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2016 Mid-Ohio Q&A: IndyCar - Team Ganassi
AN INTERVIEW WITH CHIP GANASSI RACING TEAMS OWNER CHIP GANASSI AND DRIVER SCOTT DIXON AT MID-OHIO SPORTS CAR COURSE:
Q: YOUíVE KNOWN THIS (TARGET DEPARTING AFTER END OF 2016 VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES SEASON-ITíS 27TH AS SPONSOR OF CGR) FOR A WHILE, SO WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
CHIP GANASSI: When you say weíve known it for a while, the answer for us is we wanted to make sure we knew exactly what was what. There is no aggravation and I have nothing bad to say. They are the greatest sponsor ever in the sport and the greatest partner anybody could ever have. Theyíve been around for 27 years and 11 Indy car championships and four Indy 500 wins. I can understand that maybe they want to do something else. I understand that.
Q: HOW DID IT START BETWEEN YOU, TARGET AND WHEN THEY SPONSORED EDDIE CHEEVER?
CHIP GANASSI: It started when I bought Patrick Racing. They were sort of going in one direction and I was going in another. That was in 1990.
Q: WHEN DID IT LAPSE INTO A YEAR BY YEAR (CONTRACT)?
CHIP GANASSI: Itís always been a year by year. My deal with Target has always been a year by year, but I had a two-year out.
Q: CHIP, A LOT OF PEOPLE WANT TO SEE THIS AS A REFERENDUM ABOUT INDYCAR RACING. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THAT?
CHIP GANASSI: It doesnít say anything about IndyCar racing; it doesnít say anything about the sport or the TV ratings. Itís just a business decision that Target made. I donít there is any secret message or ulterior motive or hidden agenda. There is no sub story here. Itís just theyíve been in it for 27 years and they want to go do something else.
Q: SO IT WASNíT BECAUSE YOU FAILED TO WIN AT TORONTO? (LAUGHTER)
CHIP GANASSI: I didnít want to let that out right away (laugh).
Q: SO WHO IS IN THE WINGS?
CHIP GANASSI: Iím not going to take about that stuff.
Q: SOME OF TARGETíS SUPPLIERS OVER THE YEARS HAVE HAD SOME REALLY COOL LIVERIES, LIKE THE ENERGIZER ONE. DO YOU HAVE CONTACT WITH THOSE THAT YOU COULD MAYBE HAVE A PARTNERSHIP?
CHIP GANASSI: I think itís safe to say youíll see a couple of those around.
Q: HOW DIFFERENT IS IT GOING TO BE TO YOU TO GET A CAR WITHOUT THAT PAINT SCHEME?
SCOTT DIXON: Iíll echo what Chip said. Target has been an amazing sponsor. But the team is still going to be racing for race wins and championships. Itís just a change in direction and a change in color.
Q: WHAT WILL THE TWO OF YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THE RELATIONSHIP IN GENERAL?
CHIP GANASSI: Obviously, Iíve developed some longstanding relationships with people that are lifelong relationships. They were so much more than a sponsor, and I think youíve seen that over the years. Arguably, you could say my teamís development is squarely on their shoulders, and maybe my own development to some extent as a person or businessman. My takeaway is greatest sponsor ever.
Q: WHAT DID THE TV ADS IN THE Ď90S HELP DO FOR YOUR TEAM COUPLED ITH THE SUCCESS YOU HAD ON-TRACK AND THOSE FIRST FEW CHAMPIONSHIPS?
CHIP GANSSSI: They probably did more for the sport than they did for the team. I think we were lucky to have those at a time when CART at the time was on an upswing, and they were squarely part of that. Because of those ads, they generated a lot of buzz and talk. People are still talking about the racing the motorhomes or going through the store with shopping carts or radio-controlled cars that a lot of guys had fun with. Another thing you take away is all the great things they were involved in with the team, starting with (Alex) Zanardi and the pass at Laguna and then the championship on the same day for Jimmy (Vasser). And everything that has happened since then has been one (memory) after another. There was a time in racing when there was like Roger (Penske) and Carl Haas and nobody else getting in that door, and the only way to get in that door was to go create your own door. What Target helped us do was create our own way of doing it.
Q: AND THEY WERE WITH YOU DURING TIMES WHEN THE SPORT MAY NOT HAVE BEEN THAT STRONG
CHIP GANSSSI: No question. At the time of the split, we had to make some difficult decisions and they were right there with us the whole time, whether it was breaking away and coming over to the Speedway. Iíd like to think we were some small part of bringing the thing back together.
Q: LOOKING FORWARD, WHAT KIND OF QUALITIES ARE YOU LOOKING FOR OUT OF A SPONSOR IN TERMS OF NOT JUST WRITING A CHECK BUT HOW CAN THEY HELP THE TEAM?
CHIP GANASSI: It would be pretty easy to look at the model weíve had. That model seemed to work pretty good. Obviously, having a relationship for so long with somebody would bode well for somebody who wants to get involved in the sport. They would say, they were with these guys for such a long time they must be OK.
