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Earlier today, Chip Ganassi Racing confirmed that the team has signed Tony Kanaan to compete in a fourth entry in 2014 that will be sponsored by NTT Data. Below is a selection of quotes from the media availability following the announcement.
Tony Kanaan on how often he’s thought about opportunities with Chip Ganassi Racing:
“If I didn’t think about it, that means I don’t think about winning races. I wanted to be in the best teams with the best guys who have been beating me forever. I thought about it every single day. I think I proved over the last three years how hard I had to work to keep going after everything we’ve won. Opportunities are there. It’s up to you to take everything out of it and make the best of it.”
On whether he had to bring financial support to seal the deal:
“That was the first question that I asked Chip: What do I have to bring? And he said, your helmet. That was a big weight out of my shoulders. That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to work together to capture some of the stuff that I had because I think it will be really a shame to my sponsors that have been with me in the hard times (if they can’t) come to an organization like this if they have the opportunity. So, we’re still going to work on it, but that has not been the point for me to come to work for Chip.”
On whether he has regrets about leaving the team with which he won the Indianapolis 500:
“I don’t think in life you can have any of those regrets. I believe that we got together in a very difficult situation of the time in my career, and we built something together and we built something to go win the 500 and then we did. So, there shouldn’t be regrets from either side.
“I think Jimmy was a big supporter. He knew about this from the get-go because I had to be extremely honest with him. Obviously, it’s sad to leave a team that I built with him, with people that we’ve put together for three years, and we went through a lot. But on the other hand, I’ve got to think about my life. I’ve got to think about the opportunity at this time of my career how great that is.
“Am I going to miss some of my guys? Yes. And I’m going to miss Jimmy on a daily basis, but he’s a personal friend of mine, so we’re still going to hang out. And probably I’ll make fun of him and he’ll make fun of me when we beat each other on the racetrack.”
On whether engineer Eric Cowdin or any other KV personnel will be joining him:
“I don’t know. When you come to drive for an organization like this, you don’t have a say. I don’t make those decisions anymore. Great if we can, but I think Chip and his organization prove that they can make a winning team, so I trust him 100% to put whoever is going to be working with me for us to go and win races.”
On his new teammates:
“I know Charlie. He’s a young up-and-comer and proved that this year he’s being extremely fast. Dario and Dixie are no-brainers. We’re good friends outside the track. Dario was my teammate for years. People don’t realize probably how close we all were before I joined this. It is a new home for me, but my brothers already live there and I’m just coming back home, I guess. I think it’s going to be great. Obviously, all the eyes are going to be on us. It’s a lot of championships, a lot of 500s, and a lot of race wins, and I know the guy right there (Chip Ganassi) doesn’t expect anything less than winning from us. It’s a good problem to have.”
On whether his signing influenced the change of engine supplier to Chevrolet:
“No. Again, anything related to the team side of things, I have no say. Like I said, Chip told me bring your helmet and we make those decisions. I wish I could say yes, that I’m that cool, but I don’t think so — I think the relationship that Chip had with Chevy before. I trust the team completely with the decisions that they make.”
Chip Ganassi on the winning record now housed in his team:
“It’s not all the time you have a stable of drivers that have won a combined seven championships, five Indy 500 wins and over 75 races wins between them. That’s what we’ll have when we add Tony to our team. These guys have won five of the last seven Indy 500s and seven of the last 10 INDYCAR championships.”
On what Kanaan will bring to his organization:
“Tony is the type of driver we like to have behind the wheel. He digs in, and we had a chance to work with him and NTT DATA at the GRAND-AM race at (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway in August. That really solidified for us, the driver that he was and the kind of person he was and the kind of teammate he was. We’ve been trying to get together for a long time, and we finally did it. It’s a great opportunity for our team, and I’m glad to have my new pal with us.”
On the decision to move to Chevrolet power:
“This thing happened pretty quick with Chevrolet. They have shown they have a great product, and we wanted to be a part of it. It’s something for our team to consolidate our manufacturers and be part of a winning effort. We’ve had some great races and years with Honda, but opportunity came about to be with Chevrolet, and they showed a sincere effort in wanting us to be part of their program.”
Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, on Chevrolet’s status with other teams in the IndyCar field:
“Our obligation to the series is to provide 40% or greater, so we are prepared to do that, but our capacity is well beyond that. We’ll see where we end with all the team discussions and we’ll ramp up or ramp down accordingly.”
Jeff Womack, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of NTT Data, on the sales pitch from Ganassi that convinced them to sponsor Kanaan’s full season:
“I don’t know that it took a lot of convincing. It’s the Indy 500. To be there in the mix and to be on the track when they say drivers start your engines, that’s pretty surreal in and of itself. The connection that we were able to establish not just from a brand visibility standpoint but the fact that our clients really enjoyed it, our employees got very motivated to be a part of that and have a car in the 500, so it just really worked out well. And Ganassi having the wide set of assets that they do from the standpoint of NASCAR and GRAND-AM as well as Indy was compelling for us as well because it gave us an opportunity to go and leverage those other series as well. But Indy is where our heart and our passion is.”
On the connection between NTT Data’s services and IndyCar racing:
“There’s an interesting parallel between what IndyCar racing and the IT services that we deliver to our clients. We both are trying to put the optimal mix of technology, experience, teamwork, and speed into winning, whether it’s on the track or in business. So, for us it’s an interesting alignment. IndyCar’s STEM Initiative is very near and dear to our heart because we’re a technology company and so making sure that young people have the right skills as they come out of school is an extremely high priority for us. And then, at the end of the day, we’re huge racing fans, so it’s pretty cool from that standpoint as well. We’re just big fans, and it’s good to be a part of it.”