Team Next Level Racing: What success looks like

Next Level Racing success
Seder Martin / vclutch.com
0 Comments

In the Monster Energy Supercross season opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California a pair of Team Next Level riders advanced into the Main, which counts as a tangible success for this unified group of privateer races with a unique outlook on the sport. Instead of counting the number of podium finishes and the zeroes at the end of the check at the end of the weekend, team owner and manager Kris Fagala has built a program in which faith and family features heavily in the team philosophy – and he has surrounded himself with riders that share his worldview.

In a sport with superstars in their late teens and early 20s, where 30 is considered old and major league careers are over in the blink of an eye, the team’s goal is to create well-rounded men. It should come as no surprise that their goals don’t completely align with many other teams.

Factory riders are the ones measured by podiums earned and their position in the points. Simply making the night show, (being among the 40 fastest in qualification that allows riders to race in one of two heats), counts as success for privateers.

At Anaheim, Kevin Moranz and Hunter Schlosser smothered their meat and potatoes with gravy. Finishing second in the 450 Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Moranz hopes to improve on the nine Mains he started in 2022.

Finishing third in the 250 LCQ, Schlosser is well on the way matching or improving on the three Mains he rode last year.

Making the mains is the goal of the riders, but it’s not the promise of the team. Schlosser is new to Team Next Level Racing after riding for his own team as often as possible in 2022. The cost of getting to all of the races last year was too much for a single person to invest, so one of the greatest benefits of this organization is the transportation logistics provided by Next Level.

With that worry off his shoulders, Schlosser could concentrate on his riding. He made an aggressive pass to successfully secure his 250 transfer spot and then finished 21st in the Main.

“My riding was great,” Schlosser told NBC Sports afterward. “The team was awesome. It’s exactly how Kris said it was going to be. There’s a bunch of good dudes on the team, and they’re there for us when we need them. No one’s pushing anyone to do anything they don’t want to do, or they don’t feel like doing. But there’s also accountability, which is a pretty fine line.”

Moranz finished 20th in the 450 Main. Schlosser was 21st in the 250.


Another way to gauge success

But where one finishes is only part of the story.

The promise from Fagala and Team Next Level Racing is not tangible success, but in helping riders learn to value the intangibles.

“Success is having fun to me,” Moranz told NBC Sports. “It’s not necessarily results based. Obviously, there’s a portion of it that goes to results, but as long as I enjoy what I’m doing, having fun. With (our social media manager) Seder [Martin] on board, we’re doing the vlog, we’re getting a lot of fan interaction, which then brings more partners and more funding to my program.

Next Level Racing success
Kevin Moranz has been successful in moving up the ranks primarily through his own marketing efforts and interaction with his fans. Seder Martin / vclutch.com

“As long as I’m having fun and I’m able to not lose money, and then build for the future, that’s really all I’m concerned with. The results will come. Hope to be better: better results potentially a full factory ride at some point.”

In 2022, while riding for Team Next Level, Moranz had a lot of success. He made more than half of the A-Mains in the Supercross series – and he’s leveraged that into more sponsorship in 2023 and a successful Patreon page that allows him to interact with his fan base named the Moranz Mafia.

He is also the racer Kris takes to the line, where they go over last-minute thoughts on how the racing line has changed and say a prayer for safety.

In the season opener, Next Level Racing’s Tristan Lane did not make the Main, but he already claimed success before the race began.

After several years racing the outdoor season only, Lane made the move to Supercross last year. His 2022 season was strong enough to earn a two-digit national number, something that separates him from the riders on the outer edge of the paddock.

Tristan Lane earned a two-digit national number for his efforts in 2022. Seder Martin / vclutch.com

“I jumped into the 450 class and I was really nervous, so to even to make the night show was really my goal – to get that experience – so to make three Mains was good,” Lane told NBC Sports under the massive Team Next Level Racing awning before Anaheim 1. “We want more of course. It’s human nature, you want to do better and better. But considering what I thought was capable of, I surpassed a lot of those expectations already. I’m just trying to build off of that.

“Was last year was a success? Yes, absolutely. I earned a national plate. I’m able to be ranked now. In the past I was a three-digit privateer who kind of got pushed under the rug. To now be on the No. 90, I feel like I’ve earned my stripes a little bit.”

