Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ganassi Gets His Guy

Cut n' dry, Ryan Briscoe was the clear choice to become the fourth driver for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2014. I can understand people thinking "Damn, that's kind of a letdown" because Briscoe isn't the "flashy" hire that people were hoping for; but make no mistake, Briscoe was the best choice of the available drivers.

Briscoe led a group of contenders who were vying for a seat at Chip Ganassi Racing. The seat opened up with Dario Franchitti's forced retirement from Indycar due to injuries suffered in a crash at Houston. Ryan Briscoe takes over the 4th seat that was set to be occupied by Tony Kanaan, with TK taking over the #10 car from Dario.

Ryan Briscoe - Indianapolis 500
Briscoe did race with Ganassi in 2013 at Indy, leading then teammate Dario Franchitti
during the race (Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images North America)

The retirement announcement unleashed a furry of rumors and drivers chomping at the bit to get in the seat. Alex Tagliani was an early favorite for the seat. He had no 2014 commitments and filled in for Dario at the season finale in Fontana. Tags also tested for Ganassi in the offseason, but it turns out that was just to use a familiar driver to do some baseline tests for their new engine manufacturer, Chevrolet. Tags is reaching the end of his career and was recently replaced at Bryan Herta Autosport, both factors that hampered him from getting the seat.

Sergio Perez immediately jumped into the discussion after being let go by McLaren after one season. Chip Ganassi's relationship with Telmex, a Mexican telecommunications company, would be an ideal fit with Sergio, a native of Mexico. It was recently announced that Sergio Perez will join Force India in 2014, ruling him out. I do not think he was being seriously considered though, as he is still very young and does lack oval experience. 

One driver that would have been cool to see in the seat was Paul di Resta. Cousin to Dario Franchitti, Paul's name became increasingly floated around in Indycar after Force India made no effort to resign him, eventually deciding to go with Sergio Perez as his replacement. Lacking oval experience and making things unclear about his intentions, the talented di Resta was passed on.

Paul Di Resta - F1 Grand Prix of Belgium: Practice
di Resta exits F1 after several seasons with Force India. The future remains in limbo for the
27 year old Scotsman (Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images Europe)

Indycar free agents, including previously mentioned Tagliani, were also being considered. Simona de Silvestro was thought to be in the hunt for the seat. The Indycar driver, who just finished her fourth season in Indycar (most recently with KV Racing), has not signed a contract for 2014. Her management team made it clear that they would be going around looking at what is best for her and her future. Ultimately, her lack of concrete results and her poor performances on ovals are the reasons I feel as if she was passed on (my personal opinion).

Justin Wilson is easily in the top-ten best drivers in Indycar right now. He hasn't officially been signed anywhere for 2014, but many believe he will be back at Dale Coyne Racing in 2014, which is why I feel like he was not chosen for the seat. He is a top notch, experienced driver who kicks a whole lot of ass.

Conor Daly had his name floated around from time to time. The young American is looking into Indycar more seriously than ever after a couple of years in Europe. Lacking experience in Indycar and seat time in the DW12, Conor may have to look elsewhere at a smaller team before moving up to a top tier squad. 

Conor Daly Conor Daly, driver #41 of the ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the IZOD IndyCar Series 97th running of the Indianpolis 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 26, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Conor Daly made his first and only Indycar start last May at Indy with AJ
Foyt Enterprises (Photo: Michael Hickey / Getty Images North America)

Another option for Chip Ganassi was buying out the contract of a currently employed Indycar driver. The two drivers that would make sense are two drivers with unlimited potential: James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden. Both have great driving abilities and a great potential to turn into elite drivers. Contract buyouts can often leave sticky wicketts all across the paddock and they are best to be avoided. Newgarden is locked up with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Hinchcliffe with Andretti Autosport for the 2014 season, so both drivers would have required a contract buyout.

And then there is Ryan Briscoe. He is a proven winner (8 career wins). He is a veteran (111 starts), but he's still in the prime of his career. At the age of 32, Briscoe could still race for another 6-10 years. If this Ganassi gig works out, Briscoe could be in the seat for many seasons to come. He has also raced at Ganassi before, back in 2005. He had many good showings but lacked results, before suffering a terrible crash at Chicago that knocked him out for the season. Back now, Briscoe looks to make the second stint at Ganassi count.

Who do you think Ganassi should have gone with? Briscoe a good choice or someone else? Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey

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