Photo courtesy Ford Racing

Column: What do Chip Ganassi and Richard Petty now have in common? You might be surprised

Leave a comment

In a sense, Chip Ganassi became the Richard Petty of team owners on Sunday.

They now have 200 wins each: Petty as a NASCAR driver and Ganassi as a multi-motorsport series team owner that includes triumphs in WEC, IndyCar, NASCAR and No. 200 in IMSA’s crown jewel, the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

Here’s another interesting Ganassi-Petty analogy: They both earned No. 200 at the fabled Daytona International Speedway.

Petty’s 200th and last NASCAR Cup win came on July 4, 1984 in the Firecracker 400.

Ganassi earned his No. 200th win as an owner in Sunday’s 56th Rolex 24 Hours.

And here’s another interesting irony: they BOTH hit 200 wins in exactly the same number of years: 24.

Petty won his first race as a driver on Feb. 28, 1960, at the old Southern States Fairgrounds in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ganassi won his first race as a team owner on March 20, 1994, in the CART season opening Australian FAI IndyCar Grand Prix in Surfer’s Paradise (Michael Andretti was the winning driver).

No other driver has ever won 200 races like Petty – and likely never will (unless you count Kyle Busch’s wins across all three NASCAR pro series: NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series).

Now, Ganassi isn’t the winningest team owner like Petty is the winningest driver. Several other team owners have earned more wins across different series in their respective careers, led by Roger Penske (475).

But only Penske, Jack Roush and Ganassi know what it’s like to be successful across several race series that are often diametrically opposite of each other, such as NASCAR vs. IMSA, or FIA World Endurance Championship vs. IndyCar.

Or in Roush’s case, throw in drag racing and Trans Am success early in his career, as well.

And that takes not only good strategy, and gut feelings on how to build winning teams, it also requires good support people – because Penske, Roush, Ganassi would be the first to tell you they haven’t reached the ownership win levels they have by themselves.

“From the preparation to the leadership from Chip, he puts the right people in the right places and that’s really all there is to it,” said Joey Hand, who helped pilot the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi to a runner-up finish to the Rolex-winning No. 67 FCGR team. “After it’s all said and done, all he asks is that we go out there and do our job.”

But there’s one big difference between Petty and Ganassi.

Richard, now 80, will never be able to win another race as a driver, while Ganassi, who turns 60 on May 24, can potentially go another 20 or more years as a multi-series team owner.

Hitting 300 or maybe even 400 wins before he hangs up his ever-present ball cap and stopwatch for the final time is not out of the realm of possibility.

Don’t forget, Penske has 475 wins and he’ll turn 81 on February 20.

Why, for all the celebration we’re doing for Ganassi after Sunday’s 200th win at Rolex, it may be just a couple of weeks or months before he notches win No. 201, 202 or more, starting with:

  • In NASCAR Cup at Daytona (Feb. 18), Atlanta (Feb. 25), Las Vegas (March 4), Phoenix (March 11) and Fontana (March 18)
  • In IMSA at Sebring (March 17)
  • In IndyCar at St. Petersburg (March 11)

Ganassi has long called Daytona, along with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his two favorite and most special race tracks. In particular with Daytona, whether it’s the 2.5-mile superspeedway layout or the 3.56-mile road course, it proved once again Sunday just why it holds such a fond spot in his heart.

“It’s obviously a great win and a great weekend,” Ganassi said. “In terms of the win, it was one of the most nerve-wracking races.

“You know, when you come out of the blocks like that and leading it after about three or four hours or something. After a certain amount of hours go around the clock a little bit, it’s your race to lose.

“It’s one thing not to win a race, it’s another to lose it. It was our race to lose and those are one of the worst races from my point of view, because everything is out of my control.

“My hats off to the team, the drivers, the engineers, the mechanics, the people that build the engines, and the people who built the cars. They’re the ones that deserve to be sitting up here along with the drivers and myself.”

And our hats are off to you, Chip. Congratulations on No. 200. Let’s go for 200 more!

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
1 Comment

Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.