Q: WHAT IS IT LIKE TO TRY TO GET SOMEBODY TO BE A PRIMARY SPONSOR FOR INDYCAR? WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO TELL THEM, HOW DO YOU HAVE TO CONVINCE THEM?
CHIP GANASSI: Itís all over the board. Anybody whoís been in the sport for a long time Ö weíve heard every answer to every question ad nauseum about why to get involved or why they canít get involved. Itís nothing new there.
Q: BUT WHEN THEY SEE YOUR ULTRA-SUCCESSFUL TEAM KNOCKING ON THE DOOR OR IS IT KNOCKING ON YOUR DOOR?
CHIP GANASSI: If someone comes looking for that itís probably a great thing.
Q: ARE YOU SURPRISED (THAT TARGET IS STAYING IN NASCAR IN A LESS-SUCCESSFUL PROGRAM)?
CHIP GANASSI: I donít think that says anything about IndyCar racing. They good news is theyíve been there for 27 years.
Q: GENERALLY SPEAKING, ARE YOU HAVING TO GO KNOCK OR ARE PEOPLE KNOCKING?
CHIP GANASSI: A little bit of both. The kind of sponsors you would like to have and the kind of people you want to work with and the kind of people who knock on doors are different groups of people so you do both.
Q: HOW ROUGH GOING WAS IT IN THE EARLY YEARS WHEN YOU HAD EDDIE CHEEVER FOR A WHILE, YOU HAD ROBBY GORDON AND BRYAN HERTA; IT WAS MICHAEL ANDRETTI WHO GOT YOUR FIRST VICTORY IN í94? YOU HAD SAID BEFORE THE í94 SEAON THAT IF MICHAEL DIDNíT GET YOU A VICTORY THAT YOU WOULD HAVE TO REEVALUATE WHETHER WE BELONG HERE. WHAT WERE THOSE EARLY YEARS LIKE TO KEEPO TARGET INTERESTED?
CHIP GANASSI: I was just honest with them and told them what was going on and what we wanted to do and what we needed to do better. Thatís the kind of partner they were. If you needed something, youíd just tell them and theyíd say go get it.
Q: DID THEY APPRECIATE YOUR SENSE OF ADVENTURE?
CHIP GANASSI: Did I have to consult with them? Probably not. Did I consult with them? Of course I did. They were there every step of the way.
Q: GOT ANY SPECIAL PLANS FOR MR. DIXON MAKING UP 83 POINTS IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
CHIP GANSSI: Go for It.
Q: HOW TOUGH IS IT FOR YOU (SCOTT DIXON); YOUíRE PERCEIVED AS THE LEAD GANASSI GUY AGAINST THIS FLEET OF PENSKE GUYS WHO HAVE VERY STRONG DRIVERS?
SCOTT DIXON: I think we have, too. (Tony Kanaan) has done a helluva job this year. On our side of the fence, weíve had a few misfortunes. We had a great potential to turn it around at Road America and also Toronto, where both of those I think could have been victories. The great thing about the season is that weíve had extremely fast cars. It just hasnít gone our way yet. Hopefully, in typical Mid-Ohio style we can transition. But itís always a tough fight and thatís why weíre here.
Q: IT SEEMS THE FRUSTRATION WOULD HAVE PEAKED FOR YOU AT TORONTO WHEN THE FLAG DIDNíT GO YOUR WAY?
SCOTT DIXON: Thatís just you dominate in situations and you can have something like that pop up. Itís racing; I get it. But in those moments you get pretty dejected.
Q: WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE STREET RACES BE A FULL TWO HOURS?
SCOTT DIXON: I think there are a lot of places Ö I thought even Road America was way too short by about 30 minutes.
Q: WHAT HAS THE TARGET RELATIONSHIP MEANT TO YOU?
SCOTT DIXON: From my view, Target and Chip and the whole organization has worked so well together. When this is all said and done, when I leave the relationships are the important things. They are the people Iím still going to see, Iíll still talk to. As Chip said, they have been the best sponsor and weíve achieved a lot together. For me, itís been a blast.
Q: IS THIS LIKE MARLBORO GOING AWAY?
CHIP GANASSI: I donít know. I was around but I wasnít involved. Ironically, it was Marlboro that left me when we got Target.
Q: FIVE TO GO, 83 POINTS OUT?
SCOTT DIXON: I think weíre in a similar situation that we were in í13. Anything is possible. The year hasnít gone as smooth as we would have liked. I think weíve done an excellent job of being fast and having good equipment.
Q: CHIP, DID YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TARGET LIVERY AND WAS ANY OF THAT INSPIRED TO BRING BACK THE LIGHTNING BOLT THIS YEAR?
CHIP GANASSI: That probably was one of my favorites. I don;t know if it was the bolt. We just needed something to jazz the car up back in those days and that how the whole thing started.