Now we have Wheldon rumors

Posted by Iannucci | 9/11/2007 | 8 comments »
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Disclaimer: there are enough "ifs" and "maybes" in this article by Bruce Martin to render it nearly useless, but there are a few facts contained within it to at least warrant an arched eyebrow. Could be nothing, but:

The 2007 season-finale hadn't even started yet but Wheldon's name was privately being discussed in the IndyCar garage area at Chicagoland Speedway, according to sources.

"I had a team manager from another team come up and tell me about that," said Mike Hull, the managing director of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. "I can honestly say that I don't know whether Dan and Chip Ganassi have discussed that." (MORE from Yahoo! Sports)
OK, here's the fun part:

With reports all over the place that Dario Franchitti is set to join the Ganassi family (with one report pegging at a contract at a whopping $30 Meeeeeellion), attention is now being focused on the previous AGR alumnus that Big Chip had hired away. That would be Dan Wheldon, who earlier this year had spoken of having an interest in things such as NASCAR but was told by his boss that wasn't happening. Now with talk that Ganassi has hired his former teammate to perform such a task the thinking is Thunda Dan may want to void out his current contract.

That is, void it and go back to Andretti Green, or in some bizarro universe to Penske.

Of note: It's been discussed in many places that Wheldon may have some sort of personal contract with Honda that only allows him to drive Hondas, meaning he couldn't drive tin top unless they powered one. And they don't. Franchitti has no such binding arrangement.

Adding to the speculation, the report details how "Wheldon was scrutinized for not aiding his teammate in a championship battle", although the details given seem to indicate a problem that wasn't Dan's fault. Go ahead and read the whole article instead having me try to explain it.

Another thing that was also an attention grabber was that the article states that former Champ Car prodigy AJ Allmendinger is now under contract to race Busch series races for Ganassi. Is it me or does it seem really strange that Big Chip is hiring all kinds of open-wheel drivers to race cars that are not of the open-wheel variety? And these guys aren't coming at a cheap price, either.

It seems less than likely that Ganassi would let Wheldon out of his contract in what would effectively be a trade of Dan for Dario, but I ain't Chip and I won't pretend to know what his plans are. Honestly, when I read this piece I couldn't help but getting a touch frothy at the idea of Dan and "Danicker" becoming teammates.

As if there wasn't ENOUGH DRAMA at AGR. Froth forming...

But the froth lasts just for a moment, saved for a report without all of the the "could be" and "might be" disclaimers. Silly Season is fully upon us now.

8 comments

  1. Joan // September 11, 2007 11:25 PM  

    I'd like to see Dan go back to AGR, makes more sense to me than Tomas or whoever else they could find. If he does end up back there I hope they give him back the #26 and Jim Beam comes back, because then all my old DW shirts and hats will be useful again.

  2. DerekFromPittsburgh // September 12, 2007 2:20 AM  

    Wheldon isn't going anywhere, I think he just enjoys seeing his name all over the interweb every offseason. There will be at least 2 Wheldon to F1 rumores also.

  3. indyumd // September 12, 2007 6:42 AM  

    A whole post about Wheldon to AGR and you don't even mention him becoming a teammate to Danica?

    Now THAT will be interesting.

  4. Dale Nixon // September 12, 2007 8:12 AM  

    I'm going to start the Tony Kanaan to NASCAR 2009 rumor right now.

  5. Jeff Iannucci // September 12, 2007 8:12 AM  

    A whole post about Wheldon to AGR and you don't even mention him becoming a teammate to Danica?

    Umm, yeah it was mentioned. Read again, near the end.

  6. mmack // September 12, 2007 9:33 AM  

    Is it me or does it seem really strange that Big Chip is hiring all kinds of open-wheel drivers to race cars that are not of the open-wheel variety? And these guys aren't coming at a cheap price, either.

