Photo: Ford

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing comes home to celebrate Le Mans win

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After its win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTE-Pro class, the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team returned home to Dearborn, Mich. and Ford’s Product Development Center to award the trophy to Ford Motor Company executives.

Ford’s release on the day is linked below:

The champagne has long since stopped flowing at the Le Mans 24 Hours, but there was still one thing left to do for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. On Tuesday, they checked that box.

Drivers Joey Hand (US), Dirk Müller (GER), Sébastien Bourdais (FRA) and team owner Chip Ganassi joined Ford Performance executives to present the winners’ trophy to Ford Motor Company employees on Tuesday at Ford’s Product Development Center, while third-place finishers Ryan Briscoe (AUS) and Richard Westbrook (GB) joined them for a formal presentation with Ford executives, question-and-answer sessions and autograph signing near Ford’s global world headquarters.

“It’s always a great day when you can bring a celebration like our Le Mans victory back to Ford employees and be able to present this trophy to them,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance. “This victory for was them. So many of our employees worked very hard to help us get ready to race at Le Mans, and we couldn’t have done it without them. And all of our employees, here and globally, have been behind us from the start in this effort, and we wanted to let them know how much their support meant to us.”

With his 175th victory Ganassi becomes the only owner in history to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Rolex 24 At Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and Le Mans 24 Hours.

Ganassi attended with team partner Rob Kauffman, Chip Ganassi Racing President Steve Lauletta, Managing Director Mike Hull, IMSA sports car team principal Mike O’Gara and WEC team principal George Howard-Chappell. Multimatic Vice President Larry Holt and Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines, also were on hand for the celebration.

Bill Ford with trophy. Photo: Ford
Bill Ford with trophy. Photo: Ford

“The new Ford GT is a spectacular car and we feel honored to be the ones to race it and represent Ford,” Ganassi said. “In just two-and-a-half years this Ford Performance Chip Ganassi Racing program has won the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans – among others. You can probably call that the sports car triple crown – the three biggest sportscar races in the world and Ford and Chip Ganassi Racing have made an indelible mark on all of them. I couldn’t be more proud.”

First unveiled to the media at Le Mans last year, the Ford GT’s Le Mans victory came 395 days after the car turned a wheel for the first time on May 20, 2015, at Calabogie Motorsports Park in Canada. The new Ford GT began as a secret project that only a few Ford employees knew about, but has become a company-wide point of pride.

“I think what’s important with any program you’re on, but especially this one, is you have to look back at how it started,” Hand said. “This race car started with all the employees at Ford and Ford Performance, in the special basement studio. Having a car that could race to win Le Mans and then to do it, on the day of the anniversary, is nothing short of amazing. It’s the people at Ford, from the Ford family down, to Multimatic and Chip Ganassi Racing that make it as special as it is. We all feel like we’re a family on this program. I think everyone can be really proud, on all levels of this program, about what we did.”

In all, four Ford GTs raced at Le Mans – two that campaign full-time in the global FIA World Endurance Championship, based in the UK, and two that compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in North America. They raced at Le Mans with the numbers 66, 67, 68, 69, in homage to the four years Ford won the storied race in a row with the Ford GT40.

The morning of the visit, Westbrook and Briscoe presented a pair of boots and gloves they were wearing at Laguna Seca, when they earned the first win for the new Ford GT, to The Henry Ford museum.

“(The win at Laguna Seca) was a great stepping stone to the success we were able to continue with going to Le Mans and beyond,” Briscoe said. “I think it was just a really important win for everyone involved, especially on the race team. Just to give us the confidence that we can get the job done and yes, we can do this and let’s go to Le Mans and do it again. We’d had a few issues in the races before, so it was just great to have an absolutely trouble-free weekend and everything was really reliable, performance was strong. It was the perfect way to send off to Le Mans.”

Both the No. 66 Ford GT (the car that won at Le Mans) and the No. 67 (the p3 finisher) were on display for employees to see.

“It’s amazing (to see the support),” Westbrook said. “At Le Mans Dave (Pericak) and Raj (Nair) were always reminding us about how popular this program is and how much support for this program there is in Dearborn, and that was a big comfort racing at Le Mans, knowing that we’re racing for a big team, not just our guys at the track, but all of those people supporting us back at Ford World Headquarters in Michigan and around the world. To come see them is really special. It reminds us of why we’re racing. We’re not just racing for ourselves, but for a whole workforce. A huge amount of people who have put a lot of work into this program. It’s really special.”

