RACER - Chip Ganassi Racing signs Kiel, promotes O'GaraINDYCAR
Chip Ganassi Racing has made two key managerial moves that will impact its NTT IndyCar Series program and its dual factory efforts on behalf of Cadillac in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The changes start with the assignment of Mike O’Gara, CGR’s Director of Operations, to oversee the Cadillac GTP/LMDh programs in IMSA and the WEC. O’Gara’s appointment comes after spending 2022 as a leader within CGR’s IndyCar operation where he managed and performed race strategy for the Indy 500-winning No. 8 Honda entry driven by Marcus Ericsson. With O’Gara’s extensive background in sports cars, including a senior role in running the former Ford GT IMSA/WEC project, the promotion to head CGR’s global Cadillac prototype campaign is a natural fit for his skills and experience.
O’Gara’s renewed focus on IMSA and the WEC has in turn created a managerial need on the IndyCar side, and in response, CGR has hired former Arrow McLaren SP president Taylor Kiel as its new team manager. Like O’Gara, Kiel will report to CGR managing director Mike Hull and serve the crew chiefs and individual car managers across its four IndyCar entries.
“Some people are really into titles, but we never have been,” Hull told RACER. “We’ve been more into results because results define titles for us. Starting with Mike O’Gara, moving to what he’s doing next for us in this position is a pretty enormous task because we’re going to be a global racing company. We’re going back in the direction of where we were when Mike managed a similar program with GT. He’s now the global manager for Chip Ganassi Racing’s sports car effort, which spearheads what we do in partnership with Cadillac.
“We’ll be in IMSA and WEC, and Mike’s driven to not do things as two separate organizations, but one organization that races in two very different places. That program has legs to it for the future and Mike’s ready to do that job. With that said, there were a lot of things that Mike was doing here that creates a void that we have to fill, and Taylor became available. We’ve always hired talent to try to help us and so we hired him.”
Kiel, who surprised many by leaving AMSP shortly after the season finale in September, will reprise portions of his IndyCar management duties, joining managers like Barry Wanser and Blair Julian, among others, and spread into new areas including CGR’s sports car program.
“Taylor will fit in as a team manager, and certainly he’ll help Mike O’Gara with some of the sports car things just to get his feet wet and to understand what we’re doing going forward,” Hull said. “He’s already well into it. Primarily, at the moment, he’s focused on learning everything that we do and how Chip Ganassi Racing goes IndyCar racing, at the race track itself, the preparation to get there, what goes on with the parts and pieces that are required, what goes on with the people that support the programs, all vocational areas, and he’ll be a strategist for one of our four cars going forward.”
Kiel spent his entire career with the team known today as AMSP, working his way up from the lowest position on the organizational chart to running the show for its majority owners at McLaren Racing. During that 15-year span, he delighted in competing directly against Hull, his stepfather, and will now get the opportunity to work alongside his former rival.
“The bottom line is that when talent comes available, you can’t ignore it,” Hull said. “But people might not realize that around the dinner table, we don’t talk about work. What I like about Taylor is the fact that he has winning in his background, he knows how to win. It’s hard to teach somebody how to win if you’ve never won, but if you already know how to win, you can teach other people how to do it.”
Despite the family connection, Hull says Taylor’s appointment is all about what he can bring to CGR: “He knows how to win”. Image by Marshall Pruett
For Kiel, the change of scenery and new challenges are welcome.
“Where I was previously, I had been there a really long time and I think it was in a really good place when I left,” he said. “But for me, personally and professionally, I needed a change of pace. It made a tough decision for me, but ultimately, I felt like it was the right decision for myself and my family to explore something new. And this opportunity is one that you really can’t turn down.
“There’s some absolute thoroughbreds in motorsports, and this is one of them. I had quite a few opportunities, so I wanted to take my time and make sure I was doing the right thing. I’m super excited about it. Obviously, there’s a family connection there and I’ve grown up around the organization. I’ve kind of looked at it from afar, I’ve looked at it up close, and it feels like a bit of a homecoming of sorts, but at the same time, it’s full of new challenges as I head into the next chapter of my career. It’s funny. I’m 15 years into an IndyCar career and I’m 35 years old, so it might look like it’s halftime, but it’s more like the end of the first quarter in some respects.”
Along with its IndyCar and sports car teams, CGR also has an Extreme E program that competes around the world. The team’s diversity was another draw for Kiel.
“If you’re going to compare and contrast the two, nothing is siloed here and there’s the opportunity to learn and grow,” he said. “I’ve still got the opportunity to compete at the Indy 500, but also the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and there’s Extreme E, too. So it’s more environments for me to learn how to go racing, and in different ways with different people with different rules, cars, drivers, etc.
“So I’m very much looking at it as a great opportunity to continue to expand my skill set, but also to hopefully bring something to the team that can help them, too. The goal for me is to focus on the IndyCar program and helping Mike O’Gara on the sports car side, and wherever else globally I can be of value to Chip Ganassi Racing.”