Podcast: Chip Ganassi on some valuable advice from Roger Penske

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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.’

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“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.

You can listen by clicking on the embed above or via Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts or wherever you download podcasts.

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.

Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

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“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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