American driver Tony Renna will drive the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry next season, racing alongside 2003 Indy Racing League contender Scott Dixon and leaving Tomas Scheckter out in the cold.

Ganassi confirmed Renna's place in the second Panoz G-Force-Toyota last night, reforming the Indy Lights partnership that Dixon and the American enjoyed at PacWest Racing in 2000. On that occasion, the Kiwi won the title, while Renna took fifth overall.

"This is a great opportunity for me," Renna admitted, "They are a first-class organisation and are dedicated to one thing - winning. When the opportunity came up, it was hard to keep the smile off of my face. I wish that the season was starting now, not ending. I have to thank Chip, Target and the whole organisation for giving me the chance to drive here. Teaming up with Scott again is going to be a lot of fun."

Renna has been under contract with Kelley Racing since May 2002, and competed in seven IndyCar Series races with the team, initially as stand-in for the sidelined Al Unser Jr. He scored five top-ten finishes, including a career-best fourth in 2002 at Michigan, and started eighth and finished seventh as a rookie at the 87th Indianapolis 500 in May this year.

However, when Kelley opted not to include him in its plans for 2004, Ganassi swooped.

"I'm thrilled to have Tony on board here at Team Target," team owner Chip Ganassi said, "He's a talented driver who has the ability to win races. He's going to make a great addition to the team. Scott and Tony have been team-mates before, and I think they will be a great combination for us for the future. I feel that he has the talent to win races and contend for a championship."

With one race remaining, at Texas on 12 October, Dixon is tied with Helio Castroneves for the IRL points lead.

"Tony and I have always had a good relationship, and it's great to have him as a team-mate again," the new Zealander said, "We've spoken quite a bit this year and, if I had to choose a team-mate, Tony would probably be the guy I'd choose. We get on very well, and I'm really looking forward to next season."

All of which leaves South African Scheckter looking for another job in 2004. Drafted by Ganassi after falling out with the management at Red Bull Cheever Racing, the son of 1979 F1 world champion Jody appears to have queered his pitch with Ganassi after failing to win a race in 2003.

The team made no reference to the fact that Scheckter would be on his way at the end of the season, with Ganassi apparently telling the Indianapolis Star to 'let him make his announcement [about next season]'.
Scheckter's agent, Enrico Zanarini, told the same report that he had hoped that Ganassi would rethink his decision to pass on the option year of a two-year deal with the South African, but said that Ganassi had let the 15 September deadline pass for a reason, which remains undisclosed.

It was confirmed by the Italian, however, that he had been in touch with John Barnes, the owner of Panther Racing, about the possibility of Scheckter replacing the Penske-bound Sam Hornish Jr next season. The South African would be facing up to some stiff competition for a seat in the newly-enlarged two-car team, with Panther admitting to having a short-list of around 20 drivers it wanted to assess for next year.

 

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