Speaking of IndyCars, we're roughly a quarter of the way through the IZOD IndyCar Series season, and if I'm assessing the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team, I'd guess the words to choose would be “needs some work.” We've been pretty good, and I'm well aware there are some people who'd give their eye teeth to have the performance we've had in the opening four events. To have Dario Franchitti either leading the championship or almost leading the championship, depending which week it is, has to also be seen as gratifying. It certainly validates the attitude about how hard work creates success. But as a team, we'd like to be better than we are.
In racing, you always need battles between teams and it's not a socialist system: everyone isn't equal, even with spec cars. If the series devoted time trying to create equality in racing, we'd dig ourselves a hole in the ground and never come out. So, to be honest, I'm grateful to work on a race team that has the opportunity to go race week in and week out against what is probably historically the best race team since 1972. Team Penske does have a 20-year jump on us, so we're making up for lost time, so it's great to not just be in the same race as them but actually compete against them for the win (there's a big difference!). Of course, our organizations are very different from each other. We're more blue-collar guys, a bunch of free spirits who enjoy racing and do it well, and we're competing against this institutional organization, a buttoned-up and buttoned-down team. But these two teams achieve roughly the same goals. Neither one is better than the other; neither one is more right than the other. It's just a great and thrilling battle that inspires everyone, including our drivers.
We also are inspired by our drivers. For example, Scott Dixon has had appalling luck this year, twice in four races being taken out of contention through no fault of his own, and is now 84 points behind the championship leader, Will Power. But Scott doesn't need any boost, mentally, to turn around and give 110 percent the very next time he climbs into the car. Every day, he comes back with the mindset of, “I'm going to get it done – I'm going to get the most out of it today.” You don't need a psychiatrist to get his head back in the game. He's immediately right back on point when it counts. He might seem like a real quiet guy, but he's too competitive to take it well when things don't go his way, and his response is to bounce right back.
The fact that Scott and Dario have had contrasting fortunes hasn't caused friction within the team, either. You want your teammate to be the fastest guy on the face of the planet because if he is, what you learn is how to be the fastest guy on the face of the planet! If your teammate isn't going as fast as you want to go, your learning curve will get stunted. The key to consistently finishing at the front and winning races is to have a fast teammate, and one who is completely unselfish. And one of the greatest things about having a lineup of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon is that they're totally committed to each other in an unselfish manner. So while one might feel a little bit pissed if the other wins, they also know that they contributed to that win. That goes against the grain for the way a lot of people operate, be it at work, in sport or in general life. Yet that's how it is on the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team.
I feel particularly bad for Scott at the moment, because over the winter and ever since, he's worked so hard on his physical training, he's spent an enormous amount of time with his engineer and his group of people, and he's very, very intent at winning races which lead to winning championships. Short of flying objects and spinning objects, he'd be in the thick of the championship hunt right now. But hey, let's remember that Dario was 59 points out of the championship lead with four races remaining last year and he came back and won the title. So Scott being 84 points out with no less than 13 rounds to go is not a disaster. We're not out of it, and not a single person on the No. 9 team thinks we are. We'll stay after it.
Now our attention turns to the Indy 500. There's nothing like the atmosphere there, and if you go to the Speedway on race day, you'll never do it only once. There's nothing like the atmosphere, the feel, the intensity of that event. You'll feel some of that at various other big motorsports events, but not to the same extent as at Indy 500. It's the spectators who make that event so special; the 300,000 people are all engaged from the time they arrive until well after the race is over, and the race team people have that sense, too. For us, that intensity starts with the first day of practice and just builds and builds until race day, we're transmitting that to the fans, and it's coming right back at us! And so you can imagine that if we don't win the race, it's well over 11 months of anticipation to get ready for the next one. That's how important and significant that race is to everyone in pit lane.
Dario's performance there last year was quite remarkable. Over the years, we've watched drivers get up for that race in that way, but in the final third of the race, they've seen it slip away, often through no major fault of their own. The fastest guy doesn't always win that race. So what happened last year with Dario – where he led 155 laps of the 200, including the final one – was quite an exception. However, we'd be perfectly happy if, later this month, Dario and Scott were able to turn that from an exception into the start of a trend!