Photo courtesy Ford Racing

Column: What do Chip Ganassi and Richard Petty now have in common? You might be surprised

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In a sense, Chip Ganassi became the Richard Petty of team owners on Sunday.

They now have 200 wins each: Petty as a NASCAR driver and Ganassi as a multi-motorsport series team owner that includes triumphs in WEC, IndyCar, NASCAR and No. 200 in IMSA’s crown jewel, the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

Here’s another interesting Ganassi-Petty analogy: They both earned No. 200 at the fabled Daytona International Speedway.

Petty’s 200th and last NASCAR Cup win came on July 4, 1984 in the Firecracker 400.

Ganassi earned his No. 200th win as an owner in Sunday’s 56th Rolex 24 Hours.

And here’s another interesting irony: they BOTH hit 200 wins in exactly the same number of years: 24.

Petty won his first race as a driver on Feb. 28, 1960, at the old Southern States Fairgrounds in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ganassi won his first race as a team owner on March 20, 1994, in the CART season opening Australian FAI IndyCar Grand Prix in Surfer’s Paradise (Michael Andretti was the winning driver).

No other driver has ever won 200 races like Petty – and likely never will (unless you count Kyle Busch’s wins across all three NASCAR pro series: NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series).

Now, Ganassi isn’t the winningest team owner like Petty is the winningest driver. Several other team owners have earned more wins across different series in their respective careers, led by Roger Penske (475).

But only Penske, Jack Roush and Ganassi know what it’s like to be successful across several race series that are often diametrically opposite of each other, such as NASCAR vs. IMSA, or FIA World Endurance Championship vs. IndyCar.

Or in Roush’s case, throw in drag racing and Trans Am success early in his career, as well.

And that takes not only good strategy, and gut feelings on how to build winning teams, it also requires good support people – because Penske, Roush, Ganassi would be the first to tell you they haven’t reached the ownership win levels they have by themselves.

“From the preparation to the leadership from Chip, he puts the right people in the right places and that’s really all there is to it,” said Joey Hand, who helped pilot the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi to a runner-up finish to the Rolex-winning No. 67 FCGR team. “After it’s all said and done, all he asks is that we go out there and do our job.”

But there’s one big difference between Petty and Ganassi.

Richard, now 80, will never be able to win another race as a driver, while Ganassi, who turns 60 on May 24, can potentially go another 20 or more years as a multi-series team owner.

Hitting 300 or maybe even 400 wins before he hangs up his ever-present ball cap and stopwatch for the final time is not out of the realm of possibility.

Don’t forget, Penske has 475 wins and he’ll turn 81 on February 20.

Why, for all the celebration we’re doing for Ganassi after Sunday’s 200th win at Rolex, it may be just a couple of weeks or months before he notches win No. 201, 202 or more, starting with:

  • In NASCAR Cup at Daytona (Feb. 18), Atlanta (Feb. 25), Las Vegas (March 4), Phoenix (March 11) and Fontana (March 18)
  • In IMSA at Sebring (March 17)
  • In IndyCar at St. Petersburg (March 11)

Ganassi has long called Daytona, along with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his two favorite and most special race tracks. In particular with Daytona, whether it’s the 2.5-mile superspeedway layout or the 3.56-mile road course, it proved once again Sunday just why it holds such a fond spot in his heart.

“It’s obviously a great win and a great weekend,” Ganassi said. “In terms of the win, it was one of the most nerve-wracking races.

“You know, when you come out of the blocks like that and leading it after about three or four hours or something. After a certain amount of hours go around the clock a little bit, it’s your race to lose.

“It’s one thing not to win a race, it’s another to lose it. It was our race to lose and those are one of the worst races from my point of view, because everything is out of my control.

“My hats off to the team, the drivers, the engineers, the mechanics, the people that build the engines, and the people who built the cars. They’re the ones that deserve to be sitting up here along with the drivers and myself.”

And our hats are off to you, Chip. Congratulations on No. 200. Let’s go for 200 more!

NHRA shocker in Houston: John Force fails to qualify for first time since 2008, snaps 221-race streak

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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Sunday’s eliminations in the 31st annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston  just won’t be the same without John Force.

In one of the most stunning turn of events seen in the last decade-plus in NHRA drag racing, the legendary 16-time Funny Car champion and the sport’s all-time winningest driver on Saturday failed to qualify for Sunday’s main event of the race weekend.

It marks the first time Force, who turns 69 on May 4, failed to qualify for a race since Sept. 13, 2008 in Charlotte race, snapping a string of having made the eliminations in each of the subsequent 221 races until failing to do so Saturday.

“That is hard for me,” Force said after failing to go any faster than 222.29 mph in the four qualifying rounds for the race, two on Friday and the other two on Saturday. “You earn what you get. We didn’t put it in the show. We couldn’t get to half-track.

