A tribute to Target’s 100 wins in racing

Leave a comment

Target has been an integral part of racing for more than 20 years, in association with Chip Ganassi Racing. As it secured its 100th win this weekend, here are some of the monumental wins in that time frame:

SURFERS’ PARADISE 1994: ANDRETTI TAKES A NUMBER OF FIRSTS

After years of domination by Team Penske and Newman/Haas Racing with Penske and Lola chassis and Chevrolet and Ford Cosworth engines, the then-upstart Target Chip Ganassi Racing team opened its 1994 IndyCar account with a win by Michael Andretti in a Reynard-Ford on the streets of Surfers’ Paradise, Australia. The win was Reynard’s first in IndyCar and was a nice return for Andretti, after his one-year sojourn into Formula One with McLaren.

U.S. 500 1996: VASSER WINS $1 MILLION

Jimmy Vasser’s run to the 1996 IndyCar championship included wins in four of the first six races, culminating with a win at the U.S. 500 at the Michigan International Speedway and a $1 million prize. The race ran several hundred miles away from the Indianapolis 500 in the first of the split years between CART and the new-for-1996 Indy Racing League, and unfortunately for CART, a massive accident occurred before the start in Michigan. But once green, Vasser and teammate Alex Zanardi dominated the race.

LAGUNA SECA 1996: “THE PASS.”

We could write thousands of words about the legendary move Alex Zanardi pulled at Bryan Herta at the Corkscrew, but what’s the point? The video below tells you all you need to know.

CLEVELAND 1997, LONG BEACH 1998: ZANARDI’S ICONIC COMEBACKS

After being trapped at the back of the pack at the Burke Lakefront Airport in 1997 and again on the streets of Long Beach the following year, Zanardi scythed through the field on both occasions for two memorable wins.

INDY, MILWAUKEE 2000: MONTOYA DOES THE DOUBLE

Juan Pablo Montoya and the Target team shifted cars to IRL-spec chassis for the 2000 Indianapolis 500, and promptly kicked everyone’s rear ends. A week later, back in his now normal Lola-Toyota after years with the Reynard-Honda package, Montoya took Toyota’s first CART win at the Milwaukee Mile.

TEXAS 2002: WARD BY A NOSE

One of the closest wins secured in Target Ganassi’s history came from Jeff Ward, at the summer Texas IRL race in 2002. Ward edged Al Unser Jr. by 0.011 of a second for his only IRL victory.

HOMESTEAD 2003: DIXON TAKES IRL OPENER

Then 22, and in his first race in IRL machinery after the team shifted its entire operations from CART to the IRL, Scott Dixon opened the 2003 season with a victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the last year before the track’s reconfiguration to add higher banks in the turns.

WATKINS GLEN 2005: DIXON BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO PROGRAM

The Ganassi/Toyota partnership struggled through trying seasons in 2004 and 2005, and was on the verge of back-to-back winless seasons as an organization before Dixon saved them with a win on the road course at Watkins Glen. Then-teammate Giorgio Pantano finished fourth in the race.

HOMESTEAD, CHICAGO 2006: WHELDON’S BOOK-ENDS

Ganassi signed 2005 Indianapolis 500 and IRL champion Dan Wheldon to partner Dixon ahead of 2006 and the Englishman won the first and last rounds of the season. Homestead came in a photo finish over Helio Castroneves, and Chicagoland after a duel the entire race with Castroneves, Dixon and Sam Hornish Jr. Wheldon lost the championship to Hornish on a tie-breaker.

INDY 500 2008: DIXON RETURNS CGR TO THE PROMISED LAND

It had been since 2000 for Target Chip Ganassi Racing to win at Indianapolis before Dixon delivered the victory in 2008 ‘500, one of a series-high six en route to his second series title.

HOMESTEAD 2009: SLOW IS FAST FOR FRANCHITTI

Running at a slower pace to make more fuel mileage, Dario Franchitti mastered the game at the season finale at Homestead to take his fifth win of his return season to IndyCar and first in the Target Ganassi stable, to secure his second series championship. It set him on a charge of winning each of the next three.

INDY 500 2010: FRANCHITTI’S DOMINANCE ON DISPLAY

A day Franchitti ran on rails with one of the best set-up cars in his illustrious career. He led 155 of 200 laps en route to his second Indianapolis 500 victory.

TORONTO 2011: A ONE-TWO IN TORONTO AS MORE STORES OPEN

Toronto 2011 had drama, with a battle between Franchitti and championship rival Will Power, and eventually ended in a 1-2 finish for the Target team as the store was expanding its market share into Canada. Believe it or not, this is the last road or street race Franchitti has won in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

INDY 500 2012: ANOTHER FRANCHITTI WIN IN DRAMATIC FASHION

This one came after Takuma Sato interrupted the planned Target Ganassi 1-2 up front. But Sato went for it on Franchitti, who played the race craft game to perfection in allowing Sato just enough room to try the move into Turn 1 on the last lap but not too much as if to squeeze him. Sato lost it, and the rest is history as Franchitti joined the list of three-time Indianapolis 500 winners.

