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.”