CHIP GANASSI (Car Owner Chip Ganassi Dodge Intrepid R/Ts) "This is what I've always wanted to do. I enjoyed Christmas break. I got to spend some time with my family. I got to spend some time with my daughter. I didn't travel anywhere for about...
CHIP GANASSI (Car Owner Chip Ganassi Dodge Intrepid R/Ts)
"This is what I've always wanted to do. I enjoyed Christmas break. I got to spend some time with my family. I got to spend some time with my daughter. I didn't travel anywhere for about two weeks. I'm ready to go back now. We're in Monterey, Calif., tomorrow. I'm hoping to be able to come back down here testing next week with Jimmy Spencer.
"I couldn't be happier with Spencer and Sterling. I wouldn't exactly call them two peas in a pod. It's more like I feel like the fifth grade math teacher trying to keep them under control. Say what you want off track, but I think on track they speak the same language. There's a lot of speed in the fact they talk the same language and pretty much drive the same kind of car. I've had teammates before that get along pretty much like these two appear to be getting along. There's some speed in that.
"We don't have two different teams. We have one team. Last year, both guys were going in opposite directions as the season went on. That's not the individuals fault or anything like that. It's fast and furious up front and at the back it's a slippery slope. I don't want them to push each other. I want them to get the most out of each other. I look back to my years of having Zanardi and Vasser. It never came down to the two of them for position at the end of the race. I think maybe one time in 70 races it came down to the two of them. If it came down to one time in 70 races with Spencer and Sterling, that's OK.
"The great thing about 2001, it was a great year for our team and Dodge. It was filled with highs and lows. The thing about this business, there's nothing older than yesterday's news. Everybody is tied for the championship lead today and everybody is tied for last. I think we need to improve in some places. I think we have a good idea of what those are. There's room for improvement in a lot of areas.
"I'm going to be more involved this year on a week in and week out basis. I don't know if me being there all the time is a good thing. If you show me where I need to be there every single week, I'd be there. I missed about 10 races last year. I'll be honest with you. I don't know enough about this type of racing to tell you I need to be there every week. I'm still on a steep learning curve.
"I'm not used to the race distances. There's a lot more race craft that I have to learn about the particular tracks, how teams and drivers race you. I can tell you every thing about every team in open wheel racing. I can't do that here. I have to ask the guys on the team.
"Andy Graves and Tony Glover don't need someone standing over them telling them how to do it. They've been around the block. I have all the confidence in the world in those guys. This business is all about people. All the teams up front have all the stuff. It gets down to the people. It's not about back room guys or front room guys. It's about teams. It's about everybody do their job and letting everybody else do their jobs. What's important is the whole and how they work together.
"You know Tony (Stewart). He's like trying to nail jelly to a post sometimes. You could play telephone tag with him for three weeks, but it's moving along on schedule (driving for Ganassi in the Indy 500).
"I'm just honored you're saying our team and championship in the same sentence. All I want to do is go out in 2002 and make sure 2001 wasn't a fluke. We'll start counting up the points in August. I don't think we overachieved (in 2001). I think they had their feet on the ground the whole time. I thought maybe a little bit in the early part of the season we were playing a little bit over our heads. We caught up to it. A lot of people thought Ernie Elliott was washed up. A lot of people thought Sterling was washed up. A lot of people thought Glover had lost it. A lot of people thought Andy wasn't what he thought he was. You heard all that. I guess we'll take 2002 and prove it wasn't a fluke.
"I can remember winning our first Indy Car race and people said, 'can they win two?' We'd win two and they'd say 'can you win three?' We'd win three and they'd say, 'can they win the championship?' We won the championship and they'd wonder if we could win it again. I remember Roger Penske saying, 'well, we look at people on a 10-year basis.'
"You never know what to expect. You just go in and work hard and do what you know how to do. The thing I like about NASCAR, it doesn't matter what I think. I like that.
"I think he (Spencer) has a chance to win some races. You know when you start talking about championship you're talking a lot more than car and driver. You've got to have Lady Luck and a lot of other things. You'd like to think there's momentum, but at the same time in this business, it's like your wife, she can come up and give you a kiss and make you feel really good or she can slap your face and you don't know why.
"Spencer is very motivated and energized. The way Felix and I have the team setup, the fact we're not there every day, we probably work better with guys that are a little more mature and know what they want. I don't know that we bring out the best in rookie drivers. That's probably a fault of ours. We like guys who know what they want, what's slowing them down and what they can do to go faster. Jimmy is the card carrying member of the Jaws Club. There's something to be said for that."