Chip Ganassi invited Alex Zanardi to the Indianapolis 500 race in order to surprise him with a special gift.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing owner Chip Ganassi presented the Reynard 96I/Honda that Alex Zanardi drove to victory in the CART race at Mazda Raceway in Laguna Seca in September 1996 to Zanardi during a special ceremony this morning on the Yard of Bricks. Zanardi passed Bryan Herta in the famed "Corkscrew" turn on the last lap for a famous victory in the car.
Alex Zanardi: "It is really difficult to put it into words. I'm lucky enough to have had a long career, a career with many highlights, along with the two championships we won with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Which were, for sure, amazing accomplishments, I had days of glory which go above.
“Laguna Seca in 1996, of all the highlights of my racing career, was probably the most emotional one and the one that actually changed my life. I was very lucky that day, don't get me wrong, but had I not tried that move, who knows what my racing career would have been? For sure, it changed a lot of things. The perception of all the people watching was that, after that day, I was a different guy, I was definitely a guy to keep an eye on. I'm sure I won a lot of fans that day and caused come controversy, as well. But, hey, this is what keeps us alive, and I was definitely alive that day."
Chip Ganassi: "I'm happy to have Alex and his team as special guests of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. (Jimmy) Vasser and Alex were the foundation of Chip Ganassi Racing. Nothing that Alex Zanardi has done has surprised anybody - from Laguna Seca to two Paralympic gold medals. There is no one like Alex ... the mold was broken when Alex Zanardi was born. We never had him in a race car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 1996 he made the pass at Laguna Seca in the Corkscrew and went on with the win.
“Your contribution to this sport and to this team will never be forgotten. In Alex you see a guy who transcends all the issues of the day when we were racing in the mid-'90s. It was a breath of fresh air to see somebody who transcends all that and is all about racing. He's had some real accomplishments since he has not been in racing. Don't forget, you're talking about an Olympian here, and that's pretty heavy stuff. To be at the top of one sport and to go and be at the top of another - enough said. Only someone with his fortitude could accomplish that. To say the words: 'Passion, commitment, excellence' - all the things that I grew up with that meant something; I think he embodies every one of those. He embodies what we would like every athlete, we look up to, to be in our lives."
About Zanardi never racing at IMS: "It was one of those things that the timing or the political climate, it wasn't to be. It's nice that he can come back here today and have the reception that he's had and to be welcomed with open arms. That's the one thing about this place; anyone who has ever been here in any capacity is welcomed to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with open arms. And that's a tribute to Tony (George) and his family."