Ganassi keeps IndyCar championship in perspective: It’s just another race


SONOMA, California – You don’t win 11 IndyCar championships without learning a few lessons along the way.

At 60 years old, Chip Ganassi has not only learned a lot in more than 40 years in motorsports, he’s also taught quite a few lessons to others, as well.

Like winning tons of races and championships across multiple racing series.

But perhaps the biggest lesson of all that the 60-year-old Pittsburgh native has learned over the years is don’t get flustered, don’t get riled and control only what you can control.

To use a well-worn baseball cliché, Ganassi believes in taking things one game at a time – or in his case, one race at a time.

That’s why, while so many reporters and fans are talking so much about all the pressure his driver, Scott Dixon, is under, Ganassi is completely relaxed heading into Sunday’s season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma, the final IndyCar race for the foreseeable future at Sonoma Raceway.

Dixon is going for his fifth career IndyCar championship. He enters Sunday’s race with a decent – but far from a comfortable – 29-point lead over Alexander Rossi.

MORE: Will good fortune shine upon Scott Dixon once again to earn 5th IndyCar title?

But Dixon is just like his boss. They both are ignoring the pressure of what Sunday holds. To them, it truly is just another race.

As long as they continue to maintain that attitude from green flag to checkered flag, Dixon and Ganassi will emerge if not victorious in the race, but potentially with a grasp on the bigger picture: winning Dixon’s fifth and Ganassi’s 12th respective IndyCar championships.

“Never, never,” Ganassi replied when asked by MotorSportsTalk if winning races and championships ever gets old for him. “I don’t look at it in terms of going for the championship.

“(Chip Ganassi Racing team manager) Mike Hull says it best: ‘We show up every week, we just want to win the race, and that’s what we try to do every week.’

“Some day, we’ll sit around and talk about those kind of things, but right now, I’m just focused on Sunday. I’ll focus on Monday on Monday, focus on Tuesday on Tuesday and so on.”

Growing up in and having spent his entire life in his native Steel City, Ganassi was surrounded by the likes of Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Mean Joe Greene and Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But while Ganassi certainly liked those teams and their players and sports as a kid, it was an experience when he was just out of his toddler years that would shape him for the rest of his life.

Simply, if it had a motor and wheels, Ganassi was right there through all stages of his existence, graduating from one motorized toy of sorts to the next.

“I got my first motorsports experience when I was three or four years old,” Ganassi said. “A kid across the street from me had a go-kart.

“We had driveways that lined up straight across the street. I’d stand in the street and watch for cars and he’d go back and forth. That was in the early 60s.

“And then there was the birth of the muscle car in the mid-to-late 60s, a lot of the kids in the neighborhood had Camaro’s and Chevelle’s.

“I got started there then started fooling around with ATVs, dirt bikes and snowmobiles.”

Ganassi then laughed when he tried to capsulize his youth and early adulthood.

“I was lucky, I had a fossil fuel-fired youth,” he chuckled. “I don’t know how popular that would be today among the electric crowd, but in the 60s and 70s, all I was worried about was where I was going to get the next tank of gas for my dirt bike.”

While he enjoyed a somewhat privileged childhood, Ganassi has never forgotten the town that he came from. That’s why he has long been involved in countless charitable activities and groups in his hometown.

Seeing the less fortunate side of the world was another element that helped shape Ganassi’s life and helped make him the competitive racer and then team owner he has been for nearly five decades.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world in some sense,” he said. “I grew up in a steel town. I guess I had it a little bit better off growing up as a kid, but I saw a lot of things in my life, a lot of change, a lot of people with a lot of challenges.

“I had dreams when I was a kid just like any other kid. But I’ve never stopped dreaming and have never stopped wanting to do well in this business. All I want to do is just win and be at the front.”

One of Ganassi’s favorite axioms is that he would never have become the success he has been if it were not for the people that work for him.

Ganassi commands loyalty and respect within his entire motorsports organization, which has tentacles in IndyCar, IMSA, NASCAR and other series. That’s why so many of his employees have been with him for 15, 20, 25 or more years.

“For me, it’s being around a great team of people, really smart people, people with new ideas and are breaking new ground in some area every single week,” Ganassi said. “That’s what’s exciting to me. These are people who have opportunities to work at Apple or Google or Uber, and they want to work on racing cars instead.

