Photo courtesy Ford Racing

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

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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!

F1 Preview: 2018 German Grand Prix

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The German Grand Prix continues its biennial presence on the Formula 1 calendar – it’s hosted F1 events in even numbered years since 2014 – as Formula 1 returns to the Hockenheimring this weekend.

The German fans will undoubtedly be joyful in Sebastian Vettel entering his home race in the championship lead, by nine points over Lewis Hamilton. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, Vettel despite being one of the most successful and decorated drivers of his generation, Vettel has won in Germany only once (2013, at the Nurburgring) and he has never won at Hockenheim.

Conversely, Hamilton has won in Germany three times, including twice at Hockenheim (2008 and 2016).

As such, Vettel will hope to add to his points lead over Hamilton with a win on home soil, though Hamilton may be equally as motivated after watching Vettel his own home race at Silverstone two weeks ago.

Nevertheless, their 2018 championship duel will most certainly continue to be closely fought.

Talking points ahead of the German Grand Prix are below.

A Different World in 2018 vs. 2016

Nico Rosberg during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany. Photo: Getty Images

The Formula 1 landscape looked completely different back in 2016, the last time Formula 1 visited the Hockenheimring. Bernie Ecclestone was still the chief executive of Formula 1.

Nico Rosberg was partnering Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes team, and was on his way to a driver’s championship that year.

Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen were in the midst of a slump as Ferrari went winless in 2016.

The world was still getting to know a then 18-year-old Max Verstappen, the young Dutchman having won the Spanish Grand Prix in May that year.

And the cars looked completely different, with skinnier and taller rear wings and taller rear tires highlighting the appearance differences.

In 2018, Vettel and Ferrari might be the strongest combination. Rosberg is long from Mercedes, and Valtteri Bottas is doing his best to shine in the wake of Hamilton’s enormous shadow.

Verstappen is still a rising star, though he has come under fire at times for overly aggressive driving and his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo has garnered more headlines this year, with a pair of race wins alongside his status as an F1 free agent after 2018.

In short, the Formula 1 landscape is hardly recognizable from what it was back in 2016. And even though Hamilton won that year, followed by Ricciardo and Verstappen in second and third, very little will carry over from that race two years ago.

Hamilton, Mercedes Look to Take Back Momentum from Vettel, Ferrari

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 08: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 leads Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 8, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

The seesaw championship fight has tilted back in the favor of Ferrari, with Vettel leading Hamilton after finishes of third and first in Austria and England. Hamilton, meanwhile, DNF’ed in Austria and came home second in England after spinning on Lap 1.

Hamilton trails by nine points, but this is hardly an unfamiliar position for Hamilton in 2018 – he started the year trailing Vettel until he took the championship lead for the first time after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Both teams have had multiple swings of momentum this year – Vettel won the opening two races before finishes of eighth in China (he spun after contact with Verstappen) and a pair of fourth place efforts in Azerbaijan and Spain before getting two more wins in Canada and England.

Hamilton, meanwhile stumbled out of the gates somewhat with finishes of second and third before taking a fortuitous win in Azerbaijan and two dominant wins in Spain and France before the misfortune in Austria.

All told the ebb and flow of the 2018 season seems to change with every race, and while Vettel now leads Hamilton again, things could change this weekend.

Raikkonen Trying to Fend off Ricciardo, Bottas

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 06: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 6, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Kimi Raikkonen is somewhat of a forgotten man this Formula 1 season, but he does rank third in the championship at the moment, 10 points ahead of Ricciardo and 12 points ahead of Bottas.

However, both Ricciardo and Bottas are likely thought to have had better seasons – Ricciardo has the aforementioned wins (at China and Monaco) and the only thing that has kept Bottas from the top step of the podium is a string of horrendous luck.

However, Raikkonen, to his credit, has picked up the pieces whenever others around him have faltered, and he has six podium finishes through 10 races.

However, in order to fully silence any critics, and maybe even keep his Ferrari drive, Raikkonen would do well to get a win in 2018.

Misc.

  • The driver challenging Raikkonen’s position within Ferrari is Sauber’s Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari junior driver has five points finishes, and that could have been six if not for a pit stop error at Silverstone that caused him to leave his pit stall with a loose wheel – it forced him to retire. Leclerc’s star is on the rise, and he could shine again in Germany.
  • Nico Hulkenberg is the “other” German driver on the grid. And though he has a 24 Hours of Le Mans win to his name, he is yet to finish on the podium in an F1 race. The Renault package may not be a podium threat in usual circumstances, but if he stays clean and others falter, he could sneak in there…and doing so in his home race would make that overdue podium even sweeter.
  • After a pair of eighth place finishes, Fernando Alonso has helped McLaren at least stop the bleeding after a dismal stretch of races from Monaco through France in which the team scored zero points. However, the team still has a long way to go, and Germany could be another weekend of struggles.

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