Chip Ganassi Racing head into the 2017 season with a new engine partner with Honda joining the team following three years with Chevrolet power. On Friday, Paddock Eye spoke to Chip Ganassi Racing’s Managing Director Mike Hull. I started by asking him:
How did the partnership with Honda come about?
Well, a simple way probably to describe it is that we have had a successful relationship with Chevrolet in IndyCar Racing, and we were in the final year or at the end of current agreement with them, so for us truly when that happens it’s the chance you get to look and see and sit down and talk with in this case the competition to find out where they stand and who they presently are, where they are technically, the resource they presently have and so on, not really to put one against the other but just from a race team stand point, understand what you should be doing or how instinctively you feel about what you should be doing going forward and sometimes what that does is it makes you feel more solid about where you are and sometimes it makes you think well, going down the road maybe we can prove ourselves in areas where we need to be strengthened. So that’s how it came about.
Tony Kanaan tested at Gateway Motorsports Park on Thursday, have you had any initial feedback from him as to how the test went?
Well we talked about it. I was at the test. you know, when you got a test like that for us it’s a steep learning curve even though we’ve been with HPD and Honda before, understanding their current technology and particularly in this case their aero technology, so I think we were really conservative there on both fronts, both the engine side and the aero side. We didn’t make big sweeping changes there. We just wanted to concentrate on getting an entire day in flawlessly and get through a systems analysis of the car and what it takes to run the car and where we stand and so on but we had a terrific day of testing with Honda yesterday. Certainly well supported genuinely a partnership where communication goes both directions and rather than compare them to Chevrolet we need to compare ourselves to Honda and just make sure that we understand where we need to go going forward and that’s what yesterday was all about.
How have the other teams welcomed you back into the Honda fold?
I think time will answer that question, but the IndyCar community, the networking that goes on within the IndyCar community is not corralled to people who just run one manufacturer. I think the nice thing about racing in the United States is the fact we help each other.
In Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan and you have arguably two of the most experienced drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series, does it help with the move and the transition having that continuity?
Well I think it does help yes. I think the problem with continuity sometimes is the fact that it can if you allow it to can create complacency, so I think you always have to guard against that. You’ve got to pinch yourself every morning and start anew and no matter what tire, what engine, what chassis what series you’re racing in, I think you have to wind yourself up with a brand new mindset every morning to accept the changes you’ve been given for that day and prioritize yourself and the people that work on the process you have in the building and then going to the race track and make sure that you devote time and attention to what it takes as a group of people to shelve agenda and get on with the big task.
Will having the new Honda partnership with Honda have any baring on who will join Scott and TK in the other two cars for next season and do you have a time frame in which it will happen?
Charlie Kimball’s with us for next year, and we’re working on the fourth one now and that’s not finalized yet. I expect that will be done within 30 days from today. Yeah, we are working on a fourth entry. We enjoy the fact that we have four equal cars on the grid, we like that number, we like running that number of cars so we are going to try to continue to pursue that.
How is the search going for a new title sponsor for the No.9 car? and again is there a time frame in which that will be announced?
It’s ok, you know I appreciate that question. It’s funny like, I get that question a lot on Twitter. It’s so hard not to talk to people in that manner you know like to them answers but we’re working on it and what we’ve decided to do is when the entire package is put together rather than one piece at a time, we feel that’s the best way to make that all transparently public. So that’s the attitude we’ve taken on that so yeah we’re working on it and we’re certainly not going stand behind the veil of it’s five months away to look for stuff. We’re working on it and we’ve got what we think will be some pretty terrific partners when that’s all engaged.
Going back to Honda, obviously you’ve got Michael Andretti’s team with Honda, will you be working closely with them?
Well I hope. I mean if you study the history of our team with partners, we’ve always been very very candid, open and honest about where we think we stand with the partner, and that includes the race teams that use the product. We firmly believe that free exchange aids learning, the learning process and not necessarily to take sides with Chevrolet versus Honda but I would hope that we can be free with exchange with all the Honda teams, including Michael’s team because it’s a terrific team and its terrific drivers and it has a terrific technical resource and it has a terrific history and they deserve to run at the front, and we just want to race at the front with the best and that’s what we want to do.
How do you feel the 2016 season went for you particular with what has been a tough season for Scott Dixon, do you think that his strong end to the season can help him carry it forward to next season particularly with the changes coming up in the team over the next couple of months.
My answer to that question is this, I am very excited and very happy to race with Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi because expectation finds reality at the same time this last year for the 2016 season, I was very disappointed in some of the results for us with expectation and reality because there were races that for whatever circumstance and that’s probably not the most important thing here but the reality is there were races where I thought we should have won the race and circumstances didn’t let us do that. I thought we had a better opening to the season or a better opening to the season or first part of the season then we did in quiet a while. In my opinion, we could have won Long Beach which was in April and I thought we had a really good race car and it just didn’t go our way there that day, I think we finished on the podium I think we finished second. But I think we had a pretty good year, we just didn’t get the results that shows the way our car raced during the year and we’ll try to learn and grow from that like we do. It motivates us that’s for sure because we create what people would probably look at and say there’s no way you can achieve what’s on that spreadsheet. We create a massive spreadsheet of what we need to work on to improve ourselves here and just scratching the surface on that sheet I can tell you that.