Chilton goes from F1 tail-ender to 500 contender

Fri Feb 19, 2016 12:03pm EST
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By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - Max Chilton will go from Formula One tail-ender to Indianapolis 500 contender in May after joining the Chip Ganassi Racing team that have put four cars in Victory Lane over the last 16 years at the famed Brickyard.

Chilton, who never finished higher than 13th in two seasons with F1 minnow Marussia, will drive for an IndyCar glamor team that includes former Indy 500 winners Scott Dixon (2008) of New Zealand and Tony Kanaan (2013) of Brazil.

But Chilton, who set a Formula One record when he became the only driver to finish every race in a debut season, admitted that IndyCar might only be a pit stop in his racing career, saying he has unfinished business in F1.

"The one thing I have learned since coming to America is you really don't know where life is going to take you and you should never say never," Chilton told a conference call ahead of the IndyCar season opener on March 13 in St. Petersburg, Florida. "I remember saying I would never do IndyCar and now here I am.

"I'm not going to say I'm never going to go back to F1. If I suddenly do amazingly well in IndyCar and it gives me the opportunity to go back to F1 I would jump at it because F1 at the end of the day is my goal.

"I still have lots of unfinished business there because since a child I wanted to become a podium finisher or race winner but that didn't happen because of certain circumstances the car you are in."

That will not be the situation in IndyCar where Chip Ganassi is one of the elite teams alongside Penske Racing and Andretti Autosport and can provide Chilton with top equipment.

Since 2003 the tree teams have combined to win every IndyCar drivers championship with Ganassi drivers taking six of the last eight crowns including last season's title won by Dixon.   Continued...

Max Chilton of Britain drives his Nissan GT-R LM Nismo number 21 during the Le Mans 24-hour sportscar race in Le Mans, central France June 13, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe