Racing impresario Chip Ganassi has received a John Bolster Award at the AUTOSPORT Awards in recognition of his teams' achievements throughout American motorsports.
This year was one of Ganassi's most successful yet, as his team won the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar title with Dario Franchitti, claimed the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in NASCAR with Jamie McMurray, and won a third Grand-Am championship with Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, as well as taking Juan Pablo Montoya to his second win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The award was presented by Christian Horner, head of Formula 1's World Champion team Red Bull Racing.
Since achieving its first title with Jimmy Vasser in Champ Car in 1996, Ganassi's team has become a legend of the American racing scene. It brought both Alex Zanardi and Montoya to Indy car racing, and their success meant Ganassi won four consecutive championships from '96 to '99. A video tribute from Zanardi was played as Ganassi collected his award.
"Chip, you changed my life," said Zanardi. "You've been a great leader and a great friend. Congratulations."
The team carried its strong form over to the Indy Racing League when it switched from CART to the IRL in 2003, with Scott Dixon winning the championship at the first attempt, and adding another crown in '08, before Franchitti won the next two titles.
Ganassi has yet to emulate that level of success in NASCAR, which it joined in 2001 when it entered into partnership with established team owner Felix Sabates, but the team has become a consistent frontrunner in stock cars. It merged with Dale Earnhardt Inc. to form Earnhardt Ganassi Racing at the start of 2009, and went on to achieve its breakthrough Daytona win this year – as Ganassi became the first team owner to win the Daytona 500, Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same season.
"I'm not sure we ever thought about winning all three races in the same year," said Ganassi on stage. "It's a record that someone will try and break some day and I'm sure they will. Just not too soon, though."