Chip Ganassi praises Target’s legacy; confident in finding replacement

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Over the weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Chip Ganassi and driver Scott Dixon took the opportunity to reflect on the Target relationship with Ganassi’s race team, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.

Ganassi expanded on earlier comments he made when the news dropped that Target would not be renewing its relationship with the IndyCar portion of the program while also expressing confidence that he’ll be able to find a new primary partner in relatively short order for the No. 9 car.

“Obviously I’ve developed some long standing lifelong relationships,” Ganassi told assembled reporters at Mid-Ohio.

“They were so much more than a sponsor. You’ve seen that over the years.

“Arguably, my team’s development is squarely on their shoulders, and maybe my own development to some extent. Like I said, my takeaway is that they’re the greatest sponsor ever.

“It doesn’t say anything about IndyCar. The sport. The TV ratings. It’s a business decision Target made. I don’t think there’s any secret message or ulterior motive, hidden agenda. It’s not a referendum. There’s no sub story here. The’ve been in 27 years and they want to do something else.”

So what would Ganassi look for in a replacement?

“It’d be pretty easy to look at the model we had and go with that,” he said. “Obviously having that long of a relationship would bode well for someone who wants to get involved with the sport. You’d think, ‘They were with them such a long time, they must be OK.'”

Asked whether Ganassi and his commercial team are the ones “doing the knocking on doors” or “being knocked on themselves,” Ganassi responded, “a little bit of both.”

Ganassi also said it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some of the affiliated suppliers from Target – without tipping his hand as to who – continue into 2017.

“I think it’s safe to say you’ll see a couple of those around,” he said.

In a lot of ways, the Target/Ganassi relationship helped the sport of IndyCar racing as a whole when the two began flourishing in the 1990s.

There were some rocky early years but Target stuck by and starting with the first win in 1994, then the first run of domination starting in 1996, things came good.

“They did as much for the sport as for the team,” Ganassi said. “I think we were lucky to have those at a time when CART at time was on an upswing. And they were squarely part of it. They generate a lot of buzz. People still talk about those. Racing the motorhomes. Or going through the stores with shopping carts. The radio control cars. There was a lot of fun with those.

“The other thing you take away from those is look at all the great moments, and look at all the great things they were involved with being a part of the team. There was Zanardi on ‘The Pass’ at Laguna, Jimmy winning the first championship on the same day and everything that’s happened since then.

“You guys have been around a long time. They helped me. Robin (Miller), you remember this… there was Roger (Penske) and Carl Haas and no one else got in that door. You had to go create your own door. Target did that for us.”

Ganassi, who told NBCSN IndyCar analyst Paul Tracy he’d estimate there were “30 or 40” special liveries for other suppliers, said the decision to bring back the famous Target lightning bolt on Dixon’s No. 9 Chevrolet was paying tribute to when it first came on the car in the mid-1990s.

“That was one of my favorites,” Ganassi said. “I don’t know if it was the bolt itself – we just needed something to jazz the car up in those days. That’s how the whole thing started.”

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

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An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”