Like Moranz, Lane simply wants to improve and make more Main events than last year.

“Perspective is everything,” Lane continued. “In our sport, especially being a privateer like I am, it’s hard because there’s this gray area where people, if you’re not winning or in the top three, they can forget about you quickly. But what I ‘m trying to remind myself where I came from, what equipment I have, the resources I’m able to receive.

“What I’m doing is already exceeding a lot of what I have. If you look at it from that point of view, I’m technically winning each time I race, but if you asked someone like [Eli] Tomac, maybe he would think that would never be acceptable.

“[Next Level] wants to spread positivity across the pits. If you get good results while doing that, it’s a plus.”

The hope is that Team Next Level Racing will spread their view of success outside of their pit. That philosophy was a huge contributing factor to bringing Schlosser over.

“The team, it’s like very positive professional environment,” Schlosser said before Anaheim 1. “I’ve known Chris since the residency year (2021) and we’re both Christians, so we definitely, like right off the bat, bonded in that way.”

Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi bring their storied rivalry to a new level at Rolex 24

Ganassi Penske Rolex 24
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To measure the impact of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi squaring off for the first time in overall sports car wins (starting at the Rolex 24), look at the auto racing titans’ lineups.

There are 12 combined drivers across four entries representing Chip Ganassi Racing (competing as Cadillac Racing) and Team Penske (as Porsche Penske Motorsport) in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.

And with the possible exception of six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, none of those behind the wheel is as famous and accomplished as the U.S. motorsports icons who will be sitting atop the pit stands at Daytona International Speedway.

In the NTT IndyCar Series, Penske and Ganassi are synonymous with success, having combined for 23 Indy 500 victories and 30 championships. They also competed in the NASCAR Cup Series for two decades with several signature wins for each.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

Until now, the rivalry never extended to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where they competed in different classes from 2018-19 and have competed in the top category in differing times over the years.

But the 2023 season opener at Daytona will mark the beginning of a new era in which Ganassi and Penske will compete for sports car overall victories on two continents. A Ganassi Cadillac Racing V-LMDh and Porsche Penske Motorsports Penske 963 will run full time in both the premier prototype divisions of IMSA and the European-based World Endurance Championship – whose crown jewel is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Having two of the world’s biggest sports car races welcome the Ganassi-Penske battle seems only fitting in a season in which IMSA’s new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class is expected to introduce a stiffer level of competition.

“We obviously like beating each other,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “I think if you beat Penske, you know you’ve beaten someone. You’ve accomplished something great. It’s going to be the same as always. Just another platform at another track, but the rivalry will be just as heated I’m sure.

“On one hand, he’s always the first guy to call us out for a penalty or something. On the other hand, he’s also the first guy to congratulate me on a win, so I think it’s a healthy rivalry, but we certainly pound each other’s heads into the ground on race day. Monday through Friday it switches to more of a good relationship.”

After starting his career in sports cars, Penske also is looking forward to having a new arena to race Ganassi.

“There is a lot of anticipation and excitement about the Rolex 24 and the upcoming sports car season overall,” Penske said in a statement to NBC Sports statement. “With the new hybrid prototype formula ready to make its debut, and some great competition expected on the track between teams, drivers and manufacturers, there is a lot of momentum building right now. Porsche Penske Motorsport is excited to compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship, this season and I can’t wait to see the No. 6 and No. 7 Porsche 963s in action at Daytona this weekend. We also look forward to bringing some new rivalries and storylines to the sport.

Roger Penske confers with Chip Ganassi before the 2013 Honda Indy Toronto (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“In the new IMSA GTP class, there should be a good competitive balance between Porsche, Cadillac, Acura and BMW. We have seen how the rivalry between Team Penske and Ganassi Racing has developed in the NTT IndyCar Series in recent years, and that could certainly extend to sports cars as our teams and drivers continue to develop the new formula and push the production on track in both IMSA and WEC. We will see how the competition plays out, starting this weekend, as we always enjoy racing against Chip and his teams.”

Though there have been some fiery moments over the years (Dario Franchitti vs. Will Power, anyone?), Ganassi vs. Penske mostly has been a story of respect between two organizations whose main strengths are people.

“It’s just the depth of the organizations going up against each other,” Ganassi said. “It’s not just he and I. It’s at every level of the organization.

