Chip Ganassi Racing - successful motorsport all-rounders
Chip Ganassi Racing is an American racing team which currently competes in three major American competitions – NASCAR, IndyCar Series and IMSA SportsCar Championship, but also in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The team, mostly owned by a former racing driver Chip Ganassi, was founded in 1990. The current team was formed in 2001 when Ganassi bought a majority stake in Team SABCO from Felix Sabates. Today, Sabates is a co-owner of NASCAR and IMSA operations. Third co-owner, Rob Kauffman, purchased a stake in NASCAR team in 2015.
Since its foundation, Chip Ganassi won 16 championship titles: four Champ Car titles, seven IndyCar trophies and five Grand-Am titles. CGR drivers also scored four Indianapolis 500 victories. In NASCAR, Ganassi’s team never won a championship title, the most notable result was a Daytona 500 victory in 2010.
Today, the team boasts state-of-the-art race shop facilities in Indianapolis and Brownsburg, Ind. and Concord, N.C., with a corporate office in Pittsburgh, Penn.
Chip Ganassi founded his team in 1990
Chip Ganassi (born 1958) finished his racing career in 1987. While he was active, one of his teams was Patrick Racing. In 1988, Ganassi joined Pat Patrick as a co-owner of the team. Patrick Racing’s driver Emerson Fittipaldi has won both the 1989 Indianapolis 500 and 1989 CART Indy Car World Series title. Pat Patrick announced that he would retire at the end of the season but he changed his mind, so Ganassi decided to form his own CART team.
Eddie Cheever was the first driver of Chip Ganassi Racing
The Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) debuted in the 1990 CART season, with Target as the primary sponsor and Eddie Cheever as a driver. Cheever finished ninth in the points and the best among rookies. After one season as a single-car entry, Chip Ganassi Racing expanded to two cars in 1992, combining Arie Luyendyk, Robby Gordon and Didier Theys in the second car. In 1993, the team had one car, with Arie Luyendyk as a driver of #10 Lola-Ford.
Michael Andretti brought maiden CART victory to CGR
For the 1994 CART season, Michael Andretti joined the team after his return from Formula One. Mauricio Gugelmin was a full-time driver in the second car. At the season-opening Australian FAI Grand Prix at Surfers Paradise, Andretti scored the first CART Indy Car victory for Chip Ganassi Racing. Later in the season, Andretti scored one more win (Toronto), finishing fourth in the final standings.
Vasser joined CGR in 1995 and won the championship in 1996
In 1995, Target Chip Ganassi Racing replaced both drivers, signing Jimmy Vasser and Bryan Herta. Without wins, scoring four podiums, Vasser finished 8th in the points.
In 1996, Jimmy Vasser scored four wins and brought the first championship title to the team. Team’s second driver Alex Zanardi added three wins, finishing third in the points and winning the Rookie of the Year award.
Two CART titles for Alex Zanardi
The best rookie became the CART World Series champion in 1997, winning five races. Vasser added one win and finished third in the points. Alex Zanardi defended his title in 1998, winning seven races. The season was totally dominated by CGR drivers, as Jimmy Vasser finished second in the points with three wins.
Montoya took the championship title in 1999
In 1999 CART season, Juan Pablo Montoya joined Chip Ganassi Racing, becoming not only the Rookie of the Year but also the overall champion. Jimmy Vasser was still in the team as a second driver, finishing ninth in the points.
The four-year championship-winning period ended in 2000 when Team Penske’s Gil de Ferran became the champion. Vasser was sixth in the points, Montoya ninth.
2000 Indianapolis 500 win for Montoya
While competing in the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series, Chip Ganassi’s drivers had a one-off appearance in the Indianapolis 500 race, which was a part of Indy Racing League. After four years of an organizational dispute and split between CART and Indy Racing League, CART-based Chip Ganassi Racing became the first team to cross the line and participate in rival series.
CGR drivers Jimmy Vasser and Juan Pablo Montoya were well received by fans and competitors. In his debut participation at indy 500, Montoya took a sensational win, leading for 167 out of 200 laps and beating the second-placed Buddy Lazier. Vasser finished in seventh place.
Switching to Indy Racing League in 2003
In 2001, Chip Ganassi continued to compete in the CART Championship Series and returned to Indy 500 with four cars (Jimmy Vasser, Bruno Junqueira, Tony Stewart, Nicolas Minassian).
Bruno Junqueira was the leading driver in 2002, finishing as a runner-up in the CART Championship. It was the last season in CART-sanctioned series, as Chip Ganassi Racing switched to IndyCar Series in 2003.
Joy and death in the 2003 IndyCar season
New Zealander Scott Dixon, a driver of CGR #9 G-Force Toyota, became the 2003 Indy Car champion, winning three races. Unfortunately, the victorious season was marred by a death of Tony Renna, a Ganassi development driver, who lost his life in a test crash at Indianapolis.