NHRA: Steve Torrence’s 2nd Top Fuel title was emotional roller coaster day

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There’s no question Steve Torrence is a proud Texan. When he’s not strapping on his racing helmet, the Kilgore, Texas resident proudly wears a black cowboy hat and shiny boots practically everywhere he goes.

It’s just part of who one of the Lone Star State’s favorite sons is.

Torrence also has a great deal to be proud of after winning his second consecutive Top Fuel championship in Sunday’s NHRA season-ending national event at Pomona, California.

In doing so, he joins seven of the biggest names in drag racing history to win back-to-back titles: Don Garlits, Joe Amato, the late Scott Kalitta, Gary Scelzi, Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon and Antron Brown.

Torrence followed up last season’s 11 wins – including being the first driver to win all six Countdown to the Championship playoff races – with nine wins in 2019, giving him 36 career wins and 55 final round appearances in his career.

But as he was interviewed shortly after he clinched the championship — even though he lost in the semifinal round of eliminations — instead of being effusive and ecstatic, Torrence was also uncharacteristically somewhat solemn and melancholy at the same time.

After publicly thanking his team – “the best in the business,” as Torrence frequently says – he also quickly paid tribute to a young man from Texas by the name of Brandon Seegers, who was tragically killed in an ATV accident last week (the young man in glasses is pictured in the tweet below).

Torrence wanted the world to know who Brandon was, calling him one of Torrence Racing’s biggest fans. It wasn’t lip service. Brandon – a 15-year-old freshman football player at Carthage (Texas) High School – truly was one of Torrence’s biggest supporters. He’ll be buried Tuesday.

Torrence also paid tribute to Brandon’s parents. The young man’s father has worked 30 years for Capco Contractors Inc., an oil and gas company owned by Torrence’s family. In a sense, because of their close relationship, Brandon and his parents are extended members of the Torrence family.

“This is for the Seegers family, who lost their little boy the Wednesday of last week,” Torrence said. “He was the biggest Capco fan there was. We’re taking the championship trophy home to him. We’re going to give it to all the Capco guys and his family.”

Admit it, when was the last time you heard someone in sports win a championship and then dedicate that effort to a young fan who was tragically killed just a few days earlier in an accident.

But that’s the kind of guy Torrence is, one of the classiest individuals in motorsports. And if you don’t really know who he is, you should, because you might understand why Torrence is who he is.

At the age of 36, Torrence is not just a survivor of the 1,000-foot dragstrips wars from New Hampshire to Seattle to Phoenix to Gainesville and everywhere in-between.

He’s also a survivor of something much more important: Before he was Steve Torrence, two-time NHRA Top Fuel champ, he was Steve Torrence, cancer and heart attack survivor. That kind of thing gives someone a much different perspective than most other individuals.

Torrence knows how fortunate he is to not only be a two-time champion, but more importantly, to be alive to earn and enjoy both of those titles. He came close, really close, to not being here anymore. That’s why Brandon’s death hit Torrence so hard.

He even tried to keep from choking up when he told the crowd about who his young friend Brandon was.

Torrence spent much of the weekend at Pomona thinking about his young fan. It definitely affected Torrence’s mindset and demeanor, especially on Sunday, with the pressure packed championship on the line.

To illustrate how different Torrence acted, he was involved in an incident after the first round that was completely out of character. While he may be one of the most competitive drivers on the NHRA circuit, he’s also normally a very level-headed, calm and cool persona.

Torrence uncharacteristically slapped young opponent and part-time Top Fuel driver Cameron Ferre in the face at the end of the drag strip after they climbed from their race cars following their first round run and exchanged words.

Normally a fan favorite, Torrence was uncharacteristically criticized on social media and was met with a wave of fan boos after the race when he climbed on stage to accept his championship trophy and the big check that came with it. A contrite Torrence eventually issued a public apology to both Ferre and fans, admitting he was wrong. The NHRA is reviewing the incident and still could penalize Torrence.

“Tensions are high,” Torrence told NHRA.com. “There’s a lot of crap going on out there, but there’s still no excuse for me acting that way. I apologize to every fan, all my racing friends and racing rivals. It was a heat-of-the moment reaction on a day when emotions were high, especially in the Capco camp. I talked to Cameron and we’ll just put it behind us and move on.”

Given the championship pressure and what he was enduring emotionally, Sunday may not have been Torrence’s finest moment or best day professionally or personally. But at the same time, he further cemented why he’s on his way to becoming one of the best drivers in Top Fuel history, that he makes mistakes and was man enough to admit when he made one.

He also cares for others and what they go through perhaps more than most because he himself came so close to not being around to enjoy the success he has enjoyed to date – and all the additional success that he’s likely to continue to enjoy for many more years to come.

 

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