DC's the sound of silence

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DC's the sound of silence

THE SOUND OF SILENCE A SEASON IN PURGATORY ... ... is the title of an old Patrick Dempsey flick and seems appropriate after Dempsey and his fellow Rolex Series racers cleared out from this past weekend's "Roar Before The 24" because this is ...


THE SOUND OF SILENCE

A SEASON IN PURGATORY ...

... is the title of an old Patrick Dempsey flick and seems appropriate after Dempsey and his fellow Rolex Series racers cleared out from this past weekend's "Roar Before The 24" because this is going to be one really weird month around Daytona International Speedway.

As sure as motor oil is slippery, there was hardly a time over the last three decades when motorsports' sounds and smells didn't permeate the area for all of each January.

It'll be different this year without testing previously unconstrained to the Rolex 24's Test Days (a.k.a. "Roar Before the 24") and would've otherwise continued through to the traditional start of Speed Weeks, the Jan. 24-25 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Ah, but "honey-do" jars and their "stuffers" gladly await those formerly otherwise occupied only with testing.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TEAM . . .

. . . to Penske Racing was conveyed in Sunday's Motorsport.com column. We're not talking "dissertation" like the one forthcoming, but one should get the point.

Though no one is immune to broad economic or political conditions, some get through it better than others - even if intra-company.

Chip Ganassi.
Photo by Andy Sallee.
Chip Ganassi, the entrepreneur, has various business enterprises, among which are motorsports-related Target Chip Ganassi Racing (IRL); Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix (y Jose) Sabates (Rolex Series); and, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (NASCAR).

For the sake of clarity, both herein and on pit road, this writer uses the "(y Jose)" or "(yJ)" for the sake of easily distinguishing CGRwFS from CGRwF(yJ)S, because they are different business entities.

The sportscar, or "Jose" (Felix's younger brother, who is about 23) side is based in Indianapolis, quite literally alongside the open-wheel side, whereas the non-Jose associated CGRwFS operation is based in Concord, N.C., ground-zero of the NASCAR world's race shops.

Though in the Indy outfit's bowels - say, at the parts counter - a sportscar mechanic just can't walk up and get a new shop rag without the parts department having accounted for that rag's cost and to which operation it will be assessed (true, right down to that rag).

Combined, by the close of the 2008 racing season, the three Ganassi-related organizations provided enough wins to push Chip Ganassi, the owner, over the 100-race-win mark.

(The following is a little number-crunching for people having such heads; commentary continues following the closing parenthesis.

(Ganassi's 103 total wins span six series, with years of operations and total wins within: CART, 1990-2002, 40 wins; IndyCar, 2003-Present, 24; Rolex Sports Car, 2004-P, 21; Sprint Cup, 2001-P, six; Re/Max ARCA, 2003-P, six; and Nationwide, 2004-P, six.

(Through 2008 the combined Ganassi driving "team" has had 17 race-winners. The top-five are: Scott Pruett, 20 wins, Rolex Series; Scott Dixon, 17, IndyCar/Rolex Series; Juan Pablo Montoya, 15, CART/Rolex Series/Sprint Cup/Nationwide; Alex Zanardi, 15, CART; Jimmy Vasser, 9, CART.)

#01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley: Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas.
Photo by Bob Harmeyer.
Having posted winning numbers dwarfing those in stock cars - even if the "CART" numbers are entirely removed from consideration - the Indianapolis IRL side of the Ganassi operation has been the better performing even though Concord had a two-year head start (and, no, CART and IRL cars aren't "the same"). Throw in the Rolex Series side - also a comparative late starter at three years behind Concord - and the disparity in wins becomes more than twice as great. Worse, IndyCar and Rolex series' wins occurred during respective seasons having half as many or fewer races.

Excepting Concord, each Ganassi motorsports operation has captured its respective "big" race, the Indianapolis 500 and the Rolex 24 At Daytona more than once, each.

The Indianapolis side comes under the direction of Mike Hull.

According to Hull, successfully meeting a team goal is something that can be done only by a team's willingness to share information with others within the organization, even if it also happens to have more than one driver searching for the same checkered flag.

"To Target Chip Ganassi Racing, 'team' to us isn't limited to just one driver in IndyCar, or one set of drivers in a single car in the Rolex Series. Our team - our entire organization - wins whether it's Scott Dixon in one car or Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in another."

