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Chip Ganassi: Indy Racing Legend

Floyd “Chip” Ganassi was born May 24, 1958.  He is a retired race car driver and current owner and president of Chip Ganassi Racing.  Ganassi owns both an Izod IndyCar Series team and a NASCAR team, and has a long standing partnership with Target. He is a former minority owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates Major League Baseball team.

RACING CAREER:

After a successful junior racing career, Ganassi began driving in CART in 1981, while still in college at Duquesne University.  He never captured a checkered flag as  a driver, and unfortunately his career was cut short when a tire blew on him in a race at Michigan International Speedway in 1984.  The blow-out caused Ganassi’s car to make contact with Al Unser Jr.’s machine, sending his car airborne and into a guardrail.  Ganassi suffered smoke inhalation, a concussion, and a broken sternum and collarbone.  He did drive in a smattering of races over the next two years, but his driving career was effectively over after the crash.

POST RACING CAREER:

Ganassi bought into Patrick racing in 1988, and was part of the 1989 Indianapolis 500 winning team, but decided to create his own one-car IndyCar team in 1990.  At the same time he established a partnership with a new sponsor — Target — which would prove very fruitful over the next two decades.

Jimmy Vasser took home the 1996 CART championship while driving for Ganassi, sparking a run of four straight championship seasons for the car owner.  In 2003 he made the switch to the Izod IndyCar Series, and in the teams first year of competition propelled Scott Dixon to a points title.  Dixon and Ganassi would win again in 2008, and Ganassi’s other driver, Dario Franchitti, took home the championship in 2009.

Ganassi began his involvement in NASCAR in 2001, and to date he’s recorded over 120 victories, 80 pole positions, and three Daytona 500 crowns.  Although, he’s yet to win the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, a fact I’m sure he’s ready to change in 2010.

Along with his sterling ownership record, Ganassi is considered one racing’s most innovative individuals.  He’s credited with creating hugely successful driver and pit crew development programs, and he’s been involved with the design of the DeltaWing concept car that IndyCar is considering to be the new car for the series.

Notable drivers who have driven for Ganassi include: Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart, Franchitti, Dixon, and Dan Wheldon.

INDY CAREER:

Ganassi burst onto the Indy scene when he became the fastest rookie qualifier for the 1982 Indy 500 race — starting 11th and finishing 15th.  1983 would prove to be his most successful trip to the speedway as he qualified 16th, but finished an impressive 8th.  He would make three more trips to Speedway, Indiana, but never completed another race, finishing 28th, 22nd, and 29th.

He made his appearance as a full team owner in 1990 with former F1 driver Eddie Cheever behind the wheel.  Cheever finished eighth in his debut at the Speedway.  In 1993 Arie Luyendyk Jr. earned the pole and finished second while driving for Ganassi, but the open-wheel racing split would lead him away from Indy until 2000.  Despite still participating in CART, Ganassi brought over rookie Juan Pablo Montoya, who summarily dispatched the competition in one of the most dominating victories ever at the Speedway.  In 2008 Dixon would help Ganassi secure his second victory at Indianapolis.

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