Will Ganassi teams show their strength with another sweep?

Well before his race teams existed, Chip Ganassi competed in several Indianapolis 500s as a driver. In 1984 he drove for the IndyCar team, Patrick Racing and just four years later in 1988, Ganassi purchased an interest in his team. 

Although he retired from driving that same year, he was still part of Patrick Racing when they won the Indianapolis 500 in 1989. With his eye on owning his team, Ganassi parted ways with Patrick Racing in 1990 and developed his relationship with Target as his team sponsor.

His team, Chip Ganassi Racing, has found some degree of success in CART, IndyCar, NASCAR, and Grand-AM. For example, the CART and IndyCar side of his organization has accumulated nine championships and 50 wins. 

Earning the right to be in victory lane and hoisting the winning trophy high is what every driver races for in every event. But there are three trophies that stand apart from the rest as most-wanted by racers and team owners as well. 

For those in NASCAR’s top series, the ultimate rewards to win are the Harley J. Earl trophy from the Daytona 500 and the PPG trophy from the Brickyard 400. In IndyCar, the ultimate prize is the Borg-Warner trophy, awarded to the winner of the Indianapolis 500. 

To win any of these three is truly a big honor, but to win all three is a rare trifeca, bringing a great deal of admiration to any team owner and his associated drivers, accomplishing such a feat.  
McMurray, Ganassi and Franchitti with their Daytona 500 and Indy 500 trophies Photo – IMS Facebook
In 2010, Ganassi’s NASCAR team – now known as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing – with driver Jamie McMurray behind the wheel, won both the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400. 

In the same season, adding the frosting to the cake, Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar driver, Dario Franchitti won the Indianapolis 500, which for Ganassi was his third trip to Victory Lane as a primary owner in the marquee event. But the first time any racing team won all three prestigious trophies in the same season, making the accomplishment not only special for the team, but historic for racing as a sport.  

Currently, Chip Ganassi fields three entries in the IZOD IndyCar seriesGraham Rahal drives for sponsor, Service Central and sits 14th in the point standings – 103 points back from the series’ point leader, Will Power. Dario Franchitti drives one of the team’s two Target cars, and scored his first win this season in the prestigous Indianapolis 500 this past weekend. With his win, Franchitti is now 6th in the point standings and 64 points behind Will Power. Scott Dixon drives the other Target car and is currently ranked 4th, just 47 points away from the leader.  
On the NASCAR side, there are Earnhardt Ganassi Racing’s two teams with drivers, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray. Following the Coke 600, Juan sits 18th in the point standings while Jamie is ranked 21st. Both drivers are currently winless this season. 

Dario’s Indy 500 win, opens a window of opportunity for the two racing series’ Ganassi teams to sweep both Indy races this season. But, with the Daytona 500 won by Matt Kenseth at Roush Fenway Racing, they will not have a shot at repeating the history they made in 2010. 

Ganassi’s 2010 Indy Sweep Trophies Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 Photo – NASCAR.com/Autostock
In February 2011, Chip Ganassi’s comments in a NASCAR.com interview are revealing at how focused he can be on accomplishing this goal, despite the team’s lack-luster season. Although Ganassi’s IndyCar teams are all ranked within the top-15, his NASCAR teams are performing similar to their 2010 season and ranked outside the top-15. The question now becomes – are McMurray and Montoya prepared to put their teams in position between now and July’s Brickyard 400 to bring home Ganassi’s second Indy trophy of the season and another PPG Trophy for the NASCAR team?

“We had a great year last year (2010) and we didn’t make the Chase. And I’m telling you, there were cars that finished in front of us who made the Chase and didn’t have as good a year as we did.” 

In his final comments of the interview, Ganassi went on to say, 

“If we had the same year in 2011 that we had in 2010, I would not be disappointed. …Let’s just say this: if you win the right races, making or not making the Chase doesn’t become so important.”

Chip Ganassi has come a long way since his days of driving a race car in the 80s. But his desire to win these prestigious trophies continues to run deep for this successful team owner. There’s plenty of reason to believe, Mr. Ganassi and his NASCAR teams will be working hard to join their IndyCar counterpart and will do everything possible for another season sweep with a second Indianapolis Motor Speedway trophy in July.

Co-written by Michelle Lesener and Fan4Racing