It's absolutely natural to compare Chip Ganassi to Roger Penske. After all, Penske is the most successful Indy car team owner of all time, with 159 race wins and 11 series championships under USAC, CART and IndyCar Series sanction, and Ganassi is the obvious heir apparent.
But these days, maybe it already would be more appropriate to compare Penske to Ganassi instead. A little more than two decades into the history of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Ganassi has emerged as the leading team owner of his era, with Dario Franchitti this year completing a “Ganassi Slam” of four consecutive series championships for the second time since 1996.
In fact, if you were to analyze the statistics, you'd find that since Michael Andretti won TCGR's first Indy car race in the 1994 CART series opener (BELOW), Penske and Ganassi are in a virtual dead heat.
Race wins: Ganassi 86, Penske 81. Series championships: Ganassi nine, Penske four. Indianapolis 500 victories: Penske six, Ganassi three. So Ganassi is actually ahead of Penske's pace for their first 22 years. From 1968-'89, Penske's Indy car team scored 60 wins and seven championships.
Put in a wider context, Ganassi's nine Indy car titles since 1994 (CART 1996-'99, and IndyCar Series 2003 and 2008-'11) are second only to the 10 NASCAR Cup Series championships achieved by Hendrick Motorsports in that period of time. Scuderia Ferrari has matched Ganassi with eight Formula 1 Constructor's Championships, while Newman/Haas Racing, with five CART/Champ Car World Series crowns, is the next most successful Indy car team. Overall, since 1983, Newman/Haas has claimed 107 Indy car race wins and eight series championships.
So, while Penske continues to command attention and respect as the King of Indy cars, Ganassi has actually put a wheel under his rival, executed a clean pass and is pulling away into the lead. And while Ganassi had a successful businessman role model to look up to in the form of his father, Floyd Ganassi, it's obvious that in many ways he has been strongly influenced by Penske.
“When I was growing up, Roger was the guy who set the pace,” says Ganassi, “the guy to beat, the guy at the top of the mountain. There's no question he sets the pace in raising the bar and pushing hard on his team. And that's who we're here to emulate right now, it's that simple.”