November 06, 2015

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Chip Ganassi and his racing teams have created a new program to identify young racing talent, then mentor and help those drivers.

The plan for Generation Ganassi, or Gen G, is to identify at least 10 drivers between ages 13 and 18 each year from any form of stock car or open wheel racing. Those teens will then be paired with a current Ganassi driver or racing competition person to help prepare them for a possible racing career.

Tony Kanaan, one of the team's IndyCar Series drivers, was in Texas on Friday with 15-year-old Devlin Defrancesco, who has been racing karts for nine years and is the first driver in the program.

Kanaan first saw a crazy 8-year-old kid driving when watching kart races in Homestead, Florida. It was Defrancesco, who Kanaan has already been mentoring for some time.

''Motor racing, it's so ungrateful sometimes,'' Kanaan said. ''If you get a basketball player and you're really good, you're going to make it to the NBA, one way or the other. Somebody's going to get you and discover you. In racing, how many guys are probably better than Tony Kanaan, and better than Kyle Larson or Jamie McMurray. ... There is plenty of talent out there.''

Chip Ganassi said he has always had a ''real interest'' in finding and trying to develop young racing talent.

''This is simply an effort to give young drivers a leg up as they navigate the turbulent waters of auto racing,'' Ganassi said. ''The hope is that a program like this can make a difference in some drivers' careers.''

Ganassi drivers have won eight rookie of year awards, including Larson being a Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series top rookie. McMurray was also a Sprint Cup rookie of the year, while Eddie Cheever, Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya won open-wheel top rookies.

Young drivers interested in the program can submit an online application. Submissions will be accepted through Jan. 31, and the winners announced next March.

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Online: www.chipganassiracing.com

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