“I guess it’s that weekly scorecard you get on Sunday afternoon. You get your scorecard every week in this business.”

One example of loyalty is Hull, who has been with Chip Ganassi Racing for nearly 27 years.

Another example of loyalty to Ganassi is Dixon, the man the entire IndyCar world will be focused upon Sunday as he tries to hold off Rossi, Will Power and Josef Newgarden for the championship.

“We’ve been together, what, 16, 17 years?” Ganassi said. “We’ve been together a lot.

“I don’t know what the dynamic is, but it works, it works. I wish I knew. I wish I had more of it. I wish I had 10 more like him, but unfortunately they don’t make ‘em every day like that.”

That’s so true.

If Dixon is IndyCar’s “Ice Man” for being so cool, calm and collected, Ganassi is “Mr. Freeze,” because he’s not going to let any pressure of Sunday’s race invade his space or get in his head.

To him, Ganassi says, “It’s Sunday, just another race in Sonoma. We just have to execute what we do week-in and week-out and we’ll be fine.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Motocross season opener: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top


As the SuperMotocross season heads outdoors, the NBC Power Rankings change significantly with results from the Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The Power Rankings assign a numeric value to each individual moto (90 points maximum) as well as the overall standings (100 points) and averages that number over the past 45 days. Included in the Power Rankings are results from the final five Supercross rounds, which fit into that 45-day timeframe.

Dylan Ferrandis finished on the podium in his first race back after experience a concussion in Supercross Round 4 at Houston. – Align Media

It didn’t take long for Jett Lawrence to rocket to the top of the SuperMotocross rankings – only about 74 minutes in fact. Lawrence dominated his first moto and beat his teammate Chase Sexton, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross champion, to the line by 10 seconds. He had to fight a little harder for the second moto win as Sexton stalked him throughout the race and ended up less than a second behind.

Beginning this week, we have added the SuperMotocross points’ ranking beside the rider’s name and in one fell swoop, Lawrence went from being unranked in the 450 class to 26th. To qualify for the inaugural SuperMotocross’ guaranteed 20 positions that automatically make the gate for the three-race championship series, Lawrence needs to be inside the top 20 in combined Supercross and Motocross points. The bubble is currently held by Justin Starling and Lawrence needs to make up 44 points to overtake him.

Sexton’s second-place finish in the overall standings at Fox Raceway marked his ninth consecutive top-five finish. After the race, Sexton compared the battle he had with Lawrence to the one he experienced with Eli Tomac in last year’s Pro Motocross championship. These two riders had a significant advantage over the field in Pala, but there is still a lot of racing to be completed.

MORE: Jett Lawrence wastes no time, wins first 450 race

After missing 13 rounds to a concussion, Dylan Ferrandis told NBC Sports that he was not going to do anything risky in the season opener at Fox Raceway. If he dialed back his effort at all, one would be hard-pressed to notice. He finished third in both motos and was third in the overall standings. Ferrandis began the weekend just outside the top 20 in combined SuperMotocross points and climbed to 19th. In the next few weeks, he will get a little more breathing room over the cutline and then challenge for wins.

Adam Cianciarulo’s three-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a sixth-place overall at Fox Raceway, but that was enough to advance him one position in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings and land him eighth in the combined points standings. His individual motos were moderate, but Cianciarulo is still battling the effects of injury and a nagging loss of strength in his wrist.

Aaron Plessinger returned from injury in the Supercross season finale to finish second at Salt Lake City. He added another top-five to his season total and now has six of those in the 13 rounds he’s made. With Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac not currently racing in Motocross, Plessinger has an opportunity to rise to the third seeding in short order.

