Chip Ganassi Racing’s managing director Mike Hull has praised the team for overcoming a “mediocre” 2016 and says CGR is meshing well with Honda in their joint drive to improve.
The Ganassi team switched from Honda to Chevrolet for the 2014 season, but after Scott Dixon earned his fourth IndyCar title in 2015, the team suffered a relative slump in form last year, scoring just two wins to Team Penske’s 10. For 2017, team owner Chip Ganassi returned to Honda Performance Development, and CGR drivers Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball will start the St. Petersburg season opener in second, sixth, seventh and ninth.
Hull told Motorsport.com: “We had, by Chip Ganassi Racing standards, a very mediocre season last year and we had to really step up our game. We needed to look inside ourselves and figure out how to be better.
“So we had a come-to-Jesus meeting with everybody and asked them to evaluate where we needed to be going forward and then we worked really hard this past winter to really improve our product. And I think whether it was the Honda product or the other [Chevrolet] product, I don’t know if that was as important to us as the contribution made by everyone on the team to get us where we are today.
“But we’re really happy with Honda as a partner because we match up well with them vocationally in all the different engineering areas and management areas. We wanted to get everything we can out of our partners and the result in qualifying – and throughout the two days of practice, in fact – has proved that point.”
Although Honda missed out on top spot in qualifying, with Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Will Power claiming his seventh St. Petersburg pole position, Honda took nine of the top 12 positions on the grid. Asked if this was an indicator that an HPD-powered team could challenge for the title this year, despite Honda’s aerokit being renowned for suffering greater drag than its Chevrolet equivalent, Hull replied: “If you look at the Honda aerokit, you know there’s going to be some racetracks where we’ll be really good and some racetracks where we wish we had the other kit.
“But I think for street racing, Honda has a good product, and they have a great engine program and great engine techs, too. They take a lot of pride in what they do and they’re so down-to-earth about telling us where we stand and how they can help us. We appreciate that very much and we try to give back. It’s a good proper partnership.
“As for the engines, each one has terrific advantages in certain areas. We can’t make a direct comparison because we don’t know where Chevrolet stand right now. All we can do is just work really hard to tune the product as best we can, and Honda will do the same.”