Ganassi Celebrates 25th Anniversary
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates opened Tuesday’s portion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, announcing plans to celebrate its 25th year of motorsports competition.
The team, started by Chip Ganassi in 1990 at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, is recognized as one of the most successful motorsports organizations in recent memory. Teams owned or co-owned by Ganassi have claimed five Rolex 24 At Daytona victories, four Indianapolis 500 victories, a Daytona 500 triumph and a Brickyard 400 win. The team has scored more than 150 race victories and 17 series championships.
“We’re celebrating 25 years as an organization and our partnership with Target,” said Steve Lauletta, president of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. “What started as a one-car IndyCar team in Indianapolis has grown to more than 300 employees run out of three different race shops in three different cities.
“We have seven cars and eight drivers across three series. Those drivers represent five different countries and they are the latest in a history of great drivers that have contributed to 17 championships and more than 150 race wins,” Lauletta said.
Currently Ganassi fields teams in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, IndyCar Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The team’s driver roster includes Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson in NASCAR, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in United SportsCar and Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Charlie Kimball in the IndyCar Series.
• Kyle Larson said the new sprint-car program that he co-owns with Justin Marks is coming along slowly but surely. He said the biggest issue at the moment is acquiring a trailer.
“Right now I think we’ve got most of the parts in stock,” Larson said. “Steve Suchy (crew chief) is going to get all of that stuff put together. We’re waiting on the trailer. That is going to be the last thing we’re waiting on. Once we get that at the end of March, we’ll probably load up and head straight out to California.”
• A member of the media asked Larson if his crash last year during the season opening NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona Int’l Speedway was among the most frightening he has ever been a part of.
“I’d say on video it looks the worst, but it is probably not even top five of my worst wrecks,” Larson said. “I’ve had a few at Eldora that hurt. A couple in California. Dirt track stuff, those can hurt. I think I just got really, really lucky. That’s what I think about when I think about the Daytona wreck.”
The same reporter then asked if Larson had “ever been that high in the air before.”
“I’ve been a lot higher in the air,” Larson said with a laugh.
• Richard Childress was late arriving for the Richard Childress Racing media session Tuesday morning because a traffic accident on I-85 in Concord, which his grandson Austin Dillon found particularly amusing.
“Richard will be here in a few minutes. There is only one person who is happy about that, and that is Austin. He was back in the greenroom saying, ‘This is great. Richard is always on Ty and I about being late and now here he is late,’” said RCR Chief Operating Officer Torrey Galida.
When Childress did arrive, he was promptly greeted with a round of applause and a quick jab from new RCR driver Ryan Newman.
“It’s a shame the battery is dead in the helicopter huh?” Newman jokingly asked.
“I just dread facing Austin and Ty,” Childress quipped back.
• One question left unanswered following the move of the Sprint Showdown from Saturday to Friday during NASCAR Sprint All-Star Weekend is the qualifying format for the Sprint Showdown.
NASCAR recently announced the new “knockout” qualifying format that will take the place of the single-lap system used for years, but Charlotte Motor Speedway General Manager Marcus Smith is unsure which format will be used for Showdown qualifying. He indicated that decision will be made after consulting with NASCAR.
Smith did confirm that Showdown qualifying will take place on the same day as the race, which is Friday, May 17.
• There was a very important person missing from the Furniture Row Racing portion of Tuesday’s Media Tour events. Martin Truex Jr., the new driver of the No. 78 Chevrolet SS, was an apparent no-show for the event.
But only for a few minutes.
Truex, who is on vacation at the island of Anguilla in the Caribbean, checked in to answer questions from members of the media via Skype. When one member of the media asked Truex if Anguilla was a good place to go to forget about the 2013 season, an arm reached into view with a drink for Truex.
“That was not planned,” Truex quipped.
• Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson admitted he was a bit surprised when he heard about the rumored changes to NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. He was expecting something that more resembled the heat race system that many short tracks around the United States utilize.
“NASCAR has been very concerned about something gimmicky that would take place during a race. We’ve all heard a variety of ideas,” Johnson said. “I felt, and maybe it was more my opinion than anything, that you take a four-hour window of time, our TV window, and have heat races that roll over into a feature. That would seem to create momentum and also the fact that it plays on the roots of what happens on Friday and Saturday nights all around the country.
“When big change was coming, that was where my mindset was. In the conversations I had was heading more towards that package. To hear that it (the change) is a complete overhaul of the points kind of surprised me,” Johnson said.
Whatever the changes are going to be, they are expected to be announced during the final portion of the Media Tour on Thursday at 1 p.m.