GANASSI AND PENSKE TO TEST RIVALRY
Chip Ganassi, Roger Penske to test rivalry on Belle Isle
By David Goricki
June 2, 2012
Detroit— Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske are headed for a showdown.
Ganassi competes with Honda power, and won the biggest race this season, last weekend's Indianapolis 500 with Dario Franchitti.
Penske competes with Chevrolet power, and has won four of five races this season — Will Power (three) and Helio Castroneves (one) — and Power and Castroneves are 1-2 in the standings.
"I think I got his attention last week," Ganassi said of Penske.
Sure, Penske has been the face of IndyCar racing for more than four decades, but it's Ganassi who has more championships (five; one for Penske) the last 10 years.
And Sunday, when the two face off in the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, Ganassi's pleased he's got Franchitti on his side.
Franchitti didn't race in 2008 on Belle Isle after losing his NASCAR sponsorship.
But Ganassi wouldn't let Franchitti off the island without agreeing on a deal that would bring him back to the IndyCar series as his driver.
"You always go for the best guy who is available, and we thought he was the best guy available," Ganassi said. "We felt we had a pretty good car and we wanted him to be in it."
All Franchitti has done since his return is win 13 races, three straight series titles and two Indianapolis 500s (2010, 2012).
"The Ganassi team has been successful since its inception," said Franchitti, pointing to championships by Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997-98) and Juan Montoya (1999). "I'm lucky to be a part of it and we've had a good run with Scott (Dixon) winning the championship in 2008 and the 500 and us winning the championship in 2009-11 and the two Indy wins.
"It's a great organization and this is a team sport and people don't realize that as much. You've got to have great people working with you and you all have to do your job to be successful, and we've managed to do that."
"It's a continuation of people, a lot of continuity within our team," he said. "We've plugged in a lot of drivers, but the core group is the same."
Dixon has driven for Ganassi longer than any driver — 11 years. During that time, Dixon has 26 wins, including the 2008 Indianapolis 500, and two series titles (2003, 2008).
"I think he's very good at getting the right people in the industry to work for him, but I think it's the dedication to competition that is really the key to his success," Dixon said of Ganassi. "You know when you've messed up and he makes it well known you've messed up. And, if he's in position to win races, he finds ways to do it. For me, I think if you're in the business of wanting to win races, between him and Roger there's no better people to be with."
With Dixon and Franchitti, Ganassi has the Nos. 4 and 6 drivers in the series, leaving Penske and Co. with their hands full. And it's a rivalry others have noticed.
Michael Andretti, who owns Andretti Autosport, has won 39 races and three titles (Tony Kanaan in 2004, Dan Wheldon in 2005 and Franchitti in 2007) since 2003.
As a former IndyCar driver, Andretti appreciates the competition.
"That's what drives us," Andretti said. "We have all respect in the world for them and they are the guys we set out to beat. Each and every weekend you know you're going to be racing one of them for the win. It's been like that forever and we're glad we're one of them that's always fighting."