Penske president: IndyCar battle with Ganassi an “intense competition,” not a rivalry

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Last fall before the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series finale, Penske Racing president Tim Cindric and Target Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull spoke of their teams’ rivalry with tones of admiration and respect for the other side.

But in an interesting turn of events, Cindric has now said that he doesn’t regard the Ganassi-Penske duels for wins and championships as a rivalry at all.

In an interview with USA Today, Cindric tells writer Jeff Olson that while Chip Ganassi himself wants to think of it as a rivalry, he and Team Penske do not – explaining that it’s more of a “intense competition” instead.

“…Rivalries take place over a long period of time,” Cindric said. “If you want to think of it in baseball terms, it would be the Yankees and the [Miami] Marlins – a team with a long history against a younger team that came on strong and won a couple of World Series. Maybe that’s not a good analogy, but I don’t see it as the Yankees and Red Sox.”

He then goes on to say that Ganassi “has more to gain by putting himself in the same league as Roger [Penske],” noting his boss’ accomplishments both in and out of motorsports.

“Anytime you can compare yourself to him, it’s a positive,” Cindric says. “[Ganassi] has more to gain than Roger does by comparing himself to Chip.

“…[Ganassi’s] primary concern is how Roger is performing. Our concern is how we are performing in terms of everyone else. We wouldn’t be content just beating Chip, where I feel like Chip would be content just beating Roger.”

It must be noted that Ganassi hasn’t just been beating Penske in recent years but everyone else as well. Ganassi’s drivers have claimed five of the last six IndyCar titles (Scott Dixon – 2008, 2013; Dario Franchitti – 2009, 2010, 2011).

On the other side, Team Penske hasn’t won a title since Sam Hornish Jr. earned his third career IndyCar crown in 2006, two years before he went to NASCAR.

Still, it seems that Cindric’s comments got under the skin of Franchitti, now retired after his devastating crash last fall at Houston but still working with CGR as an advisor. Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press relays the following from St. Petersburg:

Ganassi himself also mentioned Cindric as well this morning:

Something tells us that this has been taken as “bulletin board material” by the Ganassi camp, and that may mean some added spice to the proceedings this weekend in St. Pete.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.