Dario Franchitti and Chip Ganassi Question and Answer
Championship-winning team owner Chip Ganassi and three-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti participated in a Q & A today to discuss the recently completed IZOD IndyCar Series season.
Franchitti’s second consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series title for Target Chip Ganassi Racing capped a highlight year for the team owner, whose teams captured marquee races this season in IndyCar (Indianapolis 500) and NASCAR (Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400) and the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series title.
Q. Dario, I just mentioned the company that you now keep with winning the title and the Indy 500 in the same season for the second time in your career. What does it mean to you to be in such exclusive company with legends like Foyt, Meyer, Shaw and Ward?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I hear that are kind of list and I hear these legends of the sport, and I don't kind of -- I don't feel part of that group, you know what I mean? I'm very proud of my achievements winning the three championships and the two Indianapolis 500's. But I kind of look on those guys as, I don't feel part of that. You know what I mean?
I just feel I'm a driver who has been lucky enough to drive some great equipment and gotten the job done. But it's a privilege to be mentioned in the same kind of sentences as those guys
Q. You seem to be getting better with age. I mean, three titles, two Indy 500 victories since 2007. What keeps the fires stoked? It seems like you're more competitive than ever. What do you attribute that to?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think in some ways things have clicked. It's like we were talking about earlier. Back in the late '90s when I first showed up, I was fighting with Zanardi, Montoya, Jimmy Vasser, Michael Andretti, Al (Unser) Jr., all those guys for wins. But we never managed to tie that season together.
There were a couple difficult years, too. But from 2007, it's all just clicked. I think when you figure out how to win one of these things, you've kind of got that knowledge to fall back on. I've been very lucky again to drive great equipment both in 2007, and certainly since I've joined Team Target, and that all helps.
As Chip said before, it's a team sport. You're not going to do it without a great teammate. And the relationship I have with the guys and especially with my engineer Chris Simmons and the engineering staff. That is all critical to getting the most out of essentially everybody running the same equipment. You've got to find an advantage somewhere.
Q. Not to press the point. I'm just wondering when do you start thinking about 2011? You said you want to take some time off, and deservedly so, but when will you start getting serious?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Unfortunately, I was thinking about it last night already (laughing). I was like stop already. You just need to give yourself a break for a couple of weeks.
I don't know. It's a blessing because I love what I do so much. I think about it quite a lot. But I would say certainly when I get back from Australia to start in November, I'll be heading up to Indianapolis and sitting with Chris and Barry and Julian (Robertson) and Eric (Bretzman) and the whole technical side of Team Target. And we'll be talking about next year and where to improve.
I'm sure Chip and I will be getting together as well. He'll be putting his side of things in there, too. We'll start working already on it. Testing is going to cull up, and it's going to be here before we know it.
I suppose in some ways the good point is I'm already up for it. But I think I do need a couple of weeks off.
Q. Chip, you've had many great drivers through the years with all of your teams, IndyCar, Stock Car and sports car teams. What similarities does Dario have to the other great drivers throughout the years and Ganassi Teams, and where is he different? Possibly a cut above?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, that's a good question. I think Dario isn't the -- he's not the empresario that (Alex) Zanadi was, or he's not somebody that is referred to as blindingly fast like (Juan Pablo) Montoya was when he was in IndyCar. But he's always one of these guys that he's always there when it counts.
He's always -- you win championships and you win races by first finishing and then finishing first. There is a lot that goes into all of that. Dario just has a way of, I think, looking at -- he has a keen eye on the race at hand any particular weekend. But he also has his left eye on this weekend. He's got his right eye on the goal post at the end of the year.
I think that's a special kind of thing that I didn't really see in any of our other drivers. Not to mention his teammate, obviously, Scott Dixon didn't have the kind of year that he would have liked to have. But there can only be one winner, and it's good to have Dario as a bullet in your gun, as a big bullet, yeah.
Q. As a team owner, you've been involved with PPG as the series sponsor and then later with FedEx. This year IZOD was the series sponsor for the IndyCar Series for the first time. If you could talk a little bit about how they elevated the promotion and the awareness of the sport this season in their first year as a series sponsor?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, I tell you, that is a good question. It started off with seeing ads for the IndyCar Series during the NFL playoff season last year. I remember watching ads on some pretty big networks that had some pretty big events on them. There was IZOD in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
I thought it was pretty interesting that they came out of the blocks really hard and kept it going throughout the year, exposing IndyCar racing to a different crowd.
Let's face it, everybody that picks up an issue of Auto Week or IndyCar magazine, we have some core fans that will be core fans for a long time. But I think we all agree that IndyCar racing needs to be taken to some new fans and just exposed to people.
I think that's what IZOD's done a great job of. Whether it was these events in New York and Boston and L.A., Indianapolis, they're bringing in people that expose to different types of media, different types of people.
There are a lot of people that, when exposed to motorsport and particularly IndyCar racing, when they're exposed to it, you find out a lot more about them. They have a keen interest in it, they have a little bit, they have a story to tell about the Indy 500 or something to tell them and they're a fan of it.
I think we're very lucky to have IZOD. I think they did a great job for their first year and certainly exposing us to some new type of people.
Q. As a car owner, I know it wasn't a perfect year, but in your mind could it have gotten any better?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, I guess. You could sit there and argue that my guys are 14th or 15th in NASCAR points or so, so we didn't make the Chase. I could sit there and nitpick the season.
We had a terrible race this past weekend in Fontana, California, after being so promising in qualifying. I could sit there and nitpick little things and reasons, but the fact of the matter is it's been a great year. It would be very hard to have anything that will turn it into a not so good year. Practically nothing can happen to turn it into a bad year.
I say practically nothing, so, obviously we -- there are ups and downs in all forms of things you do in life. I'm sitting here right now celebrating a championship with Dario on one hand. On the other hand, I have my team manager in Indianapolis today with his son who is comatose right now from a crash. (Steve Hmiel, whose son Shane was injured in a USAC racing accident)
You know, it's an everyday thing. When you're in this business every day, it's filled with ups and downs.
Q. There are several big named free agents out there in the IndyCar Series, Tony Kanaan and Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay among the biggest. Are you interested in expanding your team to a three-car operation? Do you feel the need to do that, or are you worried about maybe upsetting chemistry?
CHIP GANASSI: First of all, there are some great free agents out there. None, I think, as great as the drivers I have, but nonetheless there are some great free agents out there that are available.
I'm perfectly happy with the two guys I have whether these free agents became available last week, last month or six months ago. I'm perfectly happy with the guys I have. And I doubt very much that I would do anything to dilute our team right now.
Whether that's with a -- I wouldn't think a third car is in the cards at Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
Having said all that, I would be perfectly happy to have a well-funded development team of some younger guys that are on their way up that have some potential down the road if the proper sponsorship could be found. Not necessarily under the roof of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, but I think in terms of a development team, we could easily compete with a lot of these teams out there now running less than a total budget for a well-funded front-running car.
I think if done right, that could add to Target Chip Ganassi Racing down the road three or four years or something. The things you do now could possibly augment your team for the future.
Again, having said that, it's not something -- it's not something that's going to make or break our organization. If our organization looks exactly the same a year from now as it does today, it won't bother me a bit.