Ganassi savors IndyCar title, seeks more in NASCAR
Ralph N. Paulk, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Chip Ganassi can't win the Sprint Cup championship this year, but it's the only major auto racing title to elude him.
The Fox Chapel native claimed his eighth IndyCar Series championship last weekend as Dario Franchitti avoided a late crash at Homestead-Miami to overtake Will Power, whose surprising run at the title ended with a broken suspension.
Ganassi doubled his pleasure in the season finale. Scott Dixon captured the checkered flag to finish third in points.
"I can argue that I'm in the sweet spot right now," Ganassi said earlier this week. "This one especially wasn't easy, because we had to fight from behind.
"At the beginning of the year, I never imagined we would be battling Will Power for the championship. The guy really showed his versatility. Of all the guys on that Penske team, you would not have picked him to challenge for the championship."
Team Penske's Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe were considered the favorites along with Dixon and Franchitti. But Power pressed them by gathering some early momentum in winning the first two races.
"Dario had to work hard to win the championship," Ganassi said.
It's been a hard, but satisfying year for Ganassi. In addition to his open-wheel title, his drivers won the three most prestigious events: Jamie McMurray winning both the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400, and Franchitti earned Target Team Ganassi its third Indianapolis 500 victory.
"I'm fortunate to be able to work with great people," Ganassi said. "It takes a lot of great people to accomplish what we have this year.
"I don't want to say it can't get better," Ganassi said. "It can."
Already, things are looking up for his Cup team this weekend. McMurray won the pole for today's race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., while Montoya will start fourth.
Ganassi admittedly is still basking in the glory of winning another IndyCar title.
Franchitti began last weekend by capturing the pole. Then, he led the most laps for an additional two bonus points.
"Those points were very important because it changed the math, because if we had finished second, (Power) needed only to finish fourth to beat us," Ganassi said. "At some point, we were able to control our own destiny.
"After Power fell out, people don't understand that if we had fallen out of the race, (Power) would have won the championship. We had to really be careful not to get involved in a crash."
Still, Franchitti had to take evasive action to avoid Mika Duna, who spun out late in the race. It was the only anxious moment for Ganassi, who watched from pit row.
"That, simply put, was a close call," Ganassi said. "It was too close for comfort."