450 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Jett Lawrence (26) 93.33 NA
2. Chase Sexton (1) 92.36 1 -1
3. Dylan Ferrandis (19) 89.00 NA
4. Adam Cianciarulo (8) 82.89 5 1
5. Aaron Plessinger (5) 81.20 9 4
6. Justin Hill (9)
Not racing MX
79.75 8 2
7. Ken Roczen (4)
injured | Not racing MX
79.13 3 -4
8. Jose Butron (30) 75.67 NA
9. Lorenzo Locurcio (29) 75.00 NA
10. Eli Tomac (2)
74.50 2 -8
11. Dean Wilson (10)
Not racing MX
72.88 7 -4
12. Cooper Webb (3) 71.17 6 -6
13. Jerry Robin (32) 70.33 NA
14. Justin Barcia (6)
70.00 4 -10
15. Kyle Chisholm (15) 65.36 11 -4
16. Dante Oliveira (36) 65.00 NA
17. Shane McElrath (11)
Not racing MX
63.63 12 -5
18. Ryan Surratt (38) 63.33 NA
19. Josh Hill (13)
Not racing MX
62.38 13 -6
20. Justin Starling (20)
Not racing MX
62.13 19 -1

Motocross 450 Points

A bad start to Moto 1 at Fox Raceway was not enough to deter Hunter Lawrence. Neither was the fact that he was riding with sore ribs after experiencing a practice crash earlier in the week. He was a distant 10th to start the first race and for most of the 30 minutes, it seemed he would finish off the podium. Lawrence did not win the 250 East Supercross championship by giving in to hopelessness or pain, however.

Lawrence picked off one rider and then another until he found the battle for the top five in front of him at the halfway point. Once the field started to lap riders, Lawrence used the opportunity to continue forward through the grid. He passed third-place Jo Shimoda with two laps remaining and challenged Maximus Vohland for second on the final trip around Fox Raceway, but had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Lawrence dominated Moto 2 and claimed the overall victory in Pala.

Justin Cooper made his first start of the season at Fox Raceway and earned enough NBC Power Average points to climb to second. Partly this was due to consistently strong runs in both motos and a 5-4 that gave him the fifth position overall, but he is also not weighed down with moderate Supercross results. It will take a week or two to see where his strength lands him on the grid.

Motocross 250 Points

In only his third Pro Motocross National, Haiden Deegan scored a second-place finish in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Jett Lawrence in the 250 SX West division. He certainly rode like that was the case in Moto 1 and easily outpaced the field on his way to victory lane. In Moto 2, he crashed twice on Lap 1 and dropped back to 39th. It took half of the race to get inside the top 20 and salvage points. By the end of the race, he was 11th and while that was enough to get him on the overall podium, it cost him points in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

Haiden Deegan surprised the field in Houston in his 250 Supercross debut by finishing fifth. At the time, he said his strong result was because there were no expectations. He echoed that statement after the Motocross season opener. His second-place finish in the overall standings was enough to project him five positions up the SuperMotocross Rankings. In 11 rounds in the combined series, Deegan has earned seven top-fives and a worst finish of eighth.

Jo Shimoda did not make his first Supercross race of 2023 until late in the season. He finished fourth on the hybrid track of Atlanta, which had some similar elements to Fox Raceway. His fourth-place finish in Moto 1 of the Motocross opener made it seem likely he would score an overall podium, but a sixth in the second race cost him points in the NBC Power Rankings in a field that promises to be extremely tight.

250 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Hunter Lawrence (1) 89.56 2 1
2. Justin Cooper (42) 84.67 NA
3. RJ Hampshire (3) 83.67 3 0
3. Haiden Deegan (4) 83.67 8 5
5. Jo Shimoda (16) 82.33 7 2
6. Guillem Farres (46) 79.33 NA
7. Levi Kitchen (6) 79.11 5 -2
8. Max Anstie (5) 77.83 12 4
9. Max Vohland (8) 77.50 14 5
10. Enzo Lopes (10) 76.00 11 1
11. Mitchell Oldenburg (13) 74.25 16 5
12. Carson Mumford (19) 71.22 17 5
13. Jordon Smith (7) 70.56 9 -4
14. Ryder DiFrancesco (48) 70.33 NA
15. Chris Blose (12) 67.00 13 -2
16. Chance Hymas (27) 66.00 19 3
17. Tom Vialle (9) 65.78 18 1
18. Jett Reynolds (55) 63.33 NA
19. Michael Mosiman (28) 62.33 20 1
20. Garrett Marchbanks (64) 59.00 NA

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner in Supercross and overall winner in Motocross. It awards 90 points for each Moto, Heat and Triple Crown win. The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 13 AT ATLANTA: Justin Barcia leapfrogs the Big 3
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 11 AT SEATTLE: Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 10 AT DETROIT: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Webb
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 8 AT DAYTONA: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Eli Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 5 AT TAMPA: Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb close in
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Eli Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage