That give and take, both on track and off, are critical to the team's success. Since Franchitti joined Ganassi's IndyCar team in 2009, the two have combined for 16 wins, including Dario's Indy 500 and IZOD IndyCar Series championship last year. Overall, they have three Indy 500