Chip Ganassi lobbying for IndyCar schedule changes

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INDIANAPOLIS – Chip Ganassi likes the improvements at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but still believes the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule could use some work.

“If I have any complaints about the condensed schedule, it’s hard on the teams,” the team owner said. “You have this hurry up thing for six months, and then we sit for six months. I think that’s a recipe for disaster. I think the schedule needs to be loosened and expanded a little bit.”

IndyCar opened March 29 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and will conclude Aug. 30 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.

Last month, the circuit criss-crossed the country from New Orleans to Long Beach, Calif., to Birmingham, Ala., in three consecutive weeks. After Sunday’s 99th Indianapolis 500, IndyCar hits a stretch of three straight races at Detroit (a doubleheader), Texas Motor Speedway and Toronto.

“These guys need some rest,” Ganassi said. “We go right out of here to two races in Detroit. That’s hard on the guys. What happens is your race teams are finding other things to do — other series to get involved in, other racing — and it’s going to dilute from what we have here.”

Ganassi can actually speak to that, given he also has programs in NASCAR, the TUDOR Championship and, most recently, an introduction into Red Bull Global Rallycross.

Ganassi, who turns 57 Sunday, was in an upbeat mood Friday morning while addressing reporters at the track’s famous yard of bricks.

“I couldn’t be happier with all the additions they’ve made here,” he said, pointing to a new scoring pylon that made its debut last summer. “You see the new televisions going in, the new video screens. I’m excited to hear what they’re doing on the front straightaway with the seating. They’re putting their money where their mouth is.”

–Ganassi said he approved of the last-minute changes to the qualifying format to accommodate a spate of wrecks in which cars got airborne. “I’m not going to sit here and bad- mouth the organizers,” he said. “They had a situation. They made a decision. I think they made the right decision. I think it could have been made a lot earlier and quicker.”

–On pole-sitter Scott Dixon’s chances for Sunday: “I’m excited because I think he has a better race car than a qualifying car,” Ganassi said. “That’s what we’re most excited about. He’s Scott Dixon, you know the kind of racer he is. We’re pretty excited we have a good car. His chances are as good as they’ve ever been.”

–On whether he will accede to NASCAR driver Kyle Larson’s desire to run Indy: “You never know. We talk about it all the time. I was just talking to him about it yesterday. Yes, he is (eager). We haven’t said no to him. We haven’t said yes, either.”

–On what IndyCar can do to build its popularity: “All sports are looking for momentum these days. Every sport can be doing something more to gain momentum. I think you have to have the desire to want to learn and to improve. If you do that, that’s the first step. It’s like an alcoholic, the first step is you have to admit you have a problem first.”