2024 IndyCar form guide: Chip Ganassi Racing

Chip Ganassi Racing

No. 4 Honda: Kyffin Simpson (rookie)

No. 8 Honda: Linus Lundqvist (rookie)

No. 9 Honda: Scott Dixon (2nd in 2023 championship)

No. 10 Honda: Alex Palou (1st in 2023 championship)

No. 11 Honda: Marcus Armstrong (20th in 2023 championship)


Consistency where it counts

So much of the Chip Ganassi Racing team is new this season, starting with the loss of Marcus Ericsson, the signing of Linus Lundqvist and Kyffin Simpson, the elevation of Marcus Armstrong from part- to full-time status, and a raft of engineering and personnel changes and promotions that have been made. Widespread consistency has been Ganassi’s superpower from season to season, and that’s lacking in 2024.


But, and this is a ‘but’ that should shape how the championship is settled, there are no significant changes within Alex Palou’s title-winning No. 10 program or Scott Dixon’s second-place No. 9 effort. Same engineers. Same strategists. Pit crews have undergone some development, but it hasn’t been overwhelming, so for the two Ganassi cars that stand the best chance of holding onto the team’s championship crown, 2024 looks just like 2023. And that should scare their rivals.

Where things turn in a very different direction for Ganassi is with its other three entries for Simpson, Lundqvist, and Armstrong. In terms of an 18-event calendar, the trio have less than one full season of combined experience to draw from as Simpson (0), Lundqvist (3), and Armstrong (12) try to collectively fill Ericsson’s void while making a name for themselves.

With Ericsson, Ganassi had three revolving threats at each race, and until one or more of the unproven three step up, there’s only two cars among the five for other teams to worry about.

How the team brings its young core forward and how quickly they start contributing to the team’s title defense will be an important subplot to follow.

Is he The One?

A year of reckoning is upon us. Scott Dixon is the greatest IndyCar driver of his generation and truly one of the all-time greats since the sport was formed. He’s been Ganassi’s standard bearer for most of his 20-plus years with the team, but there have been periods — in the first year with Dan Wheldon and the first three years with Dario Franchitti — when his teammates have been better.

Since joining the team in 2021, Alex Palou has become the top performer in two out of their three seasons together, earning championships in 2021 and 2023 without facing overly stiff opposition from Dixon or any of his Ganassi teammates during both title runs. So that leaves us with the start of a new season where Palou is the favorite to repeat as champion and for the first time, he brings the same kind of aura to the start of the season that Dixon carried for so many years.

With six championships to his credit and four since 2013, we’ve gone into most years pointing to Dixon as the driver who the others will need to beat in order to win the title. In 2024, that’s shifted, and rightfully so, to his 26-year-old teammate.

Dixon is still a force, but will 2024 be the year that he ends Palou’s current status as Ganassi’s main threat? Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

To be clear, Dixon finished second in the standings last year and remains a supreme force who can win a seventh championship by the end of the season. But we’re also, thanks to Palou winning 66-percent of the championships he’s contested for Ganassi, at a point where the spotlight has moved from Dixon’s No. 9 to Palou’s No. 10 as the entry everyone’s aiming to topple. The championship goes through Palou until another driver — maybe Dixon — can demote the Spaniard.

One more thing about Palou

He’s still improving, which is frightening.

All of his wins have been on road and street courses, but it feels like his first oval win is right around the corner. He’s the best driver I’ve seen at Indy across the last three 500s; all he needs is a little bit of luck to win there. Granted, Palou is a bit of an Indy savant rather than an oval racing phenom. And that’s where he can make new gains.

He finished third at Texas and third at Iowa last year, so he’s already made a huge leap in oval competitiveness. If he can turn up to any of those tracks, or WWTR or Milwaukee, and pull off a victory, that would tick the final box in his development. If Palou ever reaches the same oval-threat status of a Dixon or Josef Newgarden, I’m not sure anyone will be able to beat him.

Barry’s back

Ganassi veteran Barry Wanser was forced to miss the last two races of Palou’s title run to undergo surgery and chemotherapy to defeat the cancer that attacked his throat and mouth.

A fixture on the No. 10’s timing stand as Palou’s race strategist, the revered team manager is back to work and upholding all of his routine duties, which is another point of comfort for his crew and driver. Welcome back, Barry.

Duo of dynamism

As a duo, Marcus Ericsson and his race engineer Brad Goldberg brought out the best in each other during their years together in the No. 8 program. Goldberg’s got a new Swede to turn into a race winner with 24-year-old Linus Lundqvist, and if there’s an early  prospect among Ganassi’s three kids that’s capable of being that third option next to Palou and Dixon, he’s it. Armstrong also holds that potential.

Lundqvist starred on short notice for Meyer Shank Racing in three races last year, and it was in his second outing where he qualified inside the Fast 12, which in turn inspired Ganassi to put a contract in front of him. The 2022 Indy NXT champion has all of the things that great drivers possess: He’s smart, analytical, self-critical, and blindingly fast. He also drives with plenty of aggression which, if it’s managed in the right way, can be an asset.

Lundqvist has the potential to be one of this season’s breakout stars. Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

If it isn’t, there will be some strong results that are left on the track, and that’s where having a Zen-like race engineer in Goldberg will be a massive benefit for Lundqvist. He’ll also have Ganassi team manager (of which there are many) Blair Julian on his timing stand as race strategist, and while that’s an area of ongoing learning for Dixon’s championship-winning crew-chief-turned-manager-and-strategist, Julian is another great fit for Lundqvist. Both have strong fires that burn inside them and Julian knows when to stoke those flames and when to dial the temperature down.

From a talent and chemistry standpoint, Lundqvist and the team that’s been assembled around him on the No. 8 program have the potential to become one of the breakout performers this season. Lundqvist will make some rookie mistakes, but I’m not worried about him pooping the bed on a regular basis.

If you’re searching for a rookie to root for who could become a big deal in the next few years, Lundqvist deserves a look.

Angela & Danielle

We have some history that’s about to be made that speaks to IndyCar’s immense growth in the amount of amazing women racers who work within the paddock.

Ganassi has not one, but two women in Angela Ashmore and Danielle Shepherd who’ve been promoted to lead race engineers within its IndyCar team, and that’s never happened before. Not in IndyCar, nor any other major series that comes to mind.

The great Diane Holl was the first in this race engineer space and she won with Mexican legend Adrian Fernandez in the CART IndyCar Series. Leena Gade was the next during her partial season with Arrow McLaren in 2018, and in 2024, IndyCar gets Ashmore as Armstrong’s engineering leader and Shepherd is in charge of Simpson’s entry.

Two women, on the same team, in the same season, promoted because of their excellence. How cool.

Last Marcus standing

Armstrong’s the last Marcus left at Ganassi, and with his graduation to a full-season of action, the 23-year-old Kiwi has a prime chance to turn the promise he offered in 2023 into something real across 18 events. His No. 11 team missed the mark — and badly — on some strategy calls last year, which team manager Taylor Kiel should rectify by moving over to that race strategy role for Armstrong.

Armstrong also got in his own way on a few occasions, which should happen with less frequency as an IndyCar sophomore. When things went well, Armstrong was a regular finisher between seventh and ninth, but he was rarely close to Palou or Dixon on days they were winning or on the podium. And that didn’t come as a surprise, as Armstrong was seeing almost every track for the first time.

Armstrong has a solid foundation to build upon as he heads into his first season as a full-timer. Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

It’s also the place where he stands to deliver the greatest amount of season-to-season improvement. We don’t know how good Armstrong is when compared to his team leaders, but he’s certainly got talent and can push further into the top 10 at most rounds. He’ll have Ashmore as his new race engineer, and she’s a rising star. She’s also steering the entire engineering ship for the first time with the No. 11 entry, so Ashmore will — just like a rookie driver — make some mistakes along the way and do her best to learn from those moments.

It’s Lundqvist as a rookie in a well-honed No. 8 program versus a second-year Armstrong in a No. 11 program that isn’t quite as turnkey as the No. 8. Let the fireworks begin.

Mike & Chris

Continuing the yarns about year-to-year changes within the Ganassi team, Palou’s championship-winning crew chief Ricky Davis is still his championship-winning crew chief, but Mike LeGallic will go over the wall in Davis’s place on the No. 10, and LeGallic has also been promoted to team manager (I wasn’t kidding about how many team managers they have).

LeGallic, who has impressed the team’s senior leaders since he arrived, is a great addition to Kiel and Julian among the team’s younger and newer group of managers.

And Chris Wheeler, who joined Ganassi last year as the spotter on the No. 11, is leaving the grandstands behind and moving to the No. 4’s timing stand as Simpson’s race strategist.

Don’t sleep on Simpson

I get it. The 19-year-old from the Cayman Islands didn’t exactly terrorize the junior open-wheel categories or win an Indy NXT race before going to IndyCar. And the kid’s family has more money than most countries. Together, those facts usually lead to a driver who is an epic disappointment, but I expect Simpson to surprise — and in a good way — more than most would anticipate from a rookie who arrives in IndyCar with such low expectations.

There’s no argument to be made about Simpson being an open-wheel prodigy, because he’s not. Not yet, at least. But this teenager, who has so much to learn in IndyCar, does have a ton of miles in fast LMP2 sports cars — enough so that he won the European Le Mans Series title in that class in 2023 — and anchored a GT-class win at IMSA’s 10-hour Petit Le Mans season finale in 2022.

Simpson has a lot to learn, but the best possible environment in which to do it. Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

This is a young veteran whose life in recent years has been dominated with driving all kinds of cars and doing all manner of endurance races to amass experience he wouldn’t get if he focused solely on Indy NXT. Ganassi’s done him a big favor by moving Indy 500-winning crew chief Dave Pena from the No. 8 car to Simpson’s No. 4 as Pena’s quiet and ultra-professional approach to running a crew will set the tone for his newcomer to follow.

Shepherd’s race engineering success, which includes an overall win for Ganassi and its Cadillac IMSA prototype program at the 12 Hours of Sebring, is another smart placement for Simpson due to their shared sports car experience. And Wheeler is one of IndyCar’s great unifiers, which will be needed within this brand-new Ganassi entry, and his decades of spotting experience — of coaching drivers in highly intense situations — will lend itself to this role as he teaches and tunes the rookie on the radio.

Is Simpson a rocket who will make folks stand up and salute like we did with NXT graduates Herta and O’Ward and Kirkwood? No, not a chance. Will he be far better than the naysayers predict? Yes, the potential is there. Don’t write him off before he’s run his first couple of IndyCar races.

Story originally appeared on Racer