Getting interested in a sport without much prior knowledge of that sport is usually difficult. Especially when that sport is not one of the more popular sports. That is the problem that American open-wheel racing faces today. Once prominent, the sport suffered a major hit to its popularity in the 1990s when it split into two different series. The two series merged in 2008 as the IndyCar Series. With this in mind, I would like to take some time to profile the teams and drivers of the ICS, in the hopes of increasing awareness of and interest in the sport, on this forum at least.
This topic will focus on Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and Target Chip Ganassi Racing
Newman/Haas/Lanigan is owned by Joanne Woodward, Carl Haas, and Mike Lanigan. They have been involved in Indy style racing since 1983 when Paul Newman and Carl Haas founded the team. They have won numerous championships, winning the CART title in 1984 (Mario Andretti), 1991 (Michael Andretti), 1993 (Nigel Mansell), and 2002 (Cristiano da Matta). They won the Champ Car title from 2004-2007 with Sebastien Bourdais. Despite their succes, they have never won an Indianapolis 500.
#02 - Graham Rahal
Birth Date: January 4, 1989
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Graham Rahal is the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and racing great Bobby Rahal. Rather than try to get into racing through his father’s connections, Graham Rahal advanced through the Champ Car Atlantic Series, before earning a ride with Newman/Haas for 2007. He finished 5th in the championship that season, with a best finish of 2nd at Houston. He joined the IndyCar Series with N/H/L in 2008, and won in his first race in the series at St. Petersburg, making him the youngest winner in a major American open-wheel race. The rest of the season could not match that performance, as his highest finish after that was 8th, at Watkins Glen and at Sonoma.
2009 has been an up and down season for Rahal, going from a top-ten performance one week, to a lackluster performance or a DNF the next. He has a best finish of 3rd this year, at Richmond.
#06 Robert Doornbos
Birth Date: September 23, 1981
Hometown: Rotterdam, Netherlands
Nickname: “Bobby D”
A former semi-pro tennis player, Robert Doornbos made the transition to auto racing through different Formula Series, including a variety of F3 series, and Formula 3000. He moved on to Formula One, but never achieved a high level of success. He moved to Champ Car in 2007, where he finished 3rd in the championship, with wins at Montreal and San Jose, along with seven other top-ten finishes.
He joined N/H/L in 2009 for the IndyCar Series, and has been coached by former racing great Arie Luyendyk, a two-time winner of the Indy 500 (1990, 1997). He has steadily improved this year, despite having limited oval experience, with best finishes of 9th at Long Beach, Richmond, and Watkins Glen. He is currently the rookie points leader, with 163 pts, one point ahead of Raphael Matos.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing is owned by former driver Chip Ganassi. Founded in the early 1990s, Ganassi has had a lot of success in Indy car racing, and is currently one of the top two teams, along with Penske. Ganassi won championships in 1996 with Jimmy Vasser, 1997-1998 with Alex Zanardi, and 1999 with Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya also won the 2000 Indy 500, and Ganassi was among the first CART teams to join the IndyCar Series. They won the IndyCar Series Championship in 2003 and 2008 with Scott Dixon.
#9 - Scott Dixon
Birth Date: July 22, 1980
Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand
Nickname: “The Iceman”
Scott Dixon was born into a family of racecar drivers, and was one of the youngest drivers to win a major American open-wheel race, at a CART event at Nazareth in 2001. He would make the move to the IndyCar Series with Ganassi in 2003, and immediately made a big impact, winning the series championship. Dixon has become perhaps the most talented driver in the series today, with nineteen wins and numerous top-tens. He won the Indianapolis 500 in 2008, and also won the championship that same year, winning six races that season. His nickname of Iceman came from his quiet, reserved nature that at times seemed aloof, something he has been breaking out of since getting married.
Dixon is having another great season in 2009. He has three wins so far, a total of nineteen, which has tied him with Sam Hornish Jr. for most in IndyCar Series history. He currently sits on top of the points standings and looks to be a force for the remainder of the season.
#10 - Dario Franchitti
Birth Date: May 19, 1973
Hometown: Edinburgh, Scotland
Dario Franchitti is one of the more recognizable faces in the IndyCar Series. He is married to actress Ashley Judd. Franchitti has become one of the best drivers in the IndyCar Series, after years of great performances in CART from 1997-2002. He joined the IndyCar Series fulltime in 2003, but missed a lot of that season with injuries. His first full season, 2004, saw him win two races and finish sixth in the championship. He would continue to have strong seasons with 2007 being his finest season, winning four races, including a rain-shortened Indianapolis 500 (the first Scotsman to win since all-time great Jim Clark won in 1965), and the championship. He moved to NASCAR for 2008, but was unable to be successful there.
Returning to IndyCar in 2009, Franchitti has shown no signs of rust as he has already won two races and sits at 2nd in the championship behind teammate Scott Dixon. He has only three finishes outside of the top-five this season.