After the double disappointment of Indy, we worked really hard to understand how to improve our product. What happened in qualifying happened to both cars and we made a mistake in the method that we used for both cars. In those cases, we look at the system, look at everything that we do, and understand as a group what happened and how it can be remedied. So if five years from now it's an entirely different personnel group running the No. 10 car, for example, there will be a method in place whereby that same mistake can't happen again.
The human errors that were made at Indy, for example, I found personally disappointing – it took me several days to get over it – but the proof of our consistency and endeavor and team spirit could be seen in the results two and three weeks later at Texas and Milwaukee. If we were the type of team to win one or perhaps two races a year, or if we won a solitary championship and weren't contending for the title for the next three or four years, then I'd say we needed to make big, big changes. But that clearly isn't the case. Now, that comment isn't supposed to invite complacency! It's a statement that should feed and fortify results.
I think Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball are doing a good job as a part of our IndyCar operation, too. They're very different in terms of where they are on the learning curve. They're having results that parallel their individual experience levels. I read some stuff about them perhaps being treated unfairly by the senior half of the Chip Ganassi Racing team, which is absolutely not true – I'd take a lie detector test for that one! They have access to every bit of information from not only each other's cars, but also what is generated by the Nos. 9 and 10 cars. They sit down with those guys, they do overlays, they do drive style comparisons, and we try to help them in every way. The difference is in their experience level – which is continuing to improve, obviously – and the fact that we're building a new team organization there. Some key people moved over from the Target team, with an amazing guy in Mitch Davis pushing the group, but the rest of the team was assembled, and although you try to get everyone working together as a team as soon as you can, they can't possibly get everything right on the flow side. Who does?!
But they get a lot of things right and I think that is reflected by, for example, Graham's second place at Milwaukee and how well he was running at Toronto. The difference for our newest group and someone who starts a team from scratch is that they have the CGR resource at their disposal, so the maturation process for them to gel should be significantly reduced.
That branch of the team also has a very strong support system with Service Central and Novo Nordisk. We're building those brands, just as we have been building the Target brand for 21 years. So, in every respect, the No. 38/83 team is doing the same as the Target team, but it's simply just beginning: It takes time. The original Ganassi team wasn't instantly successful, but when we hit our stride, we became one of the front runners.
Both Graham and Charlie have enormous ability and I think they benefit from seeing the knowledge base from the historical Indy Car database. Dario and Scott, in themselves, have very different driving styles but what they do is compare what each other has done with his car in terms of setup direction, and look at the racetrack conditions to see how that affected the decisions made on the setup. Think about the fact that Dario and Scott have race historical data from guys like Arie Luyendyk, Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Dan Wheldon, to combine with each other. Now Graham and Charlie do the same thing, first with themselves and then with the other two guys – and believe me, Dario and Scott are looking at what Graham and Charlie do, too. What's good about 2011 for the Target drivers is that they now have a deeper pool of information than they had a year ago, and it has already helped them.
Pit stops have come in for a lot of attention recently, especially given how close the battles are on the track, because as we know, the quality of the stops can make a huge difference to the outcome of a race. I should knock on wood here, I suppose, but we are known as one of the better teams for pit work. Of course, all of our guys are human, and we can all make mistakes. But what's crucial is not necessarily how few mistakes you make but your recovery from them and, subsequently, the understanding of why those mistakes happened and what can be done to improve in future. Chip has a simple statement that is very applicable to pit stops – “Do the obvious things right.”
I like to watch guys in the pit crews of other teams and see how they operate, and just recently, at Iowa, I was watching the outside-rear tire changer on the No. 3 Penske. He is as good as anyone in pit lane and I'd never even seen him before! He's so conscientious, he works hard, he pays attention to his equipment and, as I was watching him, I could see he was studying us, watching what our guys were doing. That's the mark of a good pit crew member, and that's why Penske are as good as they are – they look at everything with eyes wide open. Before the race, I sincerely said to him (I don't even know his name, to be honest), “Hey man, you do a great job.” We carefully watch with an open mind, as it makes all of us better.
In the middle of a race season, I feel quite far removed from our NASCAR team, but I can say this: with six races to go before the Chase, when you're not right up there, either in, or on the fringes of the top 12, you need to do everything in your power to win a race…or two! That's the bottom line. Racing has always been about incentive, to do what you've got to do to succeed, and that is the mark of any one of those 43 drivers in a Sprint Cup Series race. Personally, I applaud NASCAR for putting the new regulation in there, because it encourages all those with unrealistic shots at getting into the top 10 on points to keep pushing hard to get wins and fill the 11th and 12th places in the Chase. It keeps every individual working on every team striving for a championship.
In the Cup races that I've attended this year, it appears that the Earnhardt-Childress Racing engines with the Chevrolet support is as good as anything I've seen anywhere, so while removed from a position to compare what we have to the Hendrick Chevrolet engine operation; our guys are absolutely on the case, all the time. General Motors has very motivated people on site, doing the same thing. Chip has always made sure that the support system of every part of his teams in every category with partners is as strong as the best individuals within it, so there's no reason why we won't be able to fight on equal terms with the rest of the field in the run-up to the Chase. That's only the starting point, and then you build it upward. Combining representative cars supported by unselfish people with great partners defines all branches of Chip Ganassi Racing.
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to getting back with you soon.