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.

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.