Dario Franchitti will return to the IRL IndyCar Series next year driving for Chip Ganassi Racing beside Scott Dixon, the team announced on Tuesday.
After turning his back on the series following his title and a victory in the Indianapolis 500 last year, the Scot has agreed with Chip Ganassi to make his open-wheel return in 2009, driving beside the driver he beat to the IRL IndyCar Series championship last year.
He will replace fellow Briton Dan Wheldon at Ganassi. The team had attempted to replace 2005 champion Wheldon with Tony Kanaan last month before the Brazilian decided to remain with Andretti Green Racing instead.
Franchitti's return to the IndyCar Series means the end of his hopes of making a successful transition to NASCAR. The Scot lost his ride in the Sprint Cup series due to lack of funding in July and his season was also hampered by an ankle injury he suffered in a race accident at Talladega in April.
Three weeks ago, Franchitti seemed unsure about his future in NASCAR and said he was considering many options, including an IndyCar return, which had already been offered by Ganassi after his Cup team ceased operations two months ago.
"Part of the reason that I signed with Ganassi last year was because of how many options that Chip has at his disposal for a driver," said Franchitti. "You can do almost any form of racing that you want. With unification and the new schedule having more road and street courses it made me think about this more and more.
"I have really enjoyed this last season in stock cars and have not completely closed that chapter of my professional career but the opportunity that arose was just something I could not pass up.
"I am really looking forward to getting behind the wheel of one of those Target cars and be a teammate to Scott Dixon. Target is a tremendous sponsor and they and Chip always give you everything you need to win."
Ganassi said he has always been a big fan of Franchitti and his appreciation of the Scot had grown while having him onboard his NASCAR squad this year.
"It is going to be very exciting to have Dario in one of our IndyCars next year," Ganassi said. "I have always admired his competitive spirit when he raced against us and have really grown to see more of what he is about this season while he raced in NASCAR.
"When there was a possibility of an opening on our IndyCar team, the only person I thought about was Dario. This is going to be a great move for Dario and for our team."
Team officials said Franchitti's racing plans for the reminder of the season have yet to be determined, as he had been expected to race in a number of NASCAR Nationwide series events driving the No.40 Fastenal Dodge before today's announcement.
Rookie Bryan Clauson is now expected to drive the car for the reminder of the season while Franchitti's return to IndyCars at the non-points event at Surfers Paradise in October has not been ruled out yet.