Dario Franchitti returns to the IRL next year as Scott Dixon’s team-mate in Chip Ganassi’s squad. Franchitti left the IRL at the end of 2007 to try NASCAR with Ganassi (above), but he struggled and Chip couldn’t sell any serious sponsorship on his car. In fact, Ganassi is having a tough time keeping his NASCAR sponsors, with long-time backer Texaco terminating its support of Juan Pablo Montoya at the end of this year. Montoya has other sponsors, but the Colombian has endured a difficult second season, falling outside the top 20 in the NASCAR points.
Earlier this year Ganassi parked Franchitti and laid off 70 NASCAR employees. Then Dan Wheldon had a string of uninspiring IRL races and Ganassi decided not to renew his contract and bring back Franchitti. With street circuits like Long Beach, Toronto and Surfers Paradise joining the IRL calendar the move had great appeal to Dario, and Chip will have the two most recent Indy 500 winners and IRL champions showcasing his team as main sponsor Target and Ganassi celebrate their 20th anniversary as partners.
Ganassi has also had a great year in the Rolex Grand-Am sports car series where Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas clinched Chip’s third series title. Expect Dixon, Franchitti and Montoya to join them in a pair of Lexus-Rileys for January’s Rolex 24 hours at Daytona, where the team is a three-time winner.
It’ll be like ‘old home week’, as always.
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