Ganassi can't wait for his team to defend championship

Updated: 

When your race team is led by one of the greatest drivers in Indy car history, the new season can’t start quick enough.

Chip Ganassi’s level of excitement for the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10, was evident even in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“I’m ready to go racing,” said Ganassi, who was at NAIAS as part of INDYCAR’s announcement of NTT becoming title sponsor of the NTT IndyCar Series. “We work hard to be at the front, and we work hard in the offseason and during the season. Let’s get started.”

Ganassi will have five-time series champion Scott Dixon to again lead the charge for Chip Ganassi Racing, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda. The New Zealand ace, the defending NTT IndyCar Series champ, has won 44 races and sits third all-time behind only motorsports legends A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti in career victories.

Rookie Felix Rosenqvist, 27, of Sweden will team with Dixon at Ganassi this year. Dixon and Rosenqvist were among 21 drivers participating Friday in a test at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California.

“I’ve had a lot of great drivers over the years, and someday we’ll look back and rate them,” Ganassi said. “But Scott, he’s the champion, with most wins of any active driver and most championships (of active drivers, second in a career to Foyt’s seven). You tell me what that means? Whatever it means, it is something good.”

Ganassi is confident about Rosenqvist, who will pilot the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda.

“He has a lot of history in formula cars in Europe,” said Ganassi. “I think he’ll make a smooth transition into INDYCAR.”

As for Dixon, Ganassi sees a sixth championship as a real possibility for the 38-year-old.

“To say I’m excited about Scott Dixon would be the understatement of the year,” Ganassi said of the 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner. “He’s taken our team to a new level in terms of how we look at things and how we approach things. I like our No. 1 driver.”

Ganassi knows the heat will be on his team to repeat the hard-fought championship won in 2018, with the competition level only expected to rise this season.

“It will take the same as it always does to win a championship,” said Ganassi. “You have to have clean weekends. You have to score points in every race. You may have a down weekend, but you have to put that behind you quickly.

“You have to perform at all different circuits. That’s going to be a tall order for drivers, our engineering staff and the whole team. You have to keep pace with technology and utilize it to make the car go faster. It’s a lot of work, but we are up for the challenge.”

The next test for Chip Ganassi Racing and the rest of the NTT IndyCar Series paddock is the Spring Training open test on Tuesday and Wednesday at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. IndyCar.com will be the home of a livestream for the first day of the test, beginning at 11 a.m. ET.

The NTT IndyCar Series season opens on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, on Sunday, March 10 (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

From the fans