Chip Ganassi, who enters final weekend as Team Nascar owner, is proud of his 20-year journey
Chip Ganassi is not going anywhere. His sleek white shirts tucked into his jeans will always be seen on racetracks across America.
The 63-year-old is leaving the Nascar Cup Series after this weekend’s season finale at Phoenix Raceway after selling both his team’s charters to Trackhouse Racing, owned by Justin Marks and artist Pitbull.
Retirement, however, is nowhere in sight for the motorsport mogul, who owns teams in IMSA, the NTT IndyCar Series and Extreme E. Now Ganassi reflects on his decision and his 20-year career in the race. stock car race, one that has certainly been a roller coaster of a trip.
âMy experience has been good for 20 years, and I don’t have a huge period, if any, of melancholy or difficulty,â Ganassi said. âI consider the last 20 years to be very successful, and it’s something I’m very proud of. I am positive on the whole.
” We partied [Tuesday] at the racing store with all the employees, and I was talking about the fact that there are a lot of successes in sport that don’t show up in the final standings or in the win and lose column. In 20 years, families are growing and people are growing as employees, managers and engineers. Being a part of this growth for them is very rewarding as a team owner.
Ganassi announced he was selling his two Cup Series charters in late June after Marks asked if the veteran owner would be interested. Although it wasn’t something Ganassi necessarily thought of, he agreed to the deal.
âI just think there seems to be a new wave of ownership coming that brings a different business model and a different approach,â Ganassi said of his decision. âI see a lot of the sparkle in Justin’s eyes that I had over 20 years ago when I first entered the sport. It’s refreshing to see that.
Ganassi first entered NASCAR as a well-known open-wheel team owner and competitor in 2001, starting a two-car operation with veteran Sterling Marlin and rookie Jason Leffler. While Marlin immediately competed for a championship – finishing third in the standings – Leffler’s team struggled.
Marlin was on track to win the 2002 championship for the team, but injured his neck in an accident at Kansas Speedway, missing the last six races. Ganassi placed Jamie McMurray in Marlin’s No. 40 Dodge Coors Light, and he only won his second career start at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The victory – to this day – is one of Ganassi’s best moments that he has highlighted throughout his Nascar career.
But Ganassi has never won a Nascar Cup Series championship.
“Would I have liked to win one?” Absolutely, “he said.” But I’m very proud of our team and what we’ve accomplished. There’s a metric in baseball that they use called wins per dollar spent and I think in that. category, we have won the championship several times. I’m not complaining. I’m very proud of our performance in terms of what we were up against in terms of not having an outside company. The racing teams are my only one. thing.
Chip Ganassi Racing circulated from the front of the field, leading laps that struggled to even compete in the top 20 at times. He employed some of the sport’s top prospects in the mid-2000s, such as David Stremme, Casey Mears and Reed Sorenson, but neither of them have won a Cup Series race.
So Ganassi, as a daring thinker, hired Formula 1 star Juan Pablo Montoya to race in stock cars. This move in itself changed the path of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
“If I had one regret over the past 20 years, it would be the fact that there have been fewer years since I was comfortable with the full package to be ready to compete,” said Ganassi. âWhen we had everything we needed, we could compete at the highest level.
âThere were so many years when we fought against a loss of sponsorship, the financial crisis, a driver left us or we didn’t have the right team behind them. There were more than I was comfortable with. During this time, our IndyCar team were taking victories, so it was difficult to deal with the good days and the bad on the same day. It is a challenge that I accepted.
Not only did Ganassi hire Montoya to compete in Nascar, but he also convinced IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti to be his teammate in 2007 and 2008.
âThey knew the type of business operation we were doing and they knew what I was focusing on,â Ganassi said. âMy management of racing teams has always been to have a team that I would be proud to drive because I was a driver over 30 years ago. They knew I would give them everything I had. I put everything I had to make it a success. Sometimes we had nothing to give, and that was unfortunate.
Ganassi also merged forces with Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2009 to form Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. In 2010, McMurray joined the Chevrolet-backed organization after a stint with Roush Fenway Racing.
After moving to Roush Fenway Racing for four years, McMurray, in his first race back to the team, took his bright red No.1 car down Victory Lane, the first and only time that Ganassi has achieved a victory in the Daytona 500. McMurray won the Brickyard 400 and another race at Charlotte Motor Speedway later in the year with Montoya winning at Watkins Glen International.
The only other time Ganassi’s team, which reverted to their original name in 2014, won four races in one year was in 2017, when Kyle Larson won four triumphs.
âMost people think sports highlights are big wins,â said Ganassi, reflecting on some of the team’s triumphs. âGranted, those are highlights, but there are a lot of highlights that I look back on, like bringing things to Nascar that maybe weren’t used at the time, whether they were ways particular things to do or bring great sponsors to the sport and new names to the sport.
“We brought in new riders and I brought in young riders who have moved on to bigger and better things every now and then.”
Overall, Ganassi has won 20 Cup Series races in 20 years, with Larson, Marlin, McMurray, Kurt Busch and Montoya each winning for the team. Entering this weekend’s final, he will have another chance to enter the Winner’s Circle as a car owner with Busch and Ross Chastain driving his No. 1 and 42 Chevrolets.
Ganassi worked with Sabates until his retirement in 2019, when the entrepreneur sold the majority of his stake in the team to Rob Kauffman. The team is well known for having multiple sponsors throughout the season, including Target
Over the past few years, CGR has worked with companies such as Monster Energy, Credit One Bank, McDonald’s, Clover and more.
While the decision to shut down the team was unexpected, Ganassi is at peace. He’s ready for the next chapter of his life, and he’s ready to say an emotional farewell to Phoenix.
âObviously you build a lot of great relationships over time and great friends who I think are going to transcend the fact that I’m in the pit lane with them every Sunday,â Ganassi said. âI’m going to miss being with them and relationships. I will miss some of the great races and it’s still one of the best races in the world. There are things I won’t miss, but there are things I will think about for sure.
Before Ganassi hung up the phone, he added some tips not only for Marks, but for future owners of any racing team.
âMy message is that if you are a donor in sport instead of a taker, you will have a rewarding experience,â said Ganassi. âI am very proud to have provided a livelihood for hundreds of people. It makes me very proud.
âI am proud to be able to do so and proud to be a citizen of this country. I was given this opportunity because other people gave me an opportunity. This is how I got here. The best thing I can do for others is to give them an opportunity. “