A four-year period without trophies followed, with four different drivers competing in Chip Ganassi’s cars beside Scott Dixon – Darren Manning, Jacques Lazier, Giorgio Pantano and Dan Wheldon.
One more title and Indy 500 win for Scott Dixon
Finally, in 2008, Chip Ganassi Racing returned was striking again, with Scott Dixon capturing both Indianapolis 500 victory and IndyCar title. At Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dixon won the race ahead of Vitor Meira and Marco Andretti.
Three consecutive titles for Dario Franchitti
Scott Dixon stayed with the team in 2009, but Dario Franchitti became the main striking force. Each driver won five races but Franchitti won the championship, collecting eleven points more than Dixon. Franchitti repeated his triumph in 2010, winning three races, including Indianapolis 500.
The third consecutive title for Dario Franchitti came in 2010 when he won four races. That year, Chip Ganassi Racing was driving four cars and Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball joined the team as a part of the satellite team.
Two more titles for Scott Dixon
Scott Dixon finished third in the championship in 2012, behind Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power. Dixon returned to the top in 2013, winning his third championship title after triumphing in four races.
Eleventh championship title for Chip Ganassi Racing and fourth title for Scott Dixon came in 2015 when he beat Team Penske’s Juan-Pablo Montoya in a tie-breaker after both drivers collected 556 points but Dixon had three wins against Montoya’s two wins. Dixons scored his third win in season’s finale at Sonoma Raceway.
Four cars in the 2017 IndyCar season
For the 2017 IndyCar Series season, Chip Ganassi has four cars. Scott Dixon will have his 15th season with the team. Other drivers are Max Chilton (joined CGR in 2016), Tony Kanaan (with CGR since 2014) and Charlie Kimball (seventh season with CGR).
The season of 2017 is marked by the change of an engine manufacturer because the team switched from Chevrolet to Honda. Another novelty is that Target ended its sponsorship with IndyCar racing. Target was a sponsor of CGR since the beginning in 1990.
Victorious debut at 2006 Daytona 24h
CART/Indy championship titles and Indy 500 wins are the brightest parts of CGR’s history but the team also left a significant mark in the American sports car racing. A debut for the team was fantastic, as the #02 CGR Riley-Lexus won the 2006 Rolex 24 at Daytona, driven by Casey Mears, Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon.
It was the season-opening race of the 2006 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, in which Chip Ganassi Racing participated for the first time. Later in the season, the #01 CGR car, driven by Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz, scored five wins. Drivers finished second in the points.
One more Daytona win in 2007
In 2007, Chip Ganassi Racing repeated a victory at Daytona 24h. This time, the #01 Riley-Lexus was the fastest, with Scott Pruett, Salvador Duran and Juan Pablo Montoya in it. Scott Pruett scored one more win later in the season, together with Memo Rojas at Iowa Speedway. Pruett finished second in the championship standings again.
2008 – third Daytona win and first Grand-Am title
In 2008, Telmex-sponsored #01 Riley-Lexus was a victorious car again at Daytona 24h. This time, the drivers were Scott Pruett, Juan Pablo Montoya, Memo Rojas and Dario Franchitti. With six wins during the season, Pruett and Rojas became the 2008 Grand-Am champions in DP (Daytona Prototype) class, bringing the first sports car championship title to Chip Ganassi Racing.
One more title for Pruett, Rojas in 2010
After losing a title for six points in 2009, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas returned to the top in 2010, winning nine races and dominantly taking their second championship title together in CGR car. They missed a victory at Daytona 24h, finishing in second place. In 2010, Chip Ganassi Racing switched to BMW engines in their Riley prototypes.
Daytona win again in 2011
After missing a top podium spot at Daytona International Speedway for two years in a row, Chip Ganassi crews dominated in 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona, scoring a 1-2 win for the team. Victorious drivers in the #01 car were Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Joey Hand and Graham Rahal. The #02 car, which finished in second place, was driven by Scott Dixon, J.P. Montoya, Dario Franchitti and Jamie McMurray. Pruett and Rojas became the champions again after scoring four more wins by the end of the year.
2012 – Grand-Am champions again
In 2012, Pruett and Rojas scored their first win in the seventh round of the championship, at Road America. Later, they won again in Montreal, capturing one more championship title with only two wins during the season.
In 2013, the final season of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series before merging with ALMS, Chip Ganassi Racing’s #01 Riley-BMW scored the fifth victory for the team at Daytona 24 hours. The drivers were Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, J.P. Montoya and Charlie Kimball. Later in the season, Pruett/Rojas won one more time, finishing second in the championship points.