POCONO 2013: 100 COMES WITH A GANASSI 1-2-3

Dixon, a staple of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing empire since 2002, was the one who hit the bullseye to secure the 100th win in Pocono, Pa., Ganassi’s home state. Charlie Kimball in second and Franchitti in third just made for icing on the cake.

It’s an unfortunate coincidence that on the same weekend Target won its 100th race as a sponsor, its founder, Douglas Dayton, died at the age of 88. Dayton, a Wayzata, Minn. native, died Friday after a long bout with cancer.

Spencer Pigot ready for full-season IndyCar effort with ECR

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

After spending the last two years in a part-time role with Ed Carpenter Racing, contesting the road and street course races in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, Spencer Pigot now gets a long-awaited chance at a full-season effort in 2018.

Moving over to the No. 21 entry, which has featured ECR’s full-season driver since 2016, Pigot has seen slight differences in his off-season prep ahead of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

“We were one of the teams that got to a handful of days testing the aero kit, so I obviously did all the running on the road courses, but I was able to do a few laps on the ovals when Ed was testing. So, that wouldn’t have happened (if I was part-time still),” he told NBC Sports.

However, outside of that increase in testing and a little learning some new tracks – he has not raced at ISM Raceway, Gateway Motorsports Park, Pocono Raceway, or Iowa Speedway in an IndyCar – the changes to Pigot’s off-season program have not been dramatic.

“There’s definitely some things I’ll need to learn, but as far as off-season prep: nothing too dramatic, nothing too different.”

Pigot’s first full-season campaign saw its first official outing of the 2018 season last weekend during the open test at ISM Raceway. While he and the ECR team struggled to find speed much of the weekend – they languished outside of the top ten in the results of the first three sessions – things took a turn for the better during the final session of the weekend on Saturday night, when Pigot ended up ninth on the speed charts.

He ended up 14th in the combined results for the weekend, noting that he and the team still want to find more outright speed.

“I thought throughout the test that our average long run pace was okay, but we were still missing the outright pace to be where we need to be come qualifying time,” he revealed. “I think that we definitely made a step forward Saturday night and definitely have a much better idea of a direction we can head and go with when we go back.”

In terms of long-run practice, Pigot noted that tire degradation became much more prevalent, which made running with others cars around you somewhat of a challenge. Though, he emphasized that tire degradation could be beneficial for racing.

“Talking to some of the other guys, it seems a little bit harder to run behind people as the tires go off because the tires are degrading pretty quick with the lack of downforce as well,” he explained. “So, it’s going to be tricky, it’s going to be sliding around a little bit more than what guys have experienced in the past. But, I think everyone’s under the same kind of idea that it’s going to be better racing, and especially at (ISM Raceway) it should be exciting.”

Pigot did get some practice at overtaking at ISM and got a feel for what he may be able to expect when IndyCar returns in April for the Phoenix Grand Prix, and while he acknowledged it was difficult to judge during testing, he did feel like he could run around other cars without much of an issue.

“It’s not like a race when everyone comes in the pits at the same time and you’re all on similar tires, so it’s kind of hard to know exactly. But, I thought we were pretty good,” he detailed. “I thought I was able to run pretty close to guys in front of me and was able to make a few passes when other guys made mistakes or might have gone a little high.”

The test also served as Pigot’s first IndyCar venture on a short oval – he last ran on a short oval in 2015 during his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship season.

“The corners definitely come up quick. There’s not much time to really relax or think about too much,” Pigot quipped when describing his first time on a short oval.

He continued, “You’ve got to concentrate pretty hard on being precise because the line there is very narrow so you have to make sure that you’re where the grip is at all points throughout the corner. And then, when everyone’s out there and you run in traffic, it’s just like you’re constantly in a corner, so it’s a little more difficult to get big runs and drafts off people. But I think it’ll definitely play into the hands of guys that have their cars set up well and can be easier on the tires.”

And in becoming the team’s full-time driver, Pigot is seeing a slight increase in his leadership role within the team, especially as it relates to testing and development, with Pigot doing the lion’s share of testing during the winter on road courses.

But, he also emphasized the oval prowess of teammate, and team owner, Ed Carpenter as something he will lean on when he ventures out on other ovals for the first time this year.

“Especially as we’re trying to learn this new aero kit, I was the one that pretty much did all the testing on the road and street courses. It was kind of me and the engineers trying to develop the car and work towards the setup that’s going to work for us. So, there’s definitely a little more responsibility in that. But, then on the ovals, obviously Ed’s there and he’s a great teammate to have and to learn from and bounce ideas off of. But, yeah, it’s definitely a more involved role within the team,” Pigot explained.

Pigot and ECR will test two more times, at Barber Motorsports Park and Sebring International Raceway, in the month of February prior to the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11.

Follow@KyleMLavigne