New Contracts, Rumors Fly in IndyCar series

Tiffany DaviesCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2008

After spending a significant portion of the 2008 IndyCar series season mired in the turmoil surrounding his pending contract situation, Tony Kanaan has finally put those rumors to rest by signing a five year contract extention with Andretti-Green Racing.

Although his performance, and that of the team as well, has not been up to par, Kanaan is still the leading driver for Andretti-Green, and the only veteran on a team full of young stars.

Throughout this season, Kanaan has been linked to talks with Chip Ganassi as a possible replacement for Dan Wheldon, however, those talks were obviously unfruitful.

One possible reason for Kanaan's re-signing with AGR is simply that although he's no longer the biggest star, he's better off staying with his current team, crew, and equipment than jumping ship and risking ending up worse off on a team with a superstar such as current series points leader Scott Dixon.

A second reason is that Kanaan may not have been as friendly with owner Chip Ganassi as he is with Michael Andretti, as Ganassi is known for being far rougher with his drivers than Andretti.

Finally, Kanaan may have remembered the issues Dario Franchitti, one of his closest friends, faced when making the switch to Sprint Cup racing for the long term and later having his ride pulled due to a lack of funding.

Despite the fact that Kanaan re-signed with Andretti-Green, Dan Wheldon has found himself embroiled in rumors surrounding his status with Ganassi Racing. Wheldon, due to his average performance this season, would be the obvious "odd man out" if Kanaan were to have jumped ship.

Despite the fact that Wheldon finished an extremely close second in the championship to Sam Hornish Jr. just two years ago, his struggles on road courses and just two wins have caused many to wonder if Ganassi is pondering letting him go.

Currently, Ganassi has three drivers in his stable: current series champion Scott Dixon, Wheldon, and British import/current Indy Lights series driver Alex Lloyd. If he were to let Wheldon go, free agent drivers he could be interested in include Tomas Scheckter and Paul Tracy, although most consider both to be out of the picture.

At his current pace, or with an extremely strong finish, Wheldon should be safe, although Ganassi will try and resign him at a lower price due to his decreased performance.

If, by chance, Ganassi does decide to let Wheldon go, the only two real possibilities for a future ride are found in a potential second seat at Rahal Letterman Racing along with Ryan Hunter-Reay, or at Vision Racing, where Wheldon could race alongside Ed Carpenter.