IndyCar Off-season analysis: Chip Ganassi Racing

Jared C. Tilton

The IndyCar off-season team analysis begins with defending champions Chip Ganassi Racing with new lineup Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe and Charlie Kimball.

There was little time to celebrate Chip Ganassi's 10th IndyCar Series championship (and driver Scott Dixon's third) as Dario Franchitti announced his retirement shortly after the season finale.

But there was a lot to celebrate.

Looking Back:

Scott Dixon spearheaded the Target team's effort, winning four times and scoring the season championship. But Dario Franchitti continued to struggle in the DW-12, going winless for the first time since 2006 and finishing outside of the top-5 in the championship standings for the second year in a row.

And even without the career-ending injury suffered at Houston, Franchitti was mired in the worst season of his career and it will be interesting to see how Tony Kanaan fares with the same equipmenttt..t select events, perhaps tacked on to that  format for heat races may be found on Saturday pr -- and perhaps the same engineer -- in the No. 10 car.

The future of Ganassi Racing also shined bright as Charlie Kimball scored his first career victory at Mid-Ohio. But more than that, Kimball displayed an overall consistency expected of a Ganassi driver and also scored four Firestone Fast-Six qualifying appearances and 10 top-10s finishes, somewhat off-setting the frustrating Franchitti season.

Ryan Briscoe will rejoin Ganassi full-time next season but it all began with a one-off appearance at Indianapolis.

Briscoe, who made his IndyCar debut with the team in 2005, was said to have been an excellent teammate and was Ganassi's first choice. In seven starts between Ganassi and Panther Racing, Briscoe was able to deliver an average finish of 16.3.

Looking forward:

How will the team fare without its top star, four-time Series champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Franchitti? That's the question Ganassi faces over the next eight months.

As mentioned above, Franchitti seemed to struggle in the new chassis and it will be interesting to see how another veteran champion in Tony Kanaan responds to the challenge.

While many wanted fresh blood and new faces to emerge with one of the two open spots at the team, Ganassi felt that experience and familiarity with championship pressure was the right way to go in hiring Kanaan and Briscoe. Kanaan is the 2004 IndyCar titlist while Briscoe is familiar with championship challenges from his time at Team Penske.

That will become especially valuable as the team adjusts to working with new engine supplier Chevrolet next season.

Best case for 2014: Both Target entries emerge as championship favorites and respectfully battle into Auto Club Speedway while Briscoe and Kimball both score wins while hanging near the top-5 in the championship standings.

Is that likely? No. But the potential is there with Kanaan perhaps having the best equipment of his career.

Worst case for 2014: The switch to Chevrolet backfires as either Honda has the advantage with the new universal twin turbo or Team Penske makes the most of the bowtie brigade.

The struggles of the No. 10 car was not the result of a decline from Franchitti but of the team itself while Scott Dixon suffers uncharacteristic bad luck. While that's also unlikely, the parity experienced in IndyCar since the advent of the DW-12 has produced an 'anything can happen' type of atmosphere.

How do you think Chip Ganassi Racing will fare next season in Year One of the post-Franchitti era? Tell us in the comments section below.

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