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Chip Ganassi Racing’s ‘human bulldozers’ plow back into shop work

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Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar team went back to work Wednesday at its shop on the northwest side of Indianapolis with a smaller but no less dedicated and passionate group.

Once the logistical and paperwork hurdles were conquered of getting approved by Marion County to reopen its doors in a limited capacity for the first time in nearly two months, the team’s main task became tempering the enthusiasm.

“When you have a room full of Type A personality people, they’re all human bulldozers,” Mike Hull, the team’s managing director, told NBCSports.com. “What you have to do is smooth out the bulldozing and continually remind them they can accomplish an awful lot, and especially in this case together, to keep us engaged going forward. That’s what we always have done at Chip Ganassi Racing is become a master of the obvious first and go from there.”

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Hull said Ganassi’s IndyCar and NASCAR teams had been meeting regularly for the past month to formulate the plan to restart racing operations in Indiana and Concord, North Carolina, as the easing of Stay At Home Orders continues during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The IndyCar team used a single entrance Wednesday, and each employee underwent a temperature check (“we were fully prepared to send anybody home who didn’t meet that requirement”). The team supplied N95 facemasks and other personal protective equipment, and social distancing of at least 6 feet was in place (measured by the square footage of the building).

Ganassi’s IndyCar operation, which started back several days after the NASCAR team, is working in shifts. Some departments are alternating employees daily while others are working in back-to-back shifts on the same day with a deep cleaning in between.

“I was on the phone this morning at 8:30 with all the managers and engineers in the building this morning, to understand if we had any red flags,” Hull said Wednesday. “So far, so good.

“But we had a preview based on what happened for our people in NASCAR in Concord. So that really gave us a leg up on what to do.”

Hull said an approval document was on file with Marion County via IndyCar administration.

“IndyCar was really helpful with this,” he said.

Ganassi employees were being encouraged to be careful with outside interaction.

“What we then tried to reinforce with all our people is if they have followed the Stay at Home orders that have been requested, today they’re in the best state they can be in for health,” Hull said. “But going forward, once they get out and go to work and might stop at Target or wherever they decide to stop, they might become exposed to other people, and then they’re exposing us to the same thing.

“We’ve asked them to be very vigilant in what they’re doing, so when it comes time for us to tell them to go to the racetrack or come back from the racetrack, we can do the right thing and be socially responsible going forward. We’ve tried to emphasize that with our people so we just haven’t said, ‘Hey, here’s 26 rules, please abide.’ Use some practical sense and help us all get through this now that we have been given the right to go back to work.”

Valtteri Bottas on Silverstone pole; Nico Hulkenberg a surprising third

F1 Bottas Hamilton Silverstone
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Valtteri Bottas nipped Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in Silverstone qualifying Saturday to maintain the team’s hammerlock on F1 results this season while Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise in third.

Hulkenberg is filling in for Sergio Perez for the second consecutive race while the Racing Point driver recovers from coronavirus.

It’s the best F1 start since 2016 for Hulkenberg, who was left without a full-time ride after the 2019 season. He finished 20th at Silverstone last week when an engine problem on the grid prevented him ftaking the green.

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“The last seven to eight days have been crazy,” Hulkenberg said after qualifying. “This weekend I felt much better prepared. Q3 was just head down, full beans, and give it whatever I had.

“I’m a bit surprised to be standing here, but there’s a big smile on my face.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified fourth and will be among the field trying to derail the Mercedes duo that has won the first four races of an F1 season delayed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Feels good,” Bottas said after nipping Hamilton by a few hundredths of a second on his final lap for his 13th career pole position. ” I just love qualifying especially, when it goes well. Proud to drive this car. The race pace is there, so our first job is to get a good start off the line tomorrow and go from there.”

The impressive lap came two days after Bottas, who won the season opener in Austria, announced a one-year contract extension with the team.

Mercedes also is set to begin negotiating a new deal with Hamilton, who has won the past three races in F1 but was disappointed Saturday.

“Valtteri did a great job, but for me, it wasn’t a perfect last lap,” he said. “I don’t think many teams will be doing a one-stop race tomorrow so let’s wait and see how things turn out.”