Giorgio PantanoEnlarge Photo
On Monday, Italian open wheel driver Giorgio Pantano tweeted that he was on his way to Indianapolis. Immediately, the prognosticators wondered whether he was coming over to drive an Indy car, a sports car, or simply looking for a position for the 2013 racing season?
It turns out Pantano, who has raced with Chip Ganassi Racing in the past, will be substitute driver for the injured Charlie Kimball in this weekend's Honda Indy 200 at MId-Ohio Sports Car Course. Pantano takes over the driving chores in the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Dallara/Honda/Firestone Indy car as Kimball recovers from a fractured fifth metacarpal in his right hand, incurred during a test session at the Lexington, Ohio racetrack last week.
Pantano drove for Chip Ganssi Racing in 2005 at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. He has five total IZOD IndyCar Series starts in his career, with a best start of second and best result of fourth, both with Ganassi's team at Watkins Glen in 2005. Last year he drove for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing as a substitute driver for the injured Justin Wilson. Now 33 years old, Pantano began his career in karts at age eight and between 1993 and 1999 won eight titles. He's tested for several Formula One teams over the years and raced with Jordan Formula One Team early in 2004. Pantano won the 2008 GP2 championship.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to be rejoining Chip Ganassi Racing and the IZOD IndyCar Series this weekend at Mid-Ohio," Pantano said. "You never want to have something happen to another driver and I wish Charlie a quick recovery. Nonetheless, the opportunity is here and I am looking forward to working with the team again and making the best of it.”
While Chip Ganassi Racing Teams' managing director Mike Hull is disappointed that Kimball's injury is keeping him out of the 12th round of this 15-race championship, he's even more disappointed because Kimball's performance "over the past few weeks has been impressive with increased momentum.
"Our expectation is that he will be back at full-strength quickly and we're fortunate to have Giorgio Pantano available at Mid-Ohio," Hull said. "To have a quality driver who has won the GP2 championship against the best and blends into the team concept is hard to find on short notice. We're extremely lucky to have Giorgio on-board."
Kimball is obviously disappointed he can't make the race this weekend. "I trust the medical professionals at INDYCAR and we're making sure I'm back to 100 percent for Sonoma," race No. 13 (GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma) the final weekend of August. "I'll be there this weekend to help Giorgio and even though I won't be in the cockpit, I will do everything I can to drive the whole No. 83 car program forward for this season and the future."
The Chip Ganassi Racing Teams have won the last three IZOD IndyCar Series races held at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Scott Dixon won in 2009 and last year; Dario Franchitti won in 2010. Its drivers have made 35 starts in 18 races, with seven wins, two poles, 11 podiums and 20 top-five results on the 2.258-mile permanent road course.