RACER TEAM-BY-TEAM ANALYSIS: TCGR
ANALYSIS: IndyCar team-by-team, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
Tony DiZinno I September 26, 2012
RACER.com continues its breakdown of each team's season in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Third up is Target Chip Ganassi Racing, with each driver, points total and finish, wins/poles or best start/finish, average start, points per race and laps led, if applicable.
TARGET CHIP GANASSI RACING (Honda)
Scott Dixon / (435, 3rd)
Dario Franchitti / (363, 7th)
Wins: Three (Dixon two, Franchitti one)
Poles: Four* (Franchitti three*, Dixon one)
Avg. Start: Franchitti 5.8, Dixon 7.7
Points Per Race: Dixon 29, Franchitti 24.2
Laps Led: Dixon 456, Franchitti 112
*Note: Franchitti started first at Long Beach and Edmonton following grid penalties assessed to Briscoe/Hunter-Reay.
Such is the rarified air that Target Chip Ganassi Racing lives in that by its own, almost unrealistic standards, 2012 was a bitterly disappointing year. The team didn't lead the points after any race (first time since 2005), was eliminated from the title before the last race (also, a first since 2005), and for the second time failed to secure a fifth consecutive championship (1996-'99, 2008-'11). And this was in a year when they still won three races, six poles, and finished 1-2 at the Indianapolis 500!
There's a bit of similarity between the 2000 season (in CART) and 2012 in terms of why TCGR fell from atop the perch in pursuit of its fifth consecutive championship. A more drastic shakeup in 2000 saw Ganassi switch from the erstwhile dominant Reynard-Honda package to a gamble of Lola-Toyotas; Juan Pablo Montoya was arguably that year's fastest driver but despite three wins (tied for most), he bore the brunt of mechanical issues and finished only ninth in points. Also similar – Montoya won that year's Indianapolis 500 when Ganassi made his first entry into the IRL-sanctioned race before eventually moving all of his open-wheel assets into the series full-time in 2003.
Fast forward to this year and with the new Dallara DW12, three-time defending champion Dario Franchitti was forced to alter his driving style, but responded well to chassis changes to still allow him to right-foot brake. Scott Dixon, meanwhile, was the one who was somehow still in title contention as late as he was despite the mountain of bad luck.
Franchitti's year first. The Scotsman had a rough start with 13th at St. Pete, a hard drive from 18th to 10th at Barber, then 15th after gearbox issues in Long Beach. Everything came right at Indy, and a great drive a week later from 14th to second at Detroit seemed to forecast another title run.
It all went awry from there. Franchitti had the year's best qualifying average – and he was the only full-time driver to not incur a 10-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change – but he finished 13th or worse in six of the next eight races. He started first five times, twice inherited (Long Beach, Edmonton) thanks to the fastest qualifier incurring a grid penalty. You figure he'll be hungrier to recover next year and get back in title contention.
As for Dixon, he lost the title by only 33 points, which, when you look back at his season, seems unfathomable. In seven of 15 races he finished 10th or worse, with his only self-inflicted error a spin at Texas. He drew the short stack of luck from the officiating side, having been unfairly penalized at Milwaukee, pulled off track at Long Beach with mechanical issues, and penalized for hitting an air hose at Sonoma.
In the eight races he wasn't affected by an abnormal circumstance, he was anywhere from first to fourth. He also led a series-high 456 laps, and his wins at Detroit and Mid-Ohio were typical Dixon master class performances, as most of his wins tend to be. He deserved better, but will no doubt be stronger in 2013.