Chip Ganassi Racing has confirmed their 2015 TUSC driver lineup.
Chip Ganassi Racing has kept the news coming throughout these past couple of weeks, first confirming Scott Dixon’s return in the No. 9 Target Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone Indy car for his 14th season with the team, making him the longest-tenured driver in Ganassi team history. Target and Chip Ganassi Racing celebrated their 25th year as partners in 2014.
Two days later, the team made it known that Tony Kanaan’s Verizon IndyCar Series ride for this coming year will come under the NTT DATA umbrella as the 2004 champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner returns to the No. 10 Indy car. This pairing gives Ganassi one driver with three championships and one Indy 500 win and a second with a single title and Indianapolis 500 victory.
What an opportunity ... To say I’m thrilled to be joining this team would be an understatement.
After hearing those pieces of news, we learnt that sports car ace Joey Hand would no longer be driving for BMW and the rumors began to fly. Today, he was confirmed as co-driver with five-time Rolex 24 at Daytona champion Scott Pruett in the No. 01 Ford/Riley in the Tudor United Sports Car Championship (TUSCC). Shortly before this announcement was made, Memo Rojas, who had been Pruett’s co-driver told everyone via Twitter that neither he nor Mexican communications giant TELMEX would be returning to the team this year, pretty much acknowledging Hand was onboard.
Continuing relationship with Ford
The No. 01 prototype will henceforth be sponsored by Ford, which supplies the team’s engines for a second consecutive year. Ford EcoBoost becomes the primary sponsor of the car in a multi-year deal, as is Hand’s contract. The Ford EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 engine powered the No. 01 Ganassi car to three victories in 2014, including a win in the second outing of the year, the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. That victory marked Ford’s first endurance win since 1967 when its Ford GT40s surprisingly rampaged against the Ferraris, notably at Le Mans.
Hand returns home
The announcement is a homecoming for Hand, who’s been in the DTM the past couple of years with BMW Motorsports. While he was part of the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona-winning Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team, Hand has been a BMW man since being picked up by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for their American Le Mans Series (ALMS) team. His proficiency was immediately noticed by BMW, which took him to Europe for a couple of seasons.
“What an opportunity,” Hand exulted. “To say I’m thrilled to be joining this team would be an understatement. With the successes of Chip’s team in sports car racing, the great history of the No. 01 car and getting to team up with a legend like Scott Pruett, I think Christmas came a little bit early for me this season. I’ve wanted to drive for this team since I was a little kid and I’m excited about my long-term future here,” he said.
A formidable duo
Together, Pruett and Hand make an estimable pair and should scare the whoops out of the competition. Joey Hand and Scott Pruett enter the 2015 TUSC season with a combined 72 IMSA wins (ALMS was sanctioned by IMSA). Pruett, of course, is tied for the all-time record at the 24-hour Rolex race in Daytona Beach with the estimable Hurley Haywood - only that pair have five wins in the twice-around-the-clock winter classic. Pruett is the first American to attain 12 major sports car championships and has also succeeded in the open wheel arena, where he helped developed Firestone’s tires and won for Patrick Racing.
Chip Ganassi excited for new pairing
Chip Ganassi expressed his pleasure with the new driver pairing and the affiliation with Ford: “I think we had a good year with Ford in 2014 by winning three and could easily have won more so to now be partnered with them in even a bigger way makes all of us very happy,” he said. “I think we have a great deal to look forward to. Also, we’ve had our eye on Joey for quite some time. He turned a lot of heads in our organization in 2011. I think he and Scott will complement each other on and off the track and we expect them to hit the ground running together in Daytona.”