RACING HEAVYWEIGHTS GO TOE-TO-TOE AT TMS
Heavyweights Ganassi and Penske teams have dominated first six races of season
June 9, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas — The most compelling rivalry in all of racing will resume Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske are the Cowboys-Washington Redskins of a generation ago, the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox of the current scene. Form says one of the heavyweight teams will produce the winner of the Izod IndyCar Firestone 550.
Why not? Ganassi and Penske have combined to win the last seven IndyCar races at TMS.
The powers have won all six races on the circuit this season. Each team has two drivers among the top five in points. For Penske, Will Power leads the series, and Helio Castroneves is third. For Ganassi, Scott Dixon is second, and Dario Franchitti fifth.
“There’s always been a rivalry when you’re competing at that level,” Dixon said. “It’s one of the longer-lasting rivalries as some teams have come and gone. It’s a healthy but very strongly competitive rivalry.”
Ganassi arrives on the hot streak. After Penske took the first four races on road and street courses, Ganassi answered with Franchitti and Dixon going 1-2 in the last two races. Franchitti won at Indianapolis; Dixon reversed roles last week at Detroit.
The Ganassi show at Detroit had to sting Team Penske. Detroit is owner Roger Penske’s town, and he moved heaven and earth to bring back the race.
“We enjoy racing each other,” Ganassi said. “We know when we show up we have to beat him. I think it’s a little bit sweeter for each of us when we beat the other. Having said that, we have a nice friendship except for that one bit of time on the weekend.”
Ganassi and Penske are similar. Both are former racers who are successful businessmen away from their racing involvement. They also field NASCAR Sprint Cup teams.
In IndyCar, Penske is the godfather. He arrived in the series in 2001 and has been a guiding force ever since. Ganassi said Penske “set the bar” in the sport and expressed respect for what Penske has accomplished.
“I look at our relationship with Roger and our teams as us both having a deep interest in the sport,” Ganassi said. “We want to protect the sport. We care about the sport. We’re together on a lot of the issues that govern the sport. We want to protect the sport we love.”
On the track, the teams are different, too. Penske signed on with Chevrolet when it returned as an engine builder this season. Ganassi stayed with Honda.
The racing is built on respect. There are no knockdown pitches. The teams know where each other is and race hard but clean.
“I believe right now the teams that have been having the most success the last few years are Team Penske and Team Ganassi,” Castroneves said. “Yes, it’s becoming a rivalry when you have teams like that in the scenario.
“But it’s a healthy rivalry. It’s nothing in a bad way. I would say we want to finish ahead of them, but we want to finish ahead of everybody.”
This race will hinge on driver ability as much as any factor.
In past IndyCar races at TMS, the driver was more of a passenger. The car had enough hold to run flat-out for the entire oval. The driver made few decisions.
That has changed. The new aerodynamic package has created a situation in which the driver will be asked to do more because the car will be harder to handle. Good drivers like it that way.
When it comes to good drivers, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske are in the forefront, just as they are in everything else. It’s time for another episode of the rivalry.