Watching teammates push or be pushed to help you win races is probably not what we as race fans want to see again. It adds security for a driver knowing it's his teammate behind him, but if your teammate gets sidelined or drops to the back, that's when you need to find a new partner and that's when things can go wrong. Do I want to see it again? No. And, thankfully, Phoenix was nothing like what we saw in Daytona and Las Vegas was nothing like what we saw in Phoenix. The race product is good, the cars are awesome, they have world-class drivers and when you peek inside those cars and see the details, you realize how hard they work to go racing.
Unfortunately, Jamie McMurray wasn't able to repeat his Daytona 500 win of last year, but the irony wasn't lost on people when he pushed Kurt Busch's Penske car to victory in the Bud Shootout! There's a great deal of mutual respect between Chip's organization and Roger's organization; we applaud what they do and from what I've seen of them in the past, I'm sure they applaud what we do. Having Jamie help Kurt win a race isn't something that happens every race weekend between the two organizations! But it was handled in a clear and fair manner, and I'd expect nothing less.
I first met Jamie when he subbed for Sterling Marlin here at Ganassi in 2002, but it's only through doing the Rolex 24 with him that I've gained a great deal of respect for him to not only drive a racecar but also work with the people around him to get the most out of it. He doesn't give up anything on the racetrack to his teammates: think who he was driving with at Daytona. He was with Montoya, Dixon and Franchitti and you'd think that would be intimidating given their road course racing backgrounds, but during open practice, we put him out there with shagged-out tires and tons of fuel in the tank, and he was as fast as the person who'd just handed it over to him. He's got enormous ability, and he's willing to study drive style and adapt himself in order to be faster. That's the mark of an open-minded race driver who wants to be better. I can't sing his praises highly enough.
With him and Juan driving for us, the aim has to be to get both our Sprint Cup cars in the Chase this year. There was a great deal of disappointment among our guys that we didn't get either of them in last year, despite Jamie winning the two biggest races on the schedule and Juan getting his second Sprint Cup win. Our NASCAR team is so dedicated to their jobs, it's how they live their lives each day, and getting into the Chase is their goal. But it's so hard to do. Ten people have got to consistently finish in an average of (I think) 12th position over the course of 26 races. Through all the things that go on in a race, the diversity of racetracks, the fact that you have to share real estate with 42 other cars, and you have to get in and race despite the testing being as limited today as it's ever been, finishing an average of 12th is a tough task. There's an enormous amount of pressure there. On the other hand, pressure creates an enormous amount of satisfaction when you do well, and that's what Jamie and Juan and the guys who support those two operations are looking for every weekend – to have the satisfaction match the pressure. The one thing we're sure of is that they have got everything it takes to get it done.
IZOD IndyCar Series
We've won the last three IndyCar titles but I can tell you, there's no complacency at Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2011 – or any other time, come to think of it! Our reigning champion Dario Franchitti has three titles and two Indy 500 wins to his name, but he is like the rest of us in terms of motivation. When you're given the special opportunity like we've all been given here – drivers of enormous ability, team members of enormous ability, and an owner who shoves everything toward us to get the job done – I don't think it's hard to be motivated. It's actually easy.
In Dario's case, I think he also looks at the lineage, where he came from, who he represents and the people in the past who have won the Indy 500 multiple times or won multiple IndyCar championships. He then knows what it means to be categorized as a multiple winner. Driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing helps him achieve the things he's achieved, but Dario himself is a very special individual who I believe is motivated by getting the most out of today. So long as he remains that way, he'll continue to operate at the highest level and motivate all those who work on his car into helping him achieve that. It's special to be around a guy like that: he creates the momentum that we need to achieve what we do.
Demeanor has a lot to do with sustained success, too, and both Scott and Dario treat each other and those around them with respect. Everyone around them treats them with respect, as well. There is great transparency here. If someone who works on Scott's car today worked on Dario's car tomorrow, Scott wouldn't be offended, and vice versa. It's because they know everybody works together and it's a very open and visible communication network we have here; nothing's hidden. We're not putting a blanket over Scott's car when Dario walks around it. That gives a driver a lot of reassurance, knowing he can go out and gather all the information he requires from his teammate to try and beat him – and that's exactly what we want! Teammate beating teammate and stepping away happy when they're done. It's a hard environment to foster, but I believe we do that and I think it is one of the many reasons we can look ahead to the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season and expect to operate at the same level as we have the previous three years.