‘What else?’ A lot for Chip Ganassi, whose racing teams are off to a strong start in 2023 Scott Meshey is living a purpose-driven life in a results-oriented industry
ST. SAINT PETERSBURG, Florida. This is Chip Ganassi’s trademark phrase, known to those lucky enough to see the other side of the self-proclaimed regular guy whose teams have achieved outstanding results in auto racing.
Although he often comes across as gruff and sometimes reserved in interviews, Ganassi actually enjoys arguing with small groups of reporters, challenging their claims and questions with a biting Pittsburgh wit honed over decades in garages and paddocks around the world.
The namesake of Chip Ganassi Racing often spices up his phone calls and conversations with two words that get to the point and invite further conversation.
During a March 3 meeting with four reporters in the hotel trailer of his IndyCar team – two days before Marcus Eriksson. opened the 2023 season with a win at the Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg – there was no clearer sign that Ganassi was very happy about his return to fighting the media (especially after he did not give an interview for several months during the 2022 season while being involved in contract litigation with Alex Palow).
“What else?” he asked half a dozen times between a dozen deadpan barbs and razor-sharp stabs.
• On the future of the IndyCar driver line-up: “We never look ahead or plan. We’re just throwing darts.” And after being pressured about the future of Scott Dixon, “Oh, I won’t have him forever? FINE. We sign a contract with Dixon for 11 years.”
• 24 Hours of Le Mans ticket sale this year: “How is there no parking on the plot? An entire homestead can be the size of Marion County.
• About the interview for the new documentary series “100 Days to Indy”: “That’s why I got into the sport. Be on TV.”
• About the rebranding of Indy NXT: “Yes, that was the problem with this series. It was the name! God, why didn’t we think of this? All caps!
• About the US Judiciary: “That’s why you never want to go to a jury trial. You put your life in the hands of 12 people who can’t get off the jury.”
If it wasn’t clear from his high spirits, Chip Ganassi Racing’s fortunes are strong at the start of the 2023 season.
Apart from victory in the opening of IndyCar March 5 and five in Extreme E opener This past weekend, CGR prepared the Cadillacs that will compete in two of the world’s biggest sports car series at Sebring International Raceway this week.
The 2022 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring winning organization will defend its title on Saturday in the #01 Cadillac V-Series R.
A day earlier, at the Sebring 1000, Ganassi will watch as the second Cadillac Racing V-Series R begins its first season in the World Endurance Championship. Ganassi and Roger Penske are the only team owners supporting full-time participation in the WEC and IMSA this year.
The iconic event of the WEC is the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which will feature Nos. 01 and 02 Cadillacs on June 10-11. This will give Ganassi (and Cadillac Racing) two chances to win Le Mans again after he won the GT category with Ford in 2016.
TWELVE HOURS OF SEBRING: details, schedule and information to watch Saturday’s race.
Just don’t ask if the overall victory will mean anything more.
“That’s what people don’t understand about it,” Ganassi said. “We don’t race because you belong to a different class. We race with all our might, no matter what class we are in. It’s just another race. We are racing. You are looking at the rules. You try to make the most of the set of rules and make every effort to do so. We do it every week.”
Okay, but doesn’t that feel a little different? The prototype’s overall Le Mans win is greater than that of the GT.
“Because people like you say it is.
Cadillac Racing’s Earl Bamber led the 2023 FIA WEC Prologue second test session at Sebring International Raceway this afternoon.https://t.co/6MVAXZ6AV1 #VEC #WECPrlogue @CadillacVSeries
— FIA World Endurance Championship (@FIAWEC) March 11, 2023
But isn’t that what the WEC and ACO are talking about?
“For some reason,” Ganassi said with a smile. “Winning our class in the GT class with a Ford made no difference. Trust me, it was as big a win as ever. And it was! We beat everyone we competed with. And that’s what we want to do in the current class we’re in. We want to beat everyone else in the class.”
However, it has not been the case in a long time for American sports car teams to take on the best European teams. Isn’t this a difficult task?
“Yeah, and if I didn’t think I had a good throw, I wouldn’t go,” he said. “We are ready for this.
WAYNE TAYLOR “DISAPPOINTED”: But the team is happy to lead Sebring on points after a penalty
Over the course of 1 hour 4 minutes, Ganassi touched on virtually every major racing series (IMSA, NASCAR and Formula One among them) and he saved one of his thickest riffs to reflect on the current state of IndyCar.
