One Interview With: Ricky DavisINDYCAR
Chip Ganassi Racing and The American Legion will be conducting "One Interview With" Q&A's throughout the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Read previous interviews with 2021 INDYCAR champion Alex Palou and Retired Navy SEAL and Extreme E Team Manager Dave Berkenfield.
Today's rendition features Ricky Davis, who serves as crew chief on the No. 10 American Legion Honda team.
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.
How did you carve out a career in motorsports and specifically, Chip Ganassi Racing?
“I started racing quarter midgets in Arizona when I was eight years old. My brother had severe asthma so we moved there from Washington D.C. One weekend, we went for a Sunday drive and heard the sounds of engines running at a picnic. My dad said, “Let’s go take a look around.” By the end of the day, he had met some guys who invited us out to Glendale Speedway. My brother was then practicing in the car that Wednesday, and less than a month later, we had a couple of race cars. We built our own cars, built our own engines, and had the family business help support things.
You’ve been crew chief on four different championship-winning cars. What to you are the ingredients to a title-winning campaign?
“First, it starts with a great driver, mechanics and engineers. It doesn’t take away from the years where we didn’t win it, but those years it just worked out with a great team and racing luck going your way.”
Walk us through the pole win here just a few weeks ago. What led to the team’s performance and what were the emotions like waiting for the confirmation at the yard of bricks?
“It’s hard to even put it into words. The feeling is absolutely amazing, especially the path we were on to get to the pole. It was one of the most difficult poles we’ve ever won. We had to change the engine before qualifying that Friday night. Then, we go into Saturday morning just breaking things in during practice. We knew that the competition was very strong, and it was going to take a big four-lap average and that the first lap was going to be the determining factor. I couldn’t believe that it worked out and I could just scream.”
What has it been like working with The American Legion? Do you have a different sense of motivation working with this team?
“You mentioned ‘working with’ and that alone gives me chills. I have so many people that come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I’m a veteran and what you are doing is fantastic.’ It warms my heart and people will be at the racetrack literally in tears because this has helped them so much. It is very gratifying.”
Can you tell us about the most peculiar story you might have as it relates to a maintenance or damage concern with a car? (race car or personal)
“We won in 2008 at Indianapolis from the pole with Scott Dixon. Up until race morning, the car was absolutely flawless. I kept waiting for something to go wrong. Well, it did on race morning. We were rolling the car out of the garage to warm it up, and one of the short stands that we use under the car was placed in such a manner that the front wing hit it and broke. This is race day and there is no fixing it to make it right. The only option that I had was to take the spare wing to tech, to tell them why I have to switch this, and then explain to the engineer what happened. I just prayed that it would run the same downforce level. We won the race, but I was scared to death.”
Is there a TV or movie character that you relate to? Why?
“Probably The Dude from Big Lebowski. I always like repeating some of those lines.”
What is your favorite part about working in motorsports and why?
“On race day, when you leave for the day, you know exactly where you stand. There’s no waiting for the end of the month, or quarterly figures, or what not. It’s the competitiveness and I honestly wish we could just go straight from a track and on to the next one to keep on working. I love that racing aspect of it.”
How do you like your team to operate – and what is your leadership style as crew chief?
“I want my crew and everyone I work with to know that I have full faith in them, and I trust them. I don’t try to look over their shoulder. I try to give them everything they need to do the job and do things correctly. Then, I hope and want them to work with each other. If they see something isn’t quite right, they can point it out and we can straighten things out. We never say, ‘Oh, that’s good enough.’ It has to be 100 percent correct otherwise it is not done.”
What are three things you can’t live without?
“Diet Coke, Slim Jim’s and a Sunday race day.”
Do you have a favorite win or memory from your career? What stands out about that?
“Alex Zanardi was driving our car at Homestead in 1999. After the race, we were packing the garage up and a father came down with his son who was handicapped. The son asked if he could get Alex’s autograph, but he had just driven off. I was almost chasing after the car, but I couldn’t get the autograph. The best thing I could do was ask one of our crew members if the son could have his hat. He was very appreciative, and they stuck around to watch our team. On Tuesday, we get to the shop and there was a letter from Target. This man had written to them in great detail what happened and they sent it back to me. It just meant so much to me, knowing that five minutes of my time can create a moment that will be remembered forever. I have a copy of that letter at home, and I read it every once in a while when I need to feel better about myself.”
Source: Chip Ganassi Racing