One Interview With: Chip Ganassi



Posted on 10/01/2023

One Interview With: Chip Ganassi

Chip Ganassi Racing and The American Legion will be conducting "One Interview With" Q&A's throughout the 2023 racing season. Read previous interviews with two-time INDYCAR champion Alex Palou and Retired Navy SEAL and Extreme E Team Manager Dave Berkenfield.

Today's rendition features Chip Ganassi, who has directed the organization to 22 championships and more than 250 wins.

As a reminder, Be The One to:

  • Ask veterans in your life how they are doing.
  • Listen when a veteran needs to talk.
  • Reach out when a veteran is struggling.

Did you have a favorite track as a driver?

“My favorite track was Indianapolis. First of all, it was always a very good racing surface. It was always one of the smoothest tracks. In terms of the event itself, in the 1980’s people really raised an eyebrow when you said that you were a race car driver. People really respected the profession and what it entailed – the good, the bad, the ugly – and the fact that you would come to Indianapolis to compete.”

Is there a race or an event that you wish you would have raced?

“I pretty much raced in the events that I wanted to race in. I was happy to be an INDYCAR driver and then I also got to drive at Le Mans. My career as a driver went further than I thought it would and looking back on it, I would have tried even harder as a driver. I relied on my natural ability more than my brains.”

You travel to almost every race that the team competes in. What do you enjoy the most about a typical race weekend?

“I really enjoy the team atmosphere and being around everyone for a common cause. To me, it’s most exciting to work with a group of people that could otherwise accomplish quite a lot in different areas of the world, but they come together because they have this shared passion that is motor racing, and they want to be successful in it. It really lights me up being around a group of people like that.”

Do you have a favorite Indianapolis 500 tradition?

“I don’t know if I have a specific tradition. They say baseball is the harbinger of spring, but I would say, ‘No, Indianapolis is the harbinger of spring.’ It kicks off the racing season and kicks off the summer. I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life here in Indianapolis in May. It becomes a part of your fabric as a person, to understand and to be a part of the tradition, the history and the record book.”

What qualities do you look for in your drivers and leaders in the building?

“Over time, it has changed. Today, you look at a person’s value system and if they have the right value system, you can teach them the task of the job. It’s about what a person holds near and dear in their hearts and what their personal value system is made of.”

What sense of pride do you feel seeing your organization play such a pivotal role in launching the “Be The One” initiative – and then recently, winning the championship in The American Legion Honda?

“People have sold products through motorsports, whether it is oil, retail, consumer goods, but this is the first time I’ve been involved in a partnership where you’re really selling an idea and an awareness of something that needs some light put on it. The fact that 17 veterans are taking their life each day, that to me, was an eye opener and I think it should be for everyone. I’m honored to help bring awareness to that and to subsequently have veterans come up to you and say, ‘I need help,’ or ‘I didn’t know that this help was available.’ Pointing them in the right direction is very rewarding to know that you and your team of people had an impact on somebody’s life. That is something that is very powerful to be a part of.”

Can you tell us more about your discussions with veterans and those in active duty when you run into them at the racetrack?

“Being involved in a movement, the Be The One initiative, really does something for individual people. It’s a little bit hard to comprehend that something you look at as your avocation is having an impact. It’s another thing to actually be involved in their life and have an impact. It’s hard to put into words how that makes you feel, that you played even a small part of it.”

Why do you think that it is so crucial to talk about mental health problems that the military community faces?

“I don’t want to take anything away from the women that serve and have served our country, but I feel that historically, it has not been manly to show your soft side, to show that you have an emotional challenge or that you are dealing with something. Men want to keep things quiet, and I think that this program has shown that the men who serve our country are more vulnerable than most and the point is that there is help out there for them. These are real issues impacting real people with real lives. It’s no different to have a mental health problem than it is to need a cavity or to have a broken arm. These things can be fixed and it’s about bringing the right perspective to people and to let them know that they are not alone in these challenges that they face.”

Do you have a dream car? Or do you have a favorite road car that you have owned?

“I have driven a lot of race cars and road cars. A lot of people talk about their dream car, but my dream car is a racing car when you’re leading the race, everything is working perfectly, and you are one with that vehicle. Your body and your driving is one with that racing car. You can feel every little bump and every little move of the suspension on all four corners. You’re holding your head up from the G forces of the corner and you can see the front wheels undulating over different changes in the surface. You can feel the adhesion of the tires and the power of the engine all being one with your body and with your foot on the throttle. Anybody that has ever driven a race car and has won a race can tell you that that is nirvana. The fact of the matter is, there is no road car that comes close to that, but I am still looking for it.”

What are your top three movies?

“You’ve certainly got to have The Godfather series up there. I also liked The Sting with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Then, The Great Escape, which was a Steve McQueen and James Garner film. Those three stand out, plus also maybe The Bridge on the River Kwai.”

What was the first concert you ever attended? Do you have a favorite concert that you attended?

“The first concert I went to was Deep Purple in eighth grade. But my favorite concert, I once saw The Rolling Stones live with about 250 other people at a private party. That was pretty spectacular.”

Do you collect anything?

“Race wins and championships.”