“Everyone wants to take a picture that in 1996 we had three chassis, three engine manufacturers and two tire companies vying for the championship in the last race of the CART Champ Car season,” Ganassi said. “That was great? No doubt it was great. But times are different today. I remember when I tried to qualify (for the Indy 500) in 1982, there were 60 driver-car combinations. There were 60 (expletive) racers, okay? I mean, it’s different today.
“But I do not sit and say that we need to return. These are glory days. The days we live in are glory days, okay? Can we work better? Of course, we can do better. I will come to your office and show you how you can work better. You can come to me and tell me how I can work better. We can all do it. But this is not an indicator for me. The benchmark for me is that we are where we are and we want to take the next step. Do better marketing work, spread the word that this is a great racing series and one of the best races. These are real races. The real thing.
“This is not NASCAR. This is not Formula 1. I mean, let’s face it: Formula 1 is about everything. But race. FINE? It’s like racing is almost an afterthought.”
Some other Ganassi nuggets:
• He confirmed that the team wants to drive Takuma Sato in all oval races, but currently only has funding for Texas Motor Speedway and the Indy 500. “We’re trying to put it all together,” Ganassi said. “I don’t have a sponsor right now.”
The car does not participate in the Leader’s Circle program, which brings in bonus money, so Ganassi admitted that it might be possible to exclude it. But he also indicated that Marcus Armstrong could expand his road and street racing schedule if the rookie (who competed in pre-season testing at The Thermal Club) continues to show great promise.
“I want to temper my enthusiasm,” Ganassi said. “He does not participate in all races. But if he’s not careful, he could end up in more races.”
“There’s a lot going on during the season and it feels like there’s a lot to learn in a short amount of time, but don’t get discouraged – just be present and absorb what you can during the internship.” – advice from 2022 @PNCBank WIM Graduate to Interns 2023 🙌 pic.twitter.com/bqs3n1v3KG
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) March 14, 2023
• He advocated for the second year of the Women in Motorsports team program to give women more career opportunities in racing. Angela Ashmore is the engineer for the No. 8 winning Ericsson Dallara-Honda at St. Pete and last year’s Indy 500. Danielle Shepherd was Ganassi’s lead engineer on the No. 01 Cadillac that won last year’s Sebring.
“I’ve never been one to go and say, ‘Hey, let’s check out this field of equality and diversity,'” Ganassi said. “I think it should be something authentic and not a tick mark. I think it’s authentic, #1. But more importantly, you have to generate new thoughts, new approaches, and new ideas.
“And hey, we revealed whether it was last year in Indianapolis with Angela Ashmore or Sebring with Danielle. For these women to be in key positions. It works. Happens. We don’t just tick boxes. I’m not calling for winning the Indy 500 or the Twelve Hours of Sebring as a ticked-off chief engineer.”
• Since new team manager Taylor Keel (who was in charge of strategy for Ericsson in St. Petersburg) joined the team from Arrow McLaren, Ganassi said he and managing director Mike Hull are actively “looking at ourselves in the mirror, saying, ‘What are we weak at? ? ? Where do we need to get stronger? What do we need?’ All the time.
“Now we are in such a mode that, dare I say, we need to become a little younger. Let’s face it, (Kiel) runs with a different crowd than Mike Hull and me. He has a different view of the sport. One day I told Mike: “He plows other fields than we do.” When it comes to people he knows in sports, it’s different.”
#ilikewinners @CGRTeams https://t.co/deEtmyIMtJ
— Chip Ganassi (@GanassiChip) February 23, 2023
• No hard feelings About Jimmie Johnson leaving NASCARwhich may yet return for the 2024 Indy 500.
“I thought we were fine for one more year,” Ganassi said of keeping Johnson at Honda at No. 48. “I don’t want to say it took me by surprise. I could spend another year there with Jimmy and Karvana. We talked a bit with him (about the 2023 Indy 500). I think we all said it would be great. Let’s do it, but he’s got a lot to do with his new deal. We have to come up with guys. It wasn’t just simple to do it.
“I’m not saying that I wouldn’t want to do it. Or I won’t do it in the future. I think Jimmy was well aware that he could…