INDIANAPOLIS _ Chip Ganassi celebrated in victory lane at the Indianapolis 500 completing an auto racing double dip that no car owner had ever accomplished. In February Ganassi hoisted the Daytona 500 trophy with NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray. And four months later he shared a sip of victory milk with Indycar driver Dario Franchitti. This gave Ganassi a first for an auto racing team owner, victories in the Daytona 500 and Indy 500 in the same year.
Franchitti dominated the action at Indianapolis leading 155 of 200 laps but the win was in doubt until the race’s final moments. His last pit stop was completed with 37 laps remaining, on the outer edge of the team’s fuel window.
Franchitti exited the pits as the first car completed with pit work. Mike Conway, Justin Wilson, and Helio Castroneves, going for a record-tying fourth 500 victory, stayed out gambling on fuel strategy which pushed Franchitti back to fourth.
As the fuel strategies fell short and the top three pitted, Franchitti found himself back in the front for the final eight laps but also in fuel conservation mode. Pit road was busy in the final few laps with machines stopping for quick splashes of fuel. Franchitti backed down his pace and wound up with his second Indy win and Ganassi’s historic accomplishment.
When asked about his car owner winning both races in the same season Franchitti said “I wish we had those (NASCAR) cars in ’08. I might not be sitting here.” The response drew laughter from the gathered media.
“I think it says a lot about Chip, the people he employs as well” said Franchitti. “The mindset whether it is here or down in Concord is the same mindset: we are here to win. All he ever wants to do is win and if you are not interested in that or if you take your eye off the ball he lets you know. We go racing and we like to win. And to be a part of a team like that just makes your job so easy as a driver.”
Amid Ganassi recording his motorsports accomplishment among the final moment fuel stops, Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay were involved in a grinding crash. Franchitti then cruised across the finish line under yellow. Conway and Hunter-Reay tangled in turn three with Conway spinning backward and then airborne into the catchfence. His car was torn apart and Hunter-Reay crashed with the remains of the Conway car skimming across his helmet. Both escaped serious injury.
Following the victory lane celebration Ganassi commented about his two big wins. “Jamie McMurray and Bass Pro Shops won that race down there in February. Dario and Target won that race here today.
“To be able to work with people that accomplished that. I didn’t drive either car. I didn’t change any tires. I didn’t put any fuel in the cars” said Ganassi. “I don’t do any of that stuff. I have hundreds of people that do that kind of thing. I’m very, very lucky when it comes down to it. I’m just the guy that gets to have his name on the door. It’s a lot of hard work by a lot of people that never get the attention they should.
“I’m a lucky guy to be in this business,” Ganassi said.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR team mechanic)
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