Midway through the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season, the only driver that was certain to return to Chip Ganassi Racing in 2024 was six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon.
The future of Alex Palou, Marcus Ericsson and Marcus Armstrong with the team had yet to be determined.
But team owner Chip Ganassi has been able to stay ahead of the competition by planning for the future. Although 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner Ericsson decided to leave for Andretti Global beginning in 2024, Palou decided to turn down a deal with McLaren and remain with Ganassi. Palou is a two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion in 2021 and 2023.
Armstrong signed a long-term contract extension and Ganassi signed 2022 Indy NXT
But Ganassi wasn’t finished.
He dropped a big surprise on September 18 when he announced Kyffin Simpson, an 18-year-old from the Cayman Islands, would make the leap to IndyCar with a multi-year contract.
That gives the 15-time IndyCar Series championship team five cars on the IndyCar grid beginning next season – by far the most of any single team in the series.
Simpson currently competes in the European Le Mans Series, where he and his two teammates lead the LMP2 championship standings with three races remaining, thanks in part to their impressive 4 Hours of Le Castellet victory. This year, Simpson also captured sports car victories at IMSA’s Twelve Hours of Sebring race (LMP2 class victory; P3 overall) and the Asian Le Mans Series’ 4 Hours of Dubai race (LMP2 class; overall victory).
Simpson, who joined Chip Ganassi Racing as a development driver in May of 2022, competed in the Indy NXT by Firestone series for the past two seasons. This year, Simpson registered two top-three finishes in his sophomore campaign, standing on the podium at both Mid-Ohio and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
He tested an IndyCar Series car for the first time in January of 2023 with Chip Ganassi Racing at a Sebring International Raceway test.
“I can’t wait to get back in the car,” Simpson said Monday. “Driving that car last year at Sebring was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I just can’t wait to get back in it and get back in the car with a great team, as well.”
The variety of Simpson’s racing has helped him adapt to different cars quickly. The teenager believes that will be an asset as he makes the big step up to IndyCar.
“I think it’s helped me in a lot of ways doing all these different series,” Simpson said. “Racing sports cars I think has helped a lot with my fuel saving and pit stops, because obviously we don’t do that in Indy NXT, you’re just pushing flat out for 35 laps or however long the race is.
“I think doing all that this year was very helpful, but also just general race craft, being in close races with other drivers has been very helpful, just doing lots of racing this year.”
Simpson is breaking into IndyCar with its top team that includes some of the best drivers in racing including six-time IndyCar champion Dixon and two-time and reigning IndyCar champion Palou.
“We welcome Kyffin as a teammate to our IndyCar program. He has been integrated into a Chip Ganassi Racing multi-year defined development program which now provides the opportunity at open-wheel’s highest level,” said Chip Ganassi Racing Managing Director Mike Hull. “He has already tested an IndyCar with more to follow as an Indy NXT graduate. In addition, he is already a proven winner in IMSA at the 12 Hours of Sebring in LMP2 and on an LMP2 global stage in the ASLM and ELMS series.”
Before advancing to Indy NXT and sports car competition, Simpson won the 2021 Formula Regional Americas Championship after earning seven wins, two pole positions and 13 total podiums.
“It’s been very helpful being able to work with the team, learn the team, learn how they do things,” Simpson said. “Also just learn all the engineers and mechanics. Just meeting them has been very helpful.
“I think that will be something that helps me a lot going into this next year. I think it will be very exciting to work with them even closer than I have previously.
“I don’t feel too much pressure. I know it’s with a great team. I know that the car’s going to be good, so I’m just going to be focused on doing my job as best as I can, learning everything I can from my teammates because obviously they’ve got a lot of experience in Scott Dixon and Alex Palou, as well Marcus Armstrong, who won Rookie of the Year this year.”
Despite being just 18, Simpson is confident he will be a fast learner, and a fast driver.
“I feel like I’m ready,” Simpson said. “I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress this year. I feel like making that next step, I’ll be able to make good progress in IndyCar, as well.
“Mike and Chip also have faith in me. That helps a lot. It helps me believe that I really can do this.
“It’s been great working with them. I’ve been able to spend quite a lot of time with them. I was able to go into the Texas race this year. I spent the whole 500 with them.
“Even more than that, I tend to always try to spend as much time as I can on race weekends with them, even if I’m there racing in my own series. I try to get over to the timing stand for the races usually and, if I can, qualifying as well. I think all of that’s been very helpful.
“There was no guarantee I would be in an IndyCar seat this year, but I was always hoping that I could be. It was just kind of something that I tried to make happen, and here we are.”