OFFICIAL: Rahal, Kimball go to Ganassi

Back-to-back defending champs reload for 2011

Chip Ganassi Racing announced the formation of a new two-car satellite operation today that will feature American drivers Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball. Rahal will drive the No. 38 Service Central-backed entry, while Kimball will drive the No. 83 Novo Nordisk car.

The new squad expands the Ganassi IndyCar program to four cars, as Rahal and Kimball will team up with two of the best in the game — back-to-back defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti and 2003 and 2008 series champion Scott Dixon. However, the overall program will exist according to CGR as a pair of two-car teams rather than a straight foursome.

During today’s announcement at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ganassi explained that the decision to expand his open-wheel empire came from the need to stay competitive now and prepare for the future as well.

“I think you have to constantly be looking at who’s coming along,” he said. “Let’s face it. I’m not pushing Dixon or Franchitti out of the door yet, but they are from a different era than these guys up here today. So I think it’s obvious that we as a company need to keep current with people coming along…We wanted to make sure we had an opportunity, if at all possible, to work with them.”

Ganassi’s expansion has handed Rahal and Kimball the biggest opportunities of their careers. After having to run for multiple operations in 2010, Rahal said that the experience made him more grateful for the chance to drive for Ganassi.

“This year’s been kind of a learning year for me, but it was a good thing in the way that this opportunity probably would’ve never come about if everything hadn’t come together last fall — but also because I got to see a lot of different things,” he said.

“When you get to go through four or five different teams in one year, you see how everybody operates — different mentalities, work ethics, all of those things. It really makes you appreciate it when you get an opportunity like this, so it’s a huge breakthrough. But now it’s time for us to put our heads down. I think the easy stuff has been completed and so, while I’m extremely excited to get to the track at St. Pete and do the testing that we’re gonna do, now we’ve gotta manage expectations, keep our heads down, and focus on the task at hand.”

As for Kimball, his courageous story will continue to unfold in America’s top level of open-wheel racing. The young Californian was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2007, but hasn’t let the disease slow him down.

Now he’ll have the opportunity to drive for one of the top teams in all of motorsport — which he called “the culmination of a lot of years of hard work” — and make a deeper positive impact on others that deal with diabetes.

“I think I proved that I wasn’t going to be the kid with diabetes at the back of the field,”  he said. “In my first race with diabetes, I finished second in the Formula 3 Euro Series…so it hasn’t changed what I do. I think it’s made me a better athlete because I’m more aware of my body. I’m better prepared physically. And I love each lap, each corner, each race that much more, because for a moment there, I was afraid that I was going to lose it and never going to be able to do it again.

“Now I enjoy the opportunity to go out and do what I love. I think everybody at this table shares that passion. We get to go out and race cars for a living, and we love it every day. Every morning, we wake up and we’re grateful for the chance to do that.”

Also playing a role in the new satellite operation is drag racing legend Don Prudhomme, who will house the team at his base in Brownsburg, Ind. He has no stake in the ownership of the team.