“We’re smaller. I’d like to think we’re a little more nimble. This is all I do is race cars. I don’t have 200 car dealerships or a truck rental company or a transportation company. I just have racing is all I have.”

Heading into Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, here are the thoughts of Ganassi and Penske drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona:


Earl Bamber, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “When I grew up as a kid, I remember watching Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske battle each other for many years, obviously following Scott Dixon and his career in IndyCar (Bamber is a New Zealand native like Dixon). And when the opportunity came up to come and race for Chip, it’s a no-brainer. It’s one of those teams you want to drive for in the world. It’s one of the biggest and most successful teams in the world. And then we’ve got Porsche, where I used to drive, with Penske. It’s going to be a phenomenal rivalry over the next couple of years and that rivalry continues between two absolute legends of our sport. Two people who have been the most successful. I hope we can get Cadillac and Chip their first Le Mans win. That’s obviously the ultimate goal for us and beat his old rival, Roger.

“Those two powerhouses of the sport, they definitely raise the bar. You’ve seen it in IndyCar for years and years. One finds something and the next pushes it forward and forward. You’ll see the same in sports car racing. We all saw what Chip Ganassi Racing did back in the day with the GT program. So no doubt we can do the same again. It’s the ultimate highest level of motorsport when it comes to sports car racing, and there’ll be no stone unturned to make sure that we’re winning these races. It will be a really great fight, great for the fans and great for the sport, because both of them love winning.”

Dane Cameron, No. 6 Porsche Penske: “I think anytime you have Chip and Roger come to town to start fighting for wins, it raises the profile of the whole thing. Hopefully it brings a few more eyes to everything. Certainly brings a lot of expectation with it as well, and I also think it reflects really strongly on the championship to show how competitive it is. They respect the championship and challenge, but when they come to town, they come to win for sure.”

Scott Dixon, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “The battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske is always a fierce one. I obviously know it well from the IndyCar side. But I think it’s a lot more than that. It’s impressive to see a lot of the manufacturers that have come in for this battle. I imagine if it’s not from the first race but during the season that Penske and Ganassi will fight it out pretty hard.

“I think the rivalry between Chip Ganassi racing and Penske has always been strong and in a good way. There’s been some battles and the 2010s for me and other drivers when it gets fierce. Some disagreements here and there. But it’s always been a great pure battle, which is what I think these championships are made of and what brings the fans to the track. So I’d sum it up as a very healthy rivalry.”

Alex Lynn, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “Even as a little boy (growing up in England), you knew exactly who Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were. You knew what their teams represented. For me to represent Chip and his team is a huge honor. I’m extremely motivated to try to add to his legacy and be part of the fabric of this team. I think having the battle between Penske and Ganassi is iconic. Also Porsche and Cadillac as brands, respectively, just adds to the occasion. Makes me smile even thinking about it knowing what we get to represent when the flag drops.”

Felipe Nasr, No. 7 Porsche Penske: “I think it’s fantastic especially because we’re merging the IMSA and WEC Series and giving the opportunity for teams like Penske and Ganassi to fight for overall victories. You look at the history of those teams, they’ve been on top. We always hear it from the IndyCar guys or the NASCAR side, you’re talking two big names in motorsports. You expect nothing but them fighting for wins. For sure Ganassi has strengths, and we have strengths as well. I’m pretty glad I have the opportunity to be representing Team Penske and continue to write history with them and Porsche is a great opportunity.”

Richard Westbrook, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “The chance for the two most famous teams in America to go head to head in the Daytona 24 Hours and also the Le Mans 24 Hours. I expect that rivalry to keep going up more notches.”

Renger van der Zande, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “Obviously, it’s such the big houses of racing in the U.S. Penske and Ganassi are taking it at each other. The rivalry is big. The best of the best. The most famous ones in the U.S.

“Ganassi is part of Cadillac. We’re the race team that runs the factory program for Cadillac. Penske is running it for Porsche, obviously a high brand as well. Those teams have their little rivalry, but they’re working for a bigger company, a bigger brand, which is Cadillac and Porsche. So those two premium brands taking on each other and then two of the best teams in America taking on each other. It’s very simple: Cadillac got the best team in the U.S. and Porsche got the best team in the U.S. So let’s see what happens. It’s going to be a cool fight.”