“We have had a lot of problems all year. At least I got my final shot to get in and I didn’t make it. I will be here tomorrow rooting on Robert, Courtney and Brittany (teammates Robert Hight and daughters Courtney and Brittany Force). I’ll be signing autographs for all the fans. I am sorry to all of you fans that I didn’t make it.”

Saturday’s failure to qualify marked only the 22nd time he’s DNQ’d in his 40-year professional drag racing career. He set a drag racing record by qualifying for 395 consecutive events from 1988 until April 2007.

“I am bummed that the boss didn’t get in. That was quite a streak he had going,” Hight said of hoss and father-in-law. “There is nobody better at rallying a team and leading a comeback than John Force.

“He loves the fight and he will do whatever it takes to get his team back on top. It really isn’t something to worry about because two of our Chevys are No.1 and No. 2 right now.

“We have good combinations and we just have to duplicate one of those set ups for John’s PEAK Funny car. He’ll be back next week in Charlotte.”

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As for the other classes (information courtesy NHRA Media Relations):Leah Pritchett set a new Top Fuel track record during the final qualifying session on Saturday to secure the top spot in Top Fuel heading into Sunday.Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the fifth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Defending event champion Pritchett raced her Mopar Dodge dragster to a pass of 3.680-seconds at 326.00 mph. This is her first No. 1 qualifier of the season and eighth of her career.

“We’ve been developing our confidence the last couple of races,” Pritchett stated. “To be able to put it on the track is phenomenal. We know we need to be exceptional because our competition is exceptional.”

Pritchett will line up against Terry Brian in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Defending world champion Brittany Force locked-in the No. 2 spot after a 3.701 at 313.80 in her Monster Energy dragster. Tony Schumacher is seeded third and will face William Litton.

Hight’s final qualifying pass of 3.894 at 317.27 in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro took him to the top of the Funny Car category. This is his first No. 1 qualifier of the season, second at Houston and 58th of his career.

“This is going to be a new ball game tomorrow,” Hight said. “With fresh asphalt and the sun being out; these cars are going to spin. It’s definitely going to be fun. Two of our Chevy’s are one and two (in Funny Car) which shows we have good combinations.”

Hight will face-off against Todd Simpson Sunday morning in the first round. Teammate Courtney Force sits in the No. 2 position with a pass of 3.911 at 295.14 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro and two-time world champion Matt Hagan rounds out the top three.

Anderson, four-time Pro Stock world champion, remained atop the field Saturday with his pass of 6.492 at 213.00 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro from the first qualifying session on Friday. He notched his third consecutive No. 1 qualifier of the season and is seeking his first victory of the year.

“I haven’t had great Sunday’s yet,” Anderson stated. “I know I’m going to break through one of these days though. The weather is going to be great again tomorrow. I feel good about it, I’m excited and so far it’s just been a great weekend.”

Anderson will race Steve Graham in the first round of eliminations. Jeg Coughlin Jr. qualified in the No. 2 position with a pass of 6.504 at 212.36 in his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro and Tanner Gray is third.

Eliminations at the NHRA SpringNationals begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Royal Purple Raceway.

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SUNDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS FOR ELIMINATIONS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.680 seconds, 326.00 mph vs. 16. Terry Brian, 4.275, 284.62; 2. Brittany Force, 3.701, 320.20 vs. 15. Terry Haddock, 4.081, 287.17; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.703, 322.73 vs. 14. Bill Litton, 3.927, 306.60; 4. Billy Torrence, 3.737, 317.87 vs. 13. Kebin Kinsley, 3.819, 313.51; 5. Antron Brown, 3.740, 324.98 vs. 12. Terry McMillen, 3.783, 314.31; 6. Clay Millican, 3.746, 315.78 vs. 11. Mike Salinas, 3.766, 313.73; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.748, 320.05 vs. 10. Richie Crampton, 3.766, 316.23; 8. Scott Palmer, 3.754, 318.17 vs. 9. Steve Torrence, 3.759, 313.88. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Totten, 4.636, 216.34.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.894, 317.27 vs. 16. Todd Simpson, Dodge Charger, 4.318, 288.33; 2. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.911, 313.58 vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.151, 283.49; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.913, 311.85 vs. 14. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.077, 305.77; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.918, 317.42 vs. 13. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.026, 308.99; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.918, 301.94 vs. 12. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.017, 307.51; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.925, 311.41 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.994, 311.34; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.926, 313.00 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.989, 313.37; 8. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.927, 316.52 vs. 9. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.938, 314.09. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jim Campbell, 4.341, 273.05; 18. John Force, 4.625, 222.29.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.492, 213.00 vs. 16. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.775, 205.60; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.504, 212.36 vs. 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.621, 208.65; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.507, 211.99 vs. 14. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.592, 210.93; 4. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.513, 212.29 vs. 13. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.548, 210.67; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.518, 211.99 vs. 12. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.545, 210.50; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.525, 212.79 vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.532, 212.73; 7. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.527, 212.29 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.532, 211.79; 8. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.528, 211.93 vs. 9. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.530, 211.33.