Chip Ganassi still remembers the first piece of advice he got from Roger Penske nearly 40 years ago.
Mostly, because it still applies.
Ahead of the 1982 season, Ganassi was a rookie driver with a team deciding between buying a new Gurney Eagle chassis for $85,000 or a used Penske PC7 for $70,000.
A family friend with banking connections to Penske was able to put a 23-year-old Ganassi on the phone with the team owner who eventually would become his chief rival in IndyCar more than two decades later.
But at the time, Ganassi just wanted Penske’s counsel on what was the better deal, new or used.
“He had a great comeback,” Ganassi said on the most recent NASCAR on NBC Podcast, recalling Penske’s reply. “He said, ‘Well, Chip whether you buy a new car or used car, the hotel rooms cost exactly the same.’
“I thought it was a pretty good line. You have fixed costs and variable costs. When you looked at fixed costs, they are one thing you can control, but it’s not a big number when you add in variable costs. It was a good business lesson.”
Ganassi’s team wound up buying a used Wildcat chassis that had been Mario Andretti’s car the prior year, but the wisdom of how to weigh fixed and variable costs has stayed with Ganassi even as team budgets have risen from $400,000 to $5 million per championship entry in 2019.
“We spend that much these days on lunch,” Ganassi cracked about the $15,000 difference between chassis in 1982.
With a common Dallara chassis for several years, the dilemma wouldn’t even apply to the 21st century IndyCar where Ganassi and Penske regularly battle for supremacy (they also are linked by competing full time in the IMSA and NASCAR series).
On Friday’s opening day of practice for the Indianapolis Grand Prix, Will Power’s No. 12 Penske (which has won the past two races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course) was fastest while Ganassi’s Scott Dixon (third) and Felix Rosenqvist (fourth) were just behind.
It’s a continuation of a long-running but friendly rivalry that began in earnest with Ganassi’s first championship 23 years ago.
At the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach last month, journalist Marshall Pruett snapped a photo of Penske and Ganassi sharing a scooter, and the shot quickly went viral on IndyCar Twitter.
During the podcast, Ganassi provided the backstory of the ride.
“I was talking to Roger walking up the pit lane, and someone showed up with his scooter, and I said, ‘Hey give me a ride,’ and that was it basically,” Ganassi said. “It was a long walk from the first or second pits to the other end of pit lane where my scooter was.
“We’re fierce competitors, but he’d be the first one to call me if I make a mistake in the pits or something and likewise me to him. We’re good competitors and friends but we want to rip each other’s eyeballs out on the track. Off the track we have a good working relationship, yeah.”
During the podcast, Ganassi also discussed:
–His philosophy for being an active Twitter user;
–His love of newspapers and its origins;
–The 2019 results of his IndyCar and NASCAR teams.
Live IndyCar coverage from Indianapolis continues Friday with second practice at 12:30 p.m. ET exclusively on NBC Sports Gold’s IndyCar Pass.
Coverage will continue with qualifying live on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass on Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET. IndyCar Pass will stream warm-up on Saturday at 11:15 a.m. ET prior to race coverage on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.