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Chip Ganassi Racing expanding

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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Chip Ganassi Racing is expanding its IZOD IndyCar stable in 2010, fielding a pair of American drivers through newly formed teams.

Ganassi has formed Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing with driver Charlie Kimball and Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing with Graham Rahal. Ganassi fields the teams of two-time defending champion Dario Franchitti and former champion Scott Dixon.

Cream of the crop

Trio of top drivers led the field of IndyCar race winners in 2010.

Kimball, 25, will drive the No. 83 entry in 2011 while Rahal will drive the No. 38.

“Many don’t realize this, but we have had a relationship with Charlie for a number of years now,” team owner Chip Ganassi said. “I have been keeping close tabs on him and his successes in racing from afar for a while now – whether he was racing in Formula 3 in Europe, or running in the Firestone Indy Lights Series the past few seasons. We’re excited to have the opportunity to turn this longstanding relationship into a reality."

Kimball’s team will be sponsored by diabetes care company Novo Nordisk. The new agreement makes him the first driver from the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights Series to move up with a full season sponsorship.

“This is a dream come true and I am very proud to work with Novo Nordisk and continue to spread the message that diabetes does not have to slow you down," Kimball said.

Rahal, son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 Winner and three-time CART Champion Bobby Rahal, is the youngest winner in IndyCar series after his victory in his series debut in the 2008 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at the age of 19 years and 93 days. He has a multi-year contract with the TBC Retail Group to represent its family of tire and automotive retail brands.

The 21-year-old has made 60 starts in the top levels of American open-wheel racing. He has one win, two poles, 12 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes, with 59 laps led.

“This is the kind of opportunity every driver dreams of. I have been working diligently, specifically over the past several months, to get into one of Chip’s Indy cars, and now that dream has become a reality with the help of Service Central, and many others,” Rahal said. “Chip’s 2010 season was definitely one for the ages – 19 wins, Indianapolis (twice), Daytona, another IndyCar Series championship, I could go on and on– but like Chip often says, I’m looking forward to the next race, which is in St. Petersburg in March. I’m thrilled to be a part of this great organization and look forward to making the most out of this opportunity.”

Ganassi said he was pleased with the addition of Rahal.

“It’s no secret that we’re always looking for ways to get better and expand our racing programs,” he said. “Finding new ways to get better or go faster is what this business is all about, really. Graham has shown us all over the past few years that he can be a frontrunner in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and I welcome both he and Service Central to our racing program for 2011. This should create some excitement for the series both on and off the track.”

Earlier this season, Indy Racing League CEO Randy Bernard discussed the impact of Americans in the series and a ladder system that helps keep all top talent building through the ranks to the IndyCar series. Perhaps moves such as this show that type of system is working.

“It’s very important for us to make sure we reach the Americana crowd and go back to our roots with traditions just like this and reach out to the USAC and dirt tracks and create some roads up our ladder system that also helps us bring up Sprint and USAC drivers,” he said. “That’s important. Everyone comes to me and says we need more American drivers. My point is, 'Yes, that’s great. But as a sanctioning body we need the best drivers in the world. Period.' If they’re from Brazil, so be it.

“Our top priority is that we have the best. That’s how we promote it. That’s what we need the perception to be. Now what we need to do is go out and make sure we have a ladder system that allows Americans to a way to come up here instead of going to other series around the world.”

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