Dodge Motorsport Chip Ganassi interview

CHIP GANASSI (Owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodge Intrepid R/Ts with drivers Jimmy Spencer and Sterling Marlin) "There's no question that every car owner looks for chemistry. They know that more times than not good chemistry will...

CHIP GANASSI (Owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodge Intrepid R/Ts with drivers Jimmy Spencer and Sterling Marlin)

"There's no question that every car owner looks for chemistry. They know that more times than not good chemistry will translate into some success on the track. Unfortunately, bad chemistry will translate into not so good success on the track. I think Doug (No. 41 Target Dodge Intrepid R/T crew chief Randolph) and Jimmy have some experience together in a previous life and I know they're happy to get back together. I think the important thing for us is to come out of the blocks with some solid finishes and get settled down and get into this season. Certainly there are bigger races and smaller races, but the points are the same for everybody and they're the same at every race. We just need to put together some solid performances and get under way with the season and not get in a hole to start the season. I would hope we could get started on the higher side of things.

"We're in discussions with CART right now, as are a lot of tracks for the upcoming season and future seasons and we hope to have something resolved (with Chicago track) in the near future.

"We don't have templates per se in CART, but we do have measurements and boxes and what have you. It's pretty hard to put a template over an open wheel car, but that doesn't mean that they're not just as critical in terms of nuances and the rules or the plus/minus of a particular measurement. I think CART or open wheel racing is a little more open in certain rules areas than maybe NASCAR. I think NASCAR is known as keeping the rules pretty tight. Whereas CART or Indy, the rules are more tight there than Formula One but still more open than NASCAR. The important thing to keep in mind that the two things that happen in any series, everybody is going to be at the very limit of the rules. It doesn't matter what kind of car you're driving. We're going to be at the limit of the rules in NASCAR, and we're going to be right up on the limit of the rules in CART or at Indy. That's why they have rules. You have to stay within certain parameters, but we're going to be right up against those parameters, I can tell you.

"Coming from my history in open wheel racing, maybe they don't make the changes that NASCAR does, but what when they do make a change it's sort of locked in. That can be good and bad. The sword cuts both ways if you will. When you have a rule that's locked in for a year or two years or three years, it can be good but it can also be bad. I've been on both ends of that. It's good because it stabilizes things but it can be bad because it gives one type of car or one type of engine or one team an advantage. The way it seems to me that NASCAR works, obviously they're working to keep everybody competitive, and they're obviously trying to get some kind of parity between the manufacturers or teams. It's kind of nice when they do make a mistake, they can change the rule back if they want. From an owners point of view, every time they change rules, it does cost money. The good news is it costs a lot less in NASCAR than where I'm used to. So yeah, I guess I cringe a bit but that's what you sign up for when you go into this business. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.

"From a journalist's point of view or from a fan's point of few, the quick thing everybody wants to do in this sport, they want to get a cookie cutter out and say, 'OK, Childress' team, they've got two cars and they're the same as Yates and they're the same as Hendrick. He's got three and he's just a little more. Roush has got five.' They want to keep putting people and teams in little cookie cutters and say, 'it works for them, it must work for somebody else.' We do that a lot in other sports, whether it's the Steelers or Pirates or whoever. The fact of the matter is, these businesses are all very different. Everyone's team is different, everyone's relationship with their sponsor is different. Everyone's relationship with their drivers are different. Management styles are different. Personalities are different. It would be nice if we could all run our teams the same way and have the ability to script how you'd like your team to be. We'd like to have a veteran and we'd like to have a young guy so we'd have the experience and the youth. It's nice to talk about all those things. The fact is, at the end of the day, you have to look at yourself as an owner and look at your business or team and say, 'what is best for this group of people?' It keeps coming back to people. I look at myself and my group of people, and I don't know if it's because I've been in racing for almost 25 years now or for whatever reason, we just don't seem as a team, whether it's on the open wheel side or the Winston Cup side, for some reason, we don't seem to be able to bring along young guys like some of these teams do. Some of these guys just do a better job at that than we do. I don't know if it's because we're busy and have other teams we're operating or it's a management style. You've got to look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'hey, these are our strong points and these are our weak points.' It's not a strong suit of ours to be bringing along right now with the team of people we have. We need some people with more experience. "I look back and I feel bad as hell about the whole experience with Jason (Leffler). We tried hard, and I know he tried hard. It was a situation at the end of the day that didn't pan out for everybody like we thought it would. I'm disappointed about that. Right now, we're just better with having people around that have more experience. When I say right now, I mean this year, next year, in the short term. Things seem to be trending with having drivers with some experience, at least for our team. At least, that's the way I look at it. That may change two or three years from now. I don't know. It's hard to say. Right now, we seem to do better with veteran drivers who know what they want in a car, who can give a little guidance to our young team of people and give some direction.