    Oh, there's a common thread in here alright, and if it's true, the key is in the amount of $ Chipster is giving Dario Turncoatti and the odd fact of A.J. Wallmendinger joining TCGR. but first you'll need to take a stroll down memory lane:

    Back in 2000, after winning four CART championships with Honda, what manufacturer did Chip sign with to power his cars?

    Toyota

    Who gave Toyota it's first win in CART?

    Juan Montoya, who drives for TCGR.

    What engine manufacturer did TCGR use in CART from 2000 to 2002?

    Toyota

    What engine manufacturer did TCGR use in the IRL from 2003 to 2005?

    Toyota

    Who, of all the manufacturers in NAPCAR, could help a team owner pay a driver a $6mil/yr salary?

    Toyota

    I'm thinking that that MAY be the only common thread linking all of this. Toyota may be waving MAD money at the Chipster to ditch Dodge and come over to their camp. This makes sense if Cerebus is planning to pull Dodge out of NA$CAR. (Yes, PUBLICLY Dodge has not said they will leave NA$CAR, but it could still happen)

    And A.J. Wallmendinger coming over to drive Busch for Chip? Well, Toyota may be banking on the reputation Chipster has in polishing the rough edges off of drivers like Vasser, Zanardi, and one Whine Pablum Montoyer.

    So I wouldn't be surprised to see TCGR go to Toyota in 2008. As for Turncoatti, the only reason I can see him go to TCGR in NA$CAR is if he can bring Canadian Club with him to replace Coors (who is leaving TCGR), or if Chip can use him as a drawing card for sponsors.

    HOWEVER, that leaves one troubling thought. How will Honda take to one of their top teams in the IRL running with their avowed competitor in NA$CAR? (Think Chevrolet vs. Ford style rivalry) Could Chip be planning for a big enough fall out to leave the IRL? Allegedly he left CART to come to the IRL for big $$$$ provided by Toyota, so could it happen again? That would be a chilling thought.

    Anyone else? What I've written is speculation, but it's how I read the developments of the last few weeks.

  7. Johnny // September 12, 2007 10:11 AM  

    mmack:

    The tone of that post is a little conspiratorial, but still enjoyable. Since you asked our thoughts, here's mine.

    For one, Toyota just shot their wad for 2008 on Joe Gibbs Racing. If they went after another high profile team, the other owners, especially Roush would start screaming bloody murder to France/Helton and the deal would be quietly kiboshed in some back room (and Kevin Cameron would claim to have been there, but I digress...) It's pretty much too late in the year now to retool a big (3-4 car) team to another powerplant company. In 2009, maybe, but not next year.

    As far as Dodge leaving, I don't think it's as likely as some would have you to believe, as it's really their only major sponsorship and motosport offering now that they've been split from Mercedes and thusly F1. To maintain relevance in the North American market they HAVE to remain in NASCAR. And with talks of GEM merging with Petty, TCGR would then become the second largest stand-alone Dodge team, even with Penske rolling out a full time ride for Hornish, so again, Dodge will strongly support hem.

    As far as taking Canadian Club over, that is part of the reported deal. Coors left the need for a sponsor and CC is willing to travel with Dario. The main reason Dario couldn't sign a deal w/ his buddy Richard Childress was his existing deal with Canadian Club conflicted with RCR's relationship with Jack Daniels.

    And Allmendinger running Busch races for Chip is interesting, but may bode more towards TCGR having an interest in him post Red Bull contract than Toyota being interested in TCGR. Red Bull's NASCAR operation very publically flirted with moving away from Toyota to GM engines for next year until Toyota cut them a BIG check to stay.

    As far as how Honda would take TCGR leaving, it would depend. Remember that Penske runs Hondas in the IRL, Dodges in NASCAR and Porsches in ALMS and simultaneously keeps all three manufacturer's very happy. Winning does that for you and TCGR certainly knows how to do that. Honestly I don't think it would be that big of a deal.

  8. pressdog // September 12, 2007 6:25 PM  

    What's a NASCAR?