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Ganassi, Rahal teaming up to help Lloyd at Indy 500

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bobby Rahal and Chip Ganassi have spent their careers competing against each other.

Now the two former IndyCar drivers are joining forces to help Alex Lloyd qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

The team owners announced a partnership Wednesday, giving Lloyd, last year's Indy Lights champion, a chance to make his rookie debut in the biggest race on the IRL schedule.

"I thought Chip was the only guy that would accept this idea," Rahal said as he and Ganassi traded jokes. "I think it's a win-win situation."

Details of how the partnership will work are still being discussed.

Rahal, the 1986 Indy winner, said the teams hope to have everything worked out before the track opens May 4, and Mike Hull, managing director for Target Chip Ganassi, said the teams will share some information about setups.

"Our side will help with their two-driver team," Hull said. "We're better off, and in the case of Rahal Letterman with two drivers, they have a much better chance to work their way to the front of the grid and be there at the end of the race."

It was Rahal who proposed the idea, and Ganassi who initially balked.

"I said 'What? Why would you want to do that?' " Ganassi said. "At first, it caught me a little off guard, but I was pleasantly surprised."

Lloyd, a 23-year-old driver from England who has been employed by Ganassi this season, now has a chance to drive for two successful owners on the historic 2 1/2-mile oval.

Ganassi won the Indy 500 as an owner in 2000 with Juan Pablo Montoya, and Rahal captured his second Indy win -- his first as an owner -- with Buddy Rice in 2004. Lloyd is the only driver who has ever won on both Indy's oval and road course.

By making the decision now, the teams also can avoid the mad scramble that often occurs during the second week of qualifying when team owners add cars after their primary drivers qualify. Rahal and Ganassi said one of the benefits of their deal means that Lloyd will be working with IRL regulars in the garage and pits.

To Lloyd, who set Indy Lights records for single-season victories (eight), consecutive wins (five) and the largest margin in points history (171) last year, it's the best of all worlds.

"I've been working for this all my life," he said. "I'm excited to move up and see what I can do in the biggest race of the year."

For now, though, it's a just one-race deal.

Ganassi said he has no immediate plans to make Lloyd his third full-time driver in the series. He already has 2003 series champion Scott Dixon and 2005 IRL champ and Indy winner Dan Wheldon in cars.

Rahal's only full-time driver is Ryan Hunter-Reay, and he was hoping to get a second driver for Indianapolis. Lloyd and Ganassi were the perfect fit.

"Chip seemed like the most logical guy to do it with," Rahal said. "It seemed like a good idea, and I hope it proves out to be that way."



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