TEAM OWNER CHIP GANASSI OFFERS SPEED a CANDID INTERVIEW on NASCAR RACEDAY WENDY VENTURINI GETS BEHIND THE SCENES; 'WE'RE NOT THERE YET,' SAYS GANASSI Wendy Venturini, who provides the inside scoop for NASCAR RaceDay on SPEED, ...
TEAM OWNER CHIP GANASSI OFFERS SPEED a CANDID INTERVIEW on NASCAR RACEDAY
WENDY VENTURINI GETS BEHIND THE SCENES; 'WE'RE NOT THERE YET,' SAYS GANASSI
Wendy Venturini, who provides the inside scoop for NASCAR RaceDay on SPEED, interviewed Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates owner Chip Ganassi, and evoked some rather candid comments after his team's current Nextel Cup Series driver Casey Mears (No. 42) opted to switch teams and join the No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports entry for 2007.
Ganassi, who has been extremely successful in his other auto racing ventures, including open wheel and Grand Am Rolex Series competition, hopes to become as successful in NASCAR. The following are highlights from Venturini's NASCAR RaceDay on SPEED interview just prior to the Nextel Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway:
Venturini: ...Casey Mears has officially signed with Hendrick Motorsports, with a multi-year contract to drive the No. 25. So, we decided it would be good to talk to you, Chip Ganassi.
Venturini: Alright Chip, let's start off with the hottest topic right now. Casey Mears announced he is not going to re-sign (with Chip Ganassi Racing). Did it come as a surprise or was it in the works for a while?
Ganassi: Well, I think (it was) a little bit of a surprise. I mean, we have been talking to Casey...and we thought we were close, and he said we were close and said he wanted to do a deal with us. You know, things happen...things change. I guess deep down - I was a driver at one time - I understand a little bit (about) that part of the business.
Venturini: That is what I was going to say. We did a feature with Casey earlier in the year and (he) stated he wanted to stay,
(Excerpt from a previous NASCAR RaceDay interview with Mears...)
Mears: ...I know Chip and everybody has expressed they would like to continue on, and you know I have expressed the same.
Venturini: And a few weeks ago at a test session he was quoted, 'This is the place I want to stay.' What changed?
Ganassi: You know...just an opportunity came up I don't think anybody thought was going to be coming, or maybe just a very few people knew about.
Venturini: ...I read a quote from you this week saying, 'Now I probably would rather drive for Hendrick, than for our own team right now.' What did you mean by that? What are you going to do to rebound?
Ganassi: Yeah...first of all, let's face the fact. The face of the matter is when you look at the performance level - this business is about performance. When you look at the performance level of Hendrick Motorsports and compare it to Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, you can say there is a clear distinction. We're not there yet. Now, in other forms of racing, our teams are very competitive. We're just not there in NASCAR yet. We have a successful business in other forms, and we're growing this business, putting in some of the same policies and procedures and ways of doing business we (have in) other places. We're just not there yet. It's that simple. Are we going to get there? The answer is - yes.
Venturini: Are you happy with the performances you've had on the Cup side this year?
Ganassi: Absolutely not. I mean, we should be better, and you know...we continue to build, we continue to improve. As long as we (are) improving, I'll be okay.
Venturini: You seem to have some bad luck keeping drivers, last year with Jamie McMurray, and now with Casey. Why is this happening and how does it affect the team morale in the organization?
Ganassi: It is a part of the business, Wendy. For them to go to a Roush or a Hendrick from us, I was a driver once, and opportunities like that don't come around everyday for a driver. They want to test themselves against the best and there is no better way to do that, than to get with teams that are winning races. So, I applaud them for that. Having said that, sure, I am disappointed...I'm disappointed we have had two good drivers leave us. Am I devastated? No.
Venturini: Do you have your eyes set on a replacement for Casey? What are some of the possibilities?
Ganassi: We are kind of taking our time right now, but having said that, we might sign somebody tomorrow.
Venturini: What is it going to take to get drivers to leave other teams come to Chip Ganassi Racing?
Ganassi: Well, I think it is pretty simple. We have to show we can win races. We have to raise our level of performance. At the end of the day, this business is about performance - end of story. If you don't have it, (no one) is going to want to be here; no drivers, no crew chiefs, no engineers, no mechanics, no sponsors and we have to change that.
Ironically, the team did come together this past weekend at MIS, as Ganassi Racing rookie driver Reed Sorenson piloted his No. 42 entry to a career best fifth-place finish. Mears also had one of his strongest outings of the season, grabbing seventh in the rain-shortened contest.
SPEED, celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2006, is the nation's first and foremost cable network dedicated to motor sports and the passion for everything automotive. From racing to restoration, motorcycles to movies, SPEED delivers quality programming from the track to the garage. Now available in more than 71 million homes in North America, SPEED is among the fastest growing sports cable networks in the country and an industry leader in interactive TV, video on demand, mobile initiatives and broadband services.