Dario Franchitti.
Photo by Colleen Nixon - Fastlines.
Indianapolis 500 winner (2007) and 2007 IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti: "It's something Tony Kanaan and I did pretty effectively" while the two were Andretti Green Racing teammates in the IRL. "Tony and I were very good friends before we were ever teammates and it translated very well when we became teammates," Franchitti continued.

"Not to say that only a good friend can be a good teammate, but we have this level of trust, a level of understanding about what he needed from a car, what I needed from a car, and it worked very, very well."

"In a sportscar environment you have to work together because it's a team goal," Franchitti added. "You have to get as much information as you can. It's not about who gets the fastest lap in the car, it's about which team won the race. It's the whole team effort when it goes to sportscars."

"When it goes to Indy Cars, I know that my working together with Scott (Dixon) and, needless to say, by his working as close as he can with me, the better chance of meeting our objective, which is to see that our team, Chip Ganassi Racing, wins."

In 2004 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and in only the team's second Rolex Series Daytona Prototype race, Pruett (who has tallied the single-greatest number of driver wins for Ganassi - all occurring in the Rolex Series) was walking from the team's pit to the team hauler.

The race was done, with then co-driver Max Papis having closed it out with a respectable 7th-place finish after having produced, with the cooperation of Jan Magnussen in Kevin Doran's No. 27 DP, one of the wildest race-car video sequences yet seen in racing - it and sponsor CompUSA would go on to make newscast highlight reels throughout the country, if not the world - and yet Pruett was madder than a wet hen.

A reporter asked him the matter, to which Pruett responded by correctly pointing out that the team had been in a position to win the race and, if not, likely would've taken second but that such had not occurred.

In further putting the pieces together, Pruett said that only consistent best finishes can produce championships and that the successful pursuit of which had, at least on that day, been stymied by his co-driver.

Lastly, Pruett stated it was the "team" which lost the race based on the actions of "one member" within it.

To Papis' credit, the driver later acknowledged he could've done better under the circumstances and, more so to his credit, did exactly that as the pair later that year scored CGRwF(yJ)S' first Rolex Series driving championship (Pruett won his second Rolex Series championship in 2008, teaming with Mexico's Memo Rojas).

As was recently demonstrated by Penske Racing when it made sure 16 championship-winning but otherwise expendable sportscar crew members were retained within the organization after their 2008-season ended, accomplishing championships is about "team."

Juan Pablo Montoya.
Photo by Action Sports Photography.
Lest anyone start at this point mumbling something about CGRwFS having furloughed 70-some-odd people when the Franchitti Sprint Cup team closed or, perhaps, still others in the probable DEI-Ganassi merger (the attorneys still are working it all out and until the names are on the dotted lines and the contracts stop flying, the merger still isn't a "done deal"), let us point out the Concord arm has yet to win a championship, also remembering that, given the current climate, Ganassi could've just walked away from stock car racing - leaving it in the dust of two very successful programs. Sure, Ganassi's walking would've caused a headline or two, but it also would've been lost in other headlines just like it - maybe even "DEI Closes Forever."

Well, why hasn't Ganassi just walk away?

Given this writer's perspective, the Concord operation seems to have caused far more "trouble" as compared to the Indianapolis side, which already has sponsors for its open-wheel (Target) and sportscar (TELMEX, just renewed) sides.

Furthermore, Target also is sponsoring the equivalent of one car in the Jan. 24-25 Rolex 24 At Daytona. By any standard, such funding is equal to running about 60-percent of the entire Rolex Series season. A 24-hour race, nearly equal to ten 2.5-hour races, ain't cheap.

(In fact, by the way, add and compare the respective total number of 2008-season race hours undertaken in each of the top-two North American-only sportscar series to learn as to which can accurately lay claim to being a true "endurance" series - the essence and heart of real sportscar racing).

If anything, Ganassi should be applauded for having the temerity for sticking out Concord's hassles. But if those Concord guys want to learn how to keep their jobs, then they need only become "champions."

To see how to do such, see the above.

Ganassi, already a champion, also fights like one. Muhammad Ali also took a few punches from the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Frazier and George Foreman, but Ali eventually prevailed over each.

In barely three weeks, crew members and drivers representing CGRwF(yJ)S and Target Chip Ganassi Racing will be teaming to seek an unprecedented fourth-consecutive Rolex 24 At Daytona crown. No other team has done such - only one other team, Brumos Racing, has scored three-straight - in the famed race's 47 years.

As tough as such may be to accomplish, I found no other team willing to bet against Ganassi at this past weekend's Daytona test.

For good reason.

Later.
DC Williams, written exclusively for Motorsport.com

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Series GENERAL , GRANDAM