Jamie McMurray and Dario gave chip the “double 500” in 2010.
Michael andretti scored TcGr’s first Indy car
win in the ’94 season opener and just two years
later Jimmy Vasser and alex Zanardi started
scooping titles for the chipster (rIGHT).
men. Penske built a business empire out
of racing; Ganassi’s business is racing.
But that’s not to say that he’s not a
businessman, and a good one at that.
Proof is offered in the form of Ganassi’s
22-year partnership with Target Stores,
the longest-running race team
sponsorship in the industry, because
while Ganassi may have learned a lot
from Penske about running a racing
team, he’s learned a few things from
Target over the years as well.
“I’m pretty fortunate,” Ganassi states.
“Target has obviously taught us a lot
about business and the company is
probably as influential in my lifetime off
the track as on. Those are people who
really understand the word ‘partnership.’
We’re racing cars – it should be fun. And
While Penske refers to his 36,000
employees as “human capital,” Ganassi’s
racing empire encompasses about one
percent of that many people. It’s
interesting that Chip’s gruff public
persona is at odds with how the people
who work for him describe him. Several
key people within the Ganassi
organization, including Mike Hull, Barry
Wanser and Scott Harner, were all
promoted from within. And Chip is now
taking the same approach with
developing his drivers for the future. In
“Target is probably as influential
in my lifetime off the track as on.
We’ve learned a lot over the years”
2011, he began operating “G2” – a second, two-car IndyCar
team out of a separate facility in Indianapolis. While Dario
Franchitti and Scott Dixon finished first and third in this year’s
IZOD IndyCar Series, Graham Rahal frequently demonstrated
strong pace and rookie Charlie Kimball settled in very nicely in
the second half of the season. (See last month’s RACER).
In some ways, it’s a page straight out of the Penske
playbook. Over the years, Penske occasionally gambled on
young drivers and his team turned the likes of Rick Mears and
Paul Tracy into stars. Hull, who took over as Ganassi’s
managing director and top race operations man since 2001
when Tom Anderson left to be a partner in Fernandez Racing,
explains that there was additional reasoning behind Ganassi’s
expansion from two to four IndyCars in 2011.
“We have a team that’s very well established, 22 years with a
major sponsor, and they don’t want a blip on the radar screen
chief engineer chris Simmons, Franchitti
and Ganassi have been an unbeatable
combo over the stretch of a season.
in the cockpit,” Hull notes. “They want
solid people driving the cars, so we had
no opportunity to pair young guys, who
had the ability but needed to learn, with
an experienced driver like we did in 1996
[Alex Zanardi and Jimmy Vasser] and ’99
[Juan Montoya and Vasser]. And in those
days, they had a lot of time away from
the race weekends to test.
“Graham and Charlie are at the front
end of their careers and we’re finding out
what they’re capable of doing,” Hull
continues. “That fires us up enormously
because we’ve got youth driving two cars
and experience driving two other cars
and they’re helping each other. For us,
it’s a pretty important program and it
has great traction going forward.”
“G2” is a shrewd move by Ganassi
because it’s an interesting way for him to
gauge just how effectively the flagship
Target team is utilizing its resources.
And as always, it comes back to a
comparison with Penske.
“Let’s just say the Target team has the
performance that you want in any race
team,” Ganassi offers. “That performance
comes at a level that I would characterize
as an arms race, almost, with my rival
Mr. Penske. While we can certainly
operate in that model, and we do it well,
there are other business models out there
that don’t have that full-on effort. They
can still get 90 percent of the job done