For 2011 we have the additional excitement of a second arm of Chip Ganassi Racing, with the Service Central car of Graham Rahal and the Novo Nordisk car of Charlie Kimball (BELOW). Of course, the organizational changes caused some “moments,” but we have a very structured environment here at CGR – as much as we'd like to pride ourselves on having a roomful of free spirits! How we work every day is based on setting priorities and as a group, these are what we see as the logical steps to getting the job done to our high standards. When we find something that can be improved, we work very hard to put the mechanism in place to make that improvement happen so everyone across the board benefits from it and problems aren't repeated.
So in adding two more entries in the IZOD IndyCar Series, we'll be trying to build an environment that's identical to what we already have in the Target part of the team. The setting up inevitably had some hitches, but we think we'll be better off, ultimately. We've drawn key people from other parts of the CGR organization to manage the operation and the manpower, and hired new people to fill in the blank spaces in the employee grid. It's no different from when we started the Grand-Am team in 2004. We didn't go out and hire a bunch of sports car guys; we moved current employees into key positions and only then hired people from the outside to fill in blanks. Actually, with the sports car deal, it took us a little while to get it right, but we figured out how to do it, so I think we'll do just fine with this program, too, because we have a lot of experience in how to get it right to start with – the Target team!
When will they be as slick as the Target team? Let's talk about that a year from now. Initially, when you do these things, you'll take three steps forward and two back. Then it becomes three steps forward and only one back. And then suddenly you think you've got it right – and you don't! (Motorsports is full of reality checks!)
My personal opinion on starting a race team – and I realize this is different because we already have an established team – is that it takes three years to build the process that's required to build momentum to win. You could go out and win a race, or lead the points or have flashes of showing you have a very special operation but, quite frankly, I don't think you could say, “We're going to win this year.” That involves you having everyone in place and functioning as a team, having everything flowing, having your cars finish every race, passing tech every time, and so on.
In parallel, the marketing and branding side with Service Central and Novo Nordisk have to build themselves to where they take full advantage off the track of what we achieve on the track with the drivers. That's as big a part as what we do on the racetrack. Our Target program is a good example. When it first started, it wasn't like it is today in terms of the branding opportunity it creates. That's an integral part of what you need to do to achieve long-term success in racing. You don't start a team to be in business just one or two years: you start a team looking down the road, trying to get it right and building up what you need to be there for a long period of time.
Graham and Charlie will be fully integrated in the debriefing process along with Dario and Scott, as we want everyone to learn from each other. It's going to be cool. We have two race drivers who've driven these cars for quite a while and each has a reputation whereby if they stopped today, you'd say that in terms of being a successful IndyCar driver, they're right up there. They've won championships and they've won Indy 500s and won pretty much everywhere the IZOD IndyCar Series races. Now we also have two young guys at the front end of their careers. When you have two specially talented young drivers who can draw from successful experienced drivers and also draw from all the experienced people around them, it's a very special opportunity. It makes what we all do feel very worthwhile.
By the time I next write, we'll be into the IndyCar season, and I hope we'll have more victories to write about across all our teams! Thanks for reading.