In two dozen racing seasons, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams has grown from a one-car Indy car team sponsored by an energetic young department store chain, to one of the most renowned organizations in the history of motorsports. In no small part, the foundation of that success is based on the sport’s most enduring partnership between a team and its sponsor; a team and sponsor whose drive, ambition and passion for success ideally complement one another.
It may have taken awhile for Target Chip Ganassi Racing (TCGR) to score its first win. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1994 Gold Coast Grand Prix – fully four seasons after debuting in the 1990 CART PPG IndyCar World Series season opener at Phoenix International Raceway – that Michael Andretti captured the team’s first checkered flag. Once on the winning track, however, there’s been no looking back and – as the organization celebrates its 25th season of competition – the trophy cases in CGR’s and Concord, NC shops are filled with hardware celebrating victories and championships from Daytona to Indianapolis, INDYCAR to NASCAR, IMSA and ARCA.
Although the Ganassi organization has stamped its authority across a wide swath of American motorsports in the past quarter century, it is deeply rooted in the sport of Indy car racing, a sport that voted Chip Ganassi its Most Improved Driver in 1983. Indeed, the organization emerged from Ganassi’s brief but enormously successful partnership with Pat Patrick that saw Emerson Fittipaldi win the 1989 Indianapolis 500 and CART PPG Indy Car World Series. Any thoughts Ganassi may have entertained of easily and quickly matching that success in his eponymous team were dashed when first ex-Formula One driver Eddie Cheever and, later, Indianapolis 500 Winner Arie Luyendyk went winless across three seasons of competition.
The team’s early seasons were not without their highlights – including Cheever’s Indianapolis 500 pole and Luyendyk’s runner-up finish in the Indianapolis 500 – but by mid-’93 Ganassi knew changes were necessary. Big changes. For ’94 he not only hired the most successful Indy car driver of the era in Andretti, he added a second car for Brazilian Formula One émigré Mauricio Gugelimin and forged a partnership to bring renowned chassis-maker Reynard into Indy car racing. It would not be the last time Ganassi forged a game-changing relationship. A year later he boldly switched from Goodyear to Firestone tires, Ford to Honda engines; and for ’96 he hired a relatively unheralded Italian named Alessandro Zanardi to join promising young American driver Jimmy Vasser in his sophomore season on the team.
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