Target Chip Ganassi Racing has pegged Canadian Alex Tagliani to test its IndyCar Chevrolets at Sebring International Speedway in Florida.
The private test runs in Franchitti’s No. 10 car took place on Wednesday as the legendary racing team looks to replace the four-time IndyCar champion forced into retirement following a violent crash in October.
The Ganassi team hasn’t announced who will replace the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner in 2014.
For now, Tagliani is Ganassi’s designated driver for this one and only test before mid-January.
The four team cars will be available at Sebring for a special program aimed at calibrating the new Chevrolet engines.
Ganassi recently ended its relationship with Honda, signing a new deal with the American engine-maker.
“Essentially, we’ll familiarize ourselves with the engine and transmit valuable information to engineers,” Tagliani, of Lachenaie, Que., told QMI Agency on Tuesday upon his arrival at the Florida track.
The 40-year-old Canadian joins team drivers, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball who, unlike him, are under contract for next season.
Tagliani figures a good performance at Sebring could open doors for him.
He has 14 podium finishes and seven poles in a 13-year IndyCar and Champ car career, highlighted by a 2004 victory at Road America.
“Of course (the test) doesn’t hurt, but I already have a good feeling,” said Tagliani, who replaced the injured Franchitti for the final race of the season in Fontana, Calif.
He led the field for ten laps before spinning out towards the end of the race.
“All of our team members, including the owner, were satisfied with my performance,” said Tagliani. “If they’re using me for private testing, they believe in my abilities. This is a great opportunity. I’m very flattered to be associated with this great organization, but for the rest, I can’t predict the future.”
Kanaan, who won the Indianapolis 500 in May, joined the powerful Ganassi team in the off-season and many observers say he’ll be the one to replace Franchitti in the No. 10 car.
One way or the other, Franchitti’s departure leaves one open spot, representing a great opportunity for top drivers looking for a ride in 2014.
QMI Agency has learned that Ganassi Racing has received more than twenty applications.
There are whisperings that Franchitti’s cousin Paul di Resta, on the outs in Formula One, is eyeing the Ganassi job.