People once questioned the wisdom of Chip Ganassi running a second
IndyCar team. They don’t now that he has four cars as top- 10 contenders.
Words Jeff Olson
Main Image Phil Abbott/LAT
rahal (LeFT) and Kimball (aBOVe)
are starting to see their efforts – and
those of Ganassi’s second team – pay off.
All that’s necessary to explain the di;erences between Target Chip Ganassi Racing and its satellite team is a straightforward comparison of numbers. Namely, it’s
this numeric fact: “Satellite Chip Ganassi Racing” has three
cars; Target Chip Ganassi Racing has seven. In logistical
terms, that means Graham Rahal’s car went from the Indy
Japan back to the race shop in Indianapolis, was refitted and
transformed into an oval car, and was then hauled to Kentucky,
where Rahal tested it five days after the race in Motegi.
Major operators in the IZOD IndyCar Series have separate
cars for everything – ovals, road courses, street circuits, trips
to the grocery store, etc. In the case of TCGR’s younger
sibling, one car fits all racetracks. Rahal, who has made the
most of very little this season, perhaps relishes the fact that he sometimes posts
better numbers than the two experienced pilots of the mother ship. But publicly, he
just presses forward, as does Kimball, making the best with limited resources and a
group of administrators, engineers and mechanics that’s just now starting to click.
“Some things make it really hard to keep up with the best teams,” Rahal says.
“Most of the other top teams have a car designed for a specific type of racetrack.
We can’t do that. But at the same time, we’re just starting to hit our stride. We’ve
gone through a lot of phases where things don’t go well. But the team as a whole is
getting better and I hope that carries over to next year. With new cars and engines,
you need everybody together in order to achieve the maximum potential of the team.”
When Ganassi purchased the remaining assets of Vision Racing to form the
satellite team, the kit came with plenty of parts – enough for five cars. The three tubs
are more than just that, and the parts flow between teams much like data. But,
since it’s the final season of the chassis, there wasn’t much point in hoarding them.
“What Chip Ganassi Racing does very well is analyzing – perhaps overanalyzing
– everything to make sure we’re fair in what we do and that we cover all the bases,”
says Ganassi’s managing director Mike Hull. “We look at where the 10th domino is
going to fall, down the road. We look at the big picture of what’s going on and where
it might lead. The management of the entire operation performs the same way in all
aspects of the operation. It’s trained culturally to do the same job with each team.”
What it isn’t used to is dealing with a start-up. The vast majority of TCGR
employees have been there for a marked period of time. The satellite team is
di;erent. Almost everyone was new to working with each other. People see Rahal
in a Ganassi car and expect instant champagne. What they don’t see is a completely
green team trying to attain balance.
“People forget this is a new team,” Rahal reminds. “There were only a couple
of guys who came over from the Target team. It is a new operation. For us, there’s
a lot of learning to be done. Everybody has been in IndyCar racing before, but
we’re learning each other. They’re learning to trust in me, and vice versa. If you
look at the way we’ve operated, I think we’ve done pretty well for our first year.