Target Chip Ganassi Racing might have celebrated several milestones in 2008 - winning the Indianapolis 500, the IndyCar Series championship and its 100th race as a team - but that does not prevent it getting excited about 2009.
This season, having dispensed with another former 500 and IRL title winner in Dan Wheldon, the team will make more history when it becomes the first ever to pair the two most recent Indianapolis 500 and series champions, as Scott Dixon, who captured both titles last year, returns to the team for a seventh season to be paired with 2007 500 and series champion Dario Franchitti, who transfers in from Ganassi's NASCAR team.
Dating back to the first American Automobile Association-sanctioned Indianapolis 500 in 1911, the FIA-sanctioned Monaco Grand Prix in 1950 and the NASCAR-sanctioned Daytona 500 in 1959, no team has ever paired the previous two winners of the sport's driver championship, and it's respective crown jewel event, together on the same team.
“In open-wheel racing, I think what you try to achieve is winning the Indy 500 and surrounding yourself with the kinds of people it takes to continue to win,” said Ganassi MD Mike Hull, “We've been very fortunate over time to have Target and all the associated support from Target and the vendors that supplied us the resources it takes to not only have the cars and the equipment and the kinds of things it takes to be successful, but it's allowed us to have championship-calibre drivers drive our cars.
''It's exciting to actually have two drivers with the pedigree that each of them now have, competing with each other and competing with other people on the racetrack. It's really going to be a lot of fun to experience this.”
Dixon is coming off his second championship season - having won on debut in 2003 - and brings momentum from a record-tying six race wins, having begun his recent dominance midway through the 2007 season. In all, he has won ten of the last 26 races.
“I think we've got a fantastic line-up if you just look at it as we've got the last two 500 champions, last two series champions,” the Kiwi said, “We definitely are going to have the target on our backs.”
Franchitti, meanwhile, returns to the IndyCar Series after winning four races during his championship run in 2007 with Andretti Green Racing - where he pipped Dixon to the title at the final corner of the year.
“I think having Scott and I on the same team is good,” the Briton said, “Scott is a great competitor, and he's going to push me on. We're going to push each other, for sure. That's what it means to us and the team. We both believe we can do the job, Chip believes we can do the job and the guys on the team believe we can do the job.”
“It's going to be a lot of fun to see these two guys as team-mates,” team owner Chip Ganassi concluded, “I think they'll bring out the best in each other.
''They are very similar drivers in that they are both, calm, cool and patient and are equally adept on road courses as they are on ovals. I know we have had some pretty good duos in our cars over the years like [Jimmy] Vasser and [Alex] Zanardi, Vasser and [Juan Pablo] Montoya and Dixon and [Dan] Wheldon, but I think this one has the chance to be real special.”