INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Feb. 28, 2000 - Target/Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Jimmy Vasser and Juan Montoya will compete in the 84th Indianapolis 500, team owner Chip Ganassi announced today. "Racing in the Indy 500 is a dream for any owner or...
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Feb. 28, 2000 - Target/Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Jimmy Vasser and Juan Montoya will compete in the 84th Indianapolis 500, team owner Chip Ganassi announced today.
"Racing in the Indy 500 is a dream for any owner or driver," said Ganassi. "I'm just excited to give Jimmy, Juan and Target the opportunity to race at the Brickyard in the largest one-day sporting event in the world."
Vasser and Montoya will drive G Force/Oldsmobile Firestone cars in the Northern Light Indy Racing Series event and will carry primary sponsorship from the Target retail chain, the same company which sponsors the team in the Championship Auto Racing Teams series. Vasser will drive car number 15; Montoya number 10.
Anheuser-Busch, Inc. and its Budweiser brand of beer will provide associate sponsorship for the team at Indy.
Target/Chip Ganassi Racing has won the last four season championships in CART, a record. Montoya won the title as a rookie with seven wins in 1999, while Vasser won the title in 1996. Former Ganassi team driver Alex Zanardi won the championship in 1997 and 1998.
"I'm looking forward to the competition, for sure," said Vasser. "I really enjoyed all the races I had here before. It's still the Indianapolis 500, and it's something I want to add to my credentials as a race win." Vasser has competed in the Indianapolis 500 four times (1992-95), with a best finish of fourth in 1994. Vasser dueled with Scott Pruett for the lead in 1995 when he made contact with the Turn 3 wall on Lap 170, forcing him to retire in 22nd position.
"I remember clearly the last lap I ran here at Indianapolis, I led," said Vasser. "And then I ended up in the fence. It was great racing. That moment was the springboard for what was to come for me in 1996 and the coming years. To think that was five years ago seems unreal.
"I went to see my doctor the other day, and he said I was a little calcium-deficient, so perhaps I need to drink a little more milk." Montoya is eager to compete at the famous 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval for the first time. Montoya will not need to participate in the Rookie Orientation Program because of his experience on ovals in CART but will still be classified in the race as a rookie, said Brian Barnhart, Indy Racing League director of racing operations.
"It doesn't matter to me if they make me race in a school bus," he said. "I'm excited to finally see the famous track that I've been watching on television since I was 5 years old."
The team's first test at Indianapolis will be March 29, Ganassi said. He said the team plans to do as much testing as possible in preparation for the Indianapolis 500 on May 28.
"To quote a basketball term, this is not a lay-up, to do a program like this," Ganassi said. "We will have to work just as hard as (Indy Racing teams) just to do a decent job. We want to approach this with the utmost professionalism, as we have with everything else, and do the best job we can."
Ganassi drove in five Indianapolis 500s between 1982 and 1986, with a best finish of eighth in 1983. He became a team owner by purchasing an interest in Patrick Racing in 1988. The team won the Indy 500 and CART championship with driver Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989, and Ganassi became full owner of the team in 1990.