride alongside Scott Dixon, including James Hinchcliffe, Esteban Gutierrez and Felix Rosenqvist. If IndyCar is going to Mexico City in 2018 as rumored, Esteban Gutierrez is going to need a good ride and Carlos Slim has plenty of money to buy him a Ganassi seat. Should be interesting.

The talk of Alonso coming to IndyCar full-time is wishful thinking, but he says he will only drive in 2018 where he has a chance to win. It does not appear McLaren will be in a place to win in 2018 unless Honda makes a miraculous improvement over the winter. Hence we could see Alonso take a year off from F1 until Honda gets its act together with McLaren, and come to IndyCar for one year. We doubt it, but if he comes it will either be with the Andretti or Ganassi team assuming he still has ties to Honda.

Both teams have a prime seat open as we speak and both would give Alonso a car he can win races with. The other team is Penske. We are still hearing Helio Castroneves is headed to Penske's IMSA Sportscar program so that opens up a possible ride for Alonso – a prime ride. Alonso coming, even if for a year, certainly would be the shot in the arm IndyCar so desperately needs.

Although the press release said a multi-year contract extension, we hear that Rossi's deal with Andretti Autosport, that includes NAPA, is for two additional years.

Zak Brown called rumors of Alonso coming to IndyCar as 'fake' news'
Zak Brown called rumors of Alonso coming to IndyCar as 'fake' news'

Rossi's current teammate and Indy 500 winner, Takuma Sato, is a done deal as the 2nd car at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, we just await the announcement

Trevor Carlin is close to moving his team up to IndyCar in 2018 and we hear one of the drivers will be Max Chilton. Trevor is working on getting an engine deal. Chevy has engines but Honda would be full if not for the fact (see rumor above) the Ganassi team could scale back to two cars in 2018. We hear Charlie Kimball will still have a sponsor around his fight against diabetes. Might he be Chilton's teammate again, this time at Carlin?

Former F1 driver Felipe Nasr is looking for a ride and has some money and trying to see what's available.

Kyle Kaiser, as a result of winning the Indy Lights title will have money for the Indy 500, the GP of Indianapolis and one more race, but we are not sure who will run him yet. His current Indy Lights team, Juncos, is trying to move up to IndyCar full-time after running the Indy 500 this year. Kaiser is in play as is Sebastien Saavedra and Spencer Pigot.

Tony Kanaan is listed as a possibility with several teams per our updated 2018 IndyCar Silly Season page. Note: we do not have Alonso listed because we doubt he will come.

With the new body kits in 2018 that will level the playing field, a lot of drivers, and two Light teams, feel 2018 is the year to make the move to IndyCar. Stay tuned…..

Mark C. reporting from Watkins Glen

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