INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 5, 2003 -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing filed two entries for the 2003 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race on March 5, becoming the first team to officially enter the 87th running of the world's greatest auto race. The ...
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 5, 2003 -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing filed two entries for the 2003 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race on March 5, becoming the first team to officially enter the 87th running of the world's greatest auto race.
The Indianapolis-based team named 2002 Indianapolis 500 Bank One co-Rookie of the Year Tomas Scheckter and fellow IRL IndyCar^Ù Series driver Scott Dixon, who will be a rookie at Indy, as drivers of the team's Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone entries. Current IndyCar Series points leader Dixon will drive the No. 9 car, while Scheckter will be in the No. 10 entry.
Team owner Chip Ganassi and managing director Mike Hull filed the entries along with Dixon and Scheckter at IRL headquarters in Indianapolis just a few hours after the entry invitations were mailed earlier in the day.
The 87th Indianapolis 500 is Sunday, May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Entries must be postmarked by midnight April 2. Qualifications for the elite 33-car starting field begin on Pole Day, May 10.
Ganassi has already tasted victory at Indianapolis with rookie driver Juan Montoya in 2000. With one of the most competitive teams in motorsports history -- having captured a record four consecutive CART championships from 1996-99, Ganassi is confident the team can produce a second Indy win.
"We're very excited and honored to be the first to announce our participation in this year's Indianapolis 500," Ganassi said. "The Indy 500 is the pinnacle when it comes to open-wheel racing, and we're looking forward to competing in the race this year. Last week one of our talented young drivers, Scott Dixon, became just the third driver to win his first race in the IRL.
"Our other driver, Tomas Scheckter, led 85 laps in last year's race and is a threat to win at every track that we race on. There is nothing in the world like the Indy 500, and I'm looking forward to competing there. We won the Indy 500 in 2000 with Juan (Montoya) and I'm confident that we'll be in the hunt again this year."
Dixon, a resident of Indianapolis and native of Auckland, New Zealand, became one of only three drivers in IndyCar Series history to win his first start by taking the checkered flag at the Toyota Indy 300 on March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 2. Montoya also won in his first series start, in 2000 at Indianapolis.
"Growing up in New Zealand, I always watched the Indy 500 and dreamed of racing there some day," Dixon said. "It's great to have that opportunity this year, especially with a team like we have here at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. It was pretty cool to win last week in Homestead in our first race out. I think it showed everyone that we can win, and nothing would be better than to win the Indianapolis 500.
"That's what we're after, and it's great that we'll have the chance to race there -- and win there."
Scheckter, also a resident of Indianapolis and a native of Cape Town, South Africa, is a second-year IndyCar Series driver and nearly won the Indianapolis 500 in his first attempt in 2002. He led 85 laps, the most of any driver, and was in the lead when a crash exiting Turn 4 took him out of contention after completing 172 of the 200 laps.
Scheckter said he has learned from last year's heartbreak and is focused on the challenge and opportunity awaiting him in 2003.
"I've got a great team behind me, and it's just up to me, really," he said. "Everything from last year is firmly behind us. It's a new year, new car, new engine, new team, and it's all concentrating on making sure we do all we can do to win more races.
"It's (the '500') an endurance race. You have to make sure you're not getting involved in the wrong battle at the wrong time. It's just looking after your equipment and staying out of trouble."
Target Chip Ganassi Racing is fielding a primary and backup Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone for Dixon and Scheckter. Hull is the team managing director, and Scott Harner and Simon Hodgson are both named as team manager. Barry Wanser is chief mechanic of Dixon's No. 9 car, and Dave Higuera is chief mechanic for Scheckter's No. 10 car.