"I don't have other businesses. Believe me, some days I wish I did. People said there for four or five years I was knocking off Roger Penske. I said I would trade my Saturdays and Sundays with him for his Monday through Friday. He was very successful Monday through Friday and he was having a tough time on the weekend at the race track. Look at Rick Hendrick. There's somebody who's very successful Monday through Friday and Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He's got it all happening right now. To me, when somebody says a racer, that's all I do. I don't know whether that's good or bad. That's what it means to me. I just think I have a little better understand of what these drivers are talking about, at least I used to when I used to drive these things. I've always had teams that I try to put out there and give the guys they tools they need to work with. I try to put teams out there that I would be proud to drive for if I was a driver. That's kind of what I see it as.

"I was fortunate to come into this sport with Felix. I kind of consider myself lucky. Let's face it, you come down and get involved with a lot of people in that garage area and it would be a hell of a lot easier to do worse than do better getting involved with a guy like Felix. I was fortunate that he was looking to change his situation a little bit. I had a lot to learn. I guess one of the pleasantries of being involved with NASCAR is doing it with someone like Felix. He has a reputation in the garage area among some people I'm sure of being that crazy Cuban, the crazy hot-headed Cuban, but the fact of the matter is, I think the real feelings is somebody who's very astute, very smart, and nobody's fool. On top of all that, he's got a great boat that we all stay on every once in awhile.

"It's not for me to compare these guys. We have a job to do, and I'd like to think we get the best drivers out there that are available to do those jobs. In NASCAR it's in NASCAR. If it's in open wheel, it's in open wheel racing. I don't think you could compare Sterling and Jimmy to Juan and Alex and Vasser. The important thing is, I hope I see one thing in all of them and that's they have a lot of heart and they have a lot of desire. Everything else, we can either acquire or we can learn, but you've got to have a lot of heart and desire.

"Jimmy said they he went into one corner and hit the brakes and he actually had the (Indy) car stopped before he got to the corner and he had to accelerate through the corner. I thought that was interesting.

"If anything is going to put pressure on budgets, it's just value of what people are getting in return. That's what puts pressure on sponsorships, the value or the return that people get. In terms of Target being in NASCAR or CART, it still comes down to the value equation. Obviously, I've had a long term relationship with them (Target) and that relationship is based on open communication and a lot of honesty. I think they know that I've had my eye on Winston Cup for a few years. They know of our involvement in it, and they saw it as an opportunity to expand our relationship. I'm fortunate that I've run into people, I always said in racing that I'm the luckiest guy on the planet. I run into good people that are involved in racing, and I run into good people that want to be involved in racing. You couldn't be in any better position than that. I think everybody of late is examining, with what's happened in open wheel racing in the last four or five years, people are examining their value equation. Only time will tell if that value goes up or down. Fortunately, I'm in the operation end of that business, and I can't make those decisions for them. Not being a marketing expert, I try to give value to them, but I can't decide what the value is. It's easy these days to take shots at what's happened in open wheel racing and it's easy to say NASCAR is great and stock cars are great and open wheel racing is on a decline. That's an easy shot to take. I think when you look at it a little closer, I think you'll find there are values in both and there are challenges in both. It's just how you approach those challenges and values and what you make of them yourself. It's just a little more complex. The days of people putting their name on the side of a car and hoping a bunch of people in the stands see it, those days are going by fairly quickly and just about gone. It's what you do with your brand over the long term and how you want your company to be perceived, how you want your brand to be perceived. Whether that's in open wheel racing or Winston Cup racing or putting your name on the side of a rocket going to the moon. It's all how companies want to be perceived.

"I would say it's pretty much put to bed now (running Kenny Brack in Daytona 500). It's getting a little late. We've got to be at Daytona in the next 10 days or so. I would say that's unfortunately gone by the wayside. We have a relationship with Kenny for a few years, and if something happens down the road, it would be great. I know he's done some testing with us, and he certainly enjoyed it and gave some good feedback. I know the guys were pumped up about working with him. It's a work in progress I'd say, but nothing is going to happen in the short term.

"I wish the Steelers would have would won (last Sunday's game against Patriots). I think the Steelers stunk. I was there. It wasn't the same team that played a week ago."


Jimmy Spencer notes

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmy Spencer , Sterling Marlin , Kenny Brack , Chip Ganassi , Roger Penske , Felix Sabates
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing