A tribute to Target’s 100 wins in racing

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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.

Helio Castroneves: ‘I have nothing to lose’ Sunday in bid for 4th Indy 500 win

All photos: IndyCar
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You might say Helio Castroneves comes into Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 with a “less is more” philosophy than he’s had in years past:

* No pressure

* No worrying about points

* No worrying about winning a championship

Take away all those things and the very popular Brazilian driver could be in the best position he’s ever been to achieve the biggest goal of his career:

Winning a fourth Indy 500, making him a member of motor racing’s most exclusive club, joining legendary drivers A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only drivers to conquer the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway four times each.

Like his car number, Castroneves has won the Indy 500 three times. He wants to change that number to four times in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. Photo: IndyCar.

“For sure, I definitely don’t have much to lose in terms of points, championships, and things like that,” Castroneves told MotorSportsTalk earlier this week. “I don’t have to think that I don’t have a car to win, I’m not going to risk that much because there are still championship points (to earn if he was still racing full-time in the series).

“Not that I did that before, but if the situation occurs, people just need to know I have nothing to lose this time.”

Castroneves three prior triumphs in the 500 came in his first two years in the field – 2001 and 2002 – and again in 2009. In addition, he has finished twice in the last four editions of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing in 2014 and 2017.

Coming so close last year, losing to Takuma Sato by .201 of a second, is something Castroneves hasn’t forgotten about. To come so close to No. 4 has only made him more hungry to get it done on Sunday.

“Yeah, but if it were easy, we would likely have had more than four wins by now,” he said. “We’ve had opportunities in the past, the last four years we were really competitive, we were right there, especially in ’14 and ’17, we were right on it.

“Last year, I thought it was going to be the hardest 500 for me and look what happened: we were battling to the end for a victory,” Castroneves said. “It’s not just about trying hard, it’s about being there at the right place at the right time.

“And this place, Indianapolis, I’ve always said the track winds up choosing who is going to be the winner. Hopefully, with safety and luck, we’ll be part of it and be on the right side.”

Team owner Roger Penske decided after last season to put Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya as the chief drivers of Team Penske’s new two-car effort in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship sports car series.

When the announcement was first made, many feared that Castroneves had run out of chances to get that elusive No. 4 at Indy.

But Penske sweetened the deal for Helio to go sports car racing by promising he’d field a car for him at Indy. And Penske has proven to be a man of his word, giving Castroneves everything he needs to finally win No. 4.

“I feel we’ve prepared as much as a team, we’re doing everything possible in relation to preparation,” Castroneves said. “The preparation we had in the previous year helps us tremendously to give us an opportunity fighting there for a win, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Castroneves has taken to the new style Indy car with aplomb. During the first week of practice leading up to last weekend’s qualifying, he was consistently one of the fastest drivers in the field.

The 43-year-old even topped the speed charts in the Fast Nine last Saturday before ending up eighth in the following day’s pole qualifying.

As a result, he’ll start Sunday’s race from the middle of Row 3, anchoring Team Penske’s four-man Top 8 starting lineup effort in the 500. When the green flag drops, to his left will be Danica Patrick and to his right will be four-time IndyCar champ and former 500 winner Scott Dixon.

And millions of others right behind him, so to speak.

“I feel the sense that everyone wants it to happen,” he said of winning No. 4. “We’re talking about being part of history here. The last guy to do it was Rick Mears in the ‘90s (1991).

“I mean, how cool would that be if I would be in the position and to see No. 4 in my era. I hear a lot of the fans, even those supporting different drivers, all saying ‘Man, I want to see you win No. 4.’ That just shows how special this place is.

“(The Indy 500) is part of a lot of people’s lives. I just would be very fortunate to hopefully to have this generation see someone do No. 4.”

While he’d rather not think about missing out on a fourth win at Indy for a ninth straight year, Castroneves is using reverse psychology somewhat.

He’s going into Sunday’s biggest race in the world fully believing he will finally win No. 4.

And if he does, forget the idea that he would never come back to race at Indy again.

“Not at all. Why? You’re so close to getting four, and then when you get four, you stop it? It doesn’t make sense.

“I think I still have at least four or five more years, there’s no question about it. As long as Roger (Penske) gives me the opportunity, I’m going to be going for it, for sure.”

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