First Sebring 12h victory in a new championship
In the 2014 IMSA United SportsCar Championship, Chip Ganassi Racing switched to Ford engines in their Riley DP cars. After missing a win at Daytona, the #01 car won at Sebring 12 hours, with Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Marino Franchitti in it. Both the team and Scott Pruett finished fourth in teams’ and drivers’ standings.
Sixth Daytona 24h win in 2015
In 2015, Chip Ganassi Racing scored its sixth victory at Rolex 24 at Daytona. A victorious #02 Riley-Ford was driven by CGR drivers from IndyCar and NASCAR: Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray. The #01 car didn’t finish the race. Later in the season, Joey Hand and Scott Pruett won the race at Circuit of the Americas, finishing fourth in the final standings.
A new age with new Ford GT
A new chapter in CGR’s history was opened in 2016 when the team was chosen by Ford to be an operational partner in Ford’s return to global sports car racing scene with all-new Ford GT. Two cars debuted at Daytona 24h, alongside two Riley-Ford prototypes. The best CGR crew was in the #01 prototype and they finished in fifth place, while #66 Ford GT finished 7th in GTLM class.
The team pulled out its prototypes from the championship after Daytona, continuing to run only Ford GTs. The #67 car, driven by Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, scored three wins (Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen, Mosport) and they finished second in the GTLM championship points.
Class victory at 2016 24 hours of Le Mans
Ford and Chip Ganassi also entered the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship, running two cars in GTE Pro class. The highlight of the season was 24 hours of Le Mans, where the #68 Ford GT scored a historical victory, fifty years after Ford’s first overall win in 1966. Drivers were Joey Hand, Dirk Muller and Sebastien Bourdais.
In the 2016 FIA WEC season, Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK scored three wins, finishing in fourth and fifth place of drivers’ standings. Full-time drivers of #66 and #67 cars were Stefan Mucke, Olivier Pla, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell.
GTLM class win at 2017 Daytona 24h
Chip Ganassi continues its winning streak in 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, winning the first round at Daytona. Joey Hand, Dirk Muller and Sebastien Bourdais finished 6th overall and first in GTLM class, driving the #66 Ford GT.
Chip Ganassi entered NASCAR in 2001
The third part of Chip Ganassi Racing’s business is NASCAR. Chip Ganassi entered NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 2001, after he bought 80% of the ownership in Team SABCO, forming a new team named Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. The same year, the team switched from Chevrolet to Dodge.
In 2001, Sterling Marlin was a full-time driver of #40 Dodge while rookie Jason Leffler competed in the #01 car. Marlin scored two wins and finished third in the final standings, which was his best result in five seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing. Marlin left the team at the end of 2005, after winning four races in five seasons with #40 Dodge.
Other full-time drivers of CGR cars were Jimmy Spencer (2002), Casey Mears (2003-2006), Jamie McMurray (2003-2005), David Stremme (2006-2007), Reed Sorenson (2006-2008), Juan Pablo Montoya (2007-2008).
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing between 2009 and 2013
The big economic crisis in 2008 caused many changes in NASCAR. One of them was a merger of Chip Ganassi Racing and Dale Earnhardt, Inc., to form Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. They fielded the # 1 and #8 cars from DEI for Martin Truex Jr and Aric Almirola, while only the #42 team from Ganassi’s stable survived and was driven by Juan Pablo Montoya.
2010 Daytona 500 victory for Jamie McMurray
The team operated as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing until 2013, running two cars (#1 and #42). Jamie McMurray returned to the team in 2010, replacing Truex in the #1 car, and stayed with the team until today.
That year, McMurray won Daytona 500. It’s Chip Ganassi Racing’s only win in the greatest NASCAR race. McMurray scored two more wins in 2010, at Indianapolis and Charlotte. In total, McMurray won four races for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, the last one in 2013 at Talladega.
Running with an old name again since 2014
Montoya was driving for the team until 2013. For the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series season, the team took again Chip Ganassi Racing name. The rookie Kyle Larson joined the team in 2014, replacing Montoya in the #42 Chevrolet. Larson scored his first Cup Series victory in August 2016, at Michigan International Speedway.
Since its debut in NASCAR, Chip Ganassi Racing scored 19 Cup Series wins and nine Xfinity Series wins. The most valuable win is, of course, the 2010 Daytona 500 win.
Two seasons in the Global Rallycross Championship
Opened for new challenges, Chip Ganassi Racing spent a short period in one motorsport discipline – a rallycross. The team participated two seasons (2015, 2016) in the US-based Global Rallycross Championship, fielding three Ford Fiesta ST Supercars for Steve Arpin (#00), Brian Deegan (#38) and Jeff Ward (#360). Arpin and Deegan participated in both seasons, Ward only in selected events of the 2015 season.
In the 2016 GRC season, Deegan scored one victory and four podiums and finished third in the points. Arpin recorded one win and three podiums, finishing one place behind his teammate.