IRL: Chip Ganassi Racing memories

Target Chip Ganassi Racing Celebrates 50 Wins, Over 50 Poles, and a Million Memories With a win in the 2006 IndyCar season finale at Chicagoland Speedway, Target Chip Ganassi Racing took a moment to celebrate their 50th victory in open...

Target Chip Ganassi Racing Celebrates 50 Wins, Over 50 Poles, and a Million Memories

With a win in the 2006 IndyCar season finale at Chicagoland Speedway, Target Chip Ganassi Racing took a moment to celebrate their 50th victory in open wheel racing, adding to an impressive resume boasting five Championship titles, an Indianapolis 500 victory and 51 pole positions.

The team earned its historic 50th trip to victory lane, a 10th in the IndyCar Series, with a dramatic Target 1-2 finish in which both Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon were vying for the Championship. Dan Wheldon delivered his second win of the year after leading the most laps (166), but fell just short of the IndyCar Series Championship despite tying in points with Penske driver Sam Hornish with 475. Wheldon lost the tiebreaker by having two less wins than Hornish this season (Hornish 4 - Wheldon 2). The driver of the no.10 Target Honda Dallara also scored the team's 50th pole earlier this season at Nashville Superspeedway.

"This is certainly one of those special achievements that all our teams and sponsors have contributed to," said Team Owner Chip Ganassi. "Our goal has always been to compete for championships and create great partnerships, and reaching this milestone is something that everyone associated with Chip Ganassi Racing can be proud of but it must be noted that we could never have achieved such success without the full and steadfast support of the Target Corporation. They have been a trusted partner for a long time and we look forward to our continued partnership for years to come."

Ganassi and Target began their partnership in 1990 with the creation of a one-car IndyCar team. Team Target's first win came in 1994 at the hands of Michael Andretti in Australia, while the first pole was captured at Indianapolis the previous season courtesy of Arie Luyendyk. In a relatively short span of 244 races (a winning percentage of 20.4%), from the first to the 50th, Target Chip Ganassi Racing has created millions of racing memories.

Chip Ganassi became the first and only owner in American open wheel racing to lead his team to four consecutive CART championships with Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997-98) and then with rookie driver Juan Montoya's championship in 1999. In 2000, Montoya blew away the competition in the Indianapolis 500, claiming the title for his team which had not raced at the famed Brickyard since 1995.

Of the 50 wins and 51 poles, Zanardi leads all TCGR drivers with 15 wins, Montoya holds the record for poles with 14, and Vasser took the green flag for the team a record 111 times.

The Target team boasts 22 wins on ovals, 16 victories on street courses and 12 on permanent road courses. The first 40 wins came in the CART Series while the following 10 victories were earned in the Indy Racing League starting in 2003 when Ganassi and Team Target driver Scott Dixon proved they could meet the challenge of a new series and new competition by capturing the IndyCar Series Championship with three wins and five poles.

Just two weeks prior to Target's 50th win, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, Inc. celebrated its' 75th win in motorsports (1990-2006) with a victory by the Rolex Sports Car Series team at Infineon Raceway with Daytona Prototype drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz.

The win was a landmark achievement for team owner Chip Ganassi who began the organization in partnership with Target and one-car in CART, but has grown it to include three cars in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, two cars in the IRL IndyCar Series, and single-car efforts in both the NASCAR Busch Series and Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series.

The Memories

When the question arises about which of Target Chip Ganassi Racing's 50 wins are considered the most memorable, it is the 2000 Indianapolis 500 victory by Juan Montoya that seems foremost on everyone's mind. The team's triumphant return to the famed Brickyard after a four-year absence made the Month of May that much more fulfilling.

"Our Indy 500 win was huge," said Team Owner Chip Ganassi as he recalls the circumstances leading up to the win. "It was our first time back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1995 and we were the first team to break off and do that since the split between the series. Everyone was excited, nervous and tired all at the same time heading into the race as just the day before we were in Nazareth for the rescheduled race that had been snowed out. Juan started second and simply dominated the race from start to finish. It was just unbelievable."

That race, however, was just one of the memorable highlights from the 50 Target team wins over the past decade.

"A race that really stands out in my mind was Scott Dixon's win at Watkins Glen in 2005," said Team Managing Director Mike Hull. "The way he won that race was pretty spectacular. The team was underpowered and basically everyone wrote us off but Dixon drove like a man possessed and gave the team their first win in over two years. It spoke volumes about this Target team and our drive to win."

Team Manager Scott Harner remembers the Target team's 1994 inaugural win in Australia with Michael Andretti as one of his favorites.

"Not only was it the team's first win, but what made it that much sweeter was that Michael beat Nigel Mansell after a whole lot of lip service between the two all weekend long," said Harner, who joined the team in 1993. "Another one that stands out for me is Alex Zanardi's 1997 win at Long Beach where he bounced of the wall, bent everything on the car and still came back to win that race."

Wayne Westplate, inside front tire changer on the no.10 Target car, has been with the team since the start (1990) and remembers being able to boast that the team, with drivers Alex Zanardi and Jimmy Vasser, had a win at every race track they'd gone to from 1997-1999. Both he and Crew Chief Ricky Davis reminisced fondly about another favorite Zanardi win.

"In Cleveland in '97 Alex started from the pole, led 30 laps, had two drive through penalties, started from the back of the pack twice, was two laps down, and still came back to win it."

Often brought up in conversation around the paddock was Zanardi's win at Laguna Seca that included the famous pass on Brian Herta in the corkscrew. That was also the race that decided a very closely contested 1996 Championship battle won by Jimmy Vasser.

"That Zanardi pass was legendary and Jimmy's Championship win was just unbelievable," recalls team spotter Packy Wheeler. "It was the team's first title with many more to come but you could tell it was the start of something special."

Dan Wheldon's first win for the Target team in the 2006 season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway was also significant as it was the no.10 car's first win ever.

His second win in Chicago was just as significant as it was the Target team's 50th, coming in the final race of a successful 2006 campaign that saw the team win four races, earn three pole positions, and lead 976 of 2510 laps.

It was also the sixth Target team 1-2 finish in history. In fact, the team scored two 1-2 finishes this season, the first of which was also the team's first in the IndyCar Series with Scott Dixon taking top honors in Nashville.

That most recent race win memory will certainly serve as inspiration and motivation throughout the off-season and into the 2007 IndyCar Series season. From the first victory to the most recent... here's to many more memories and years of success for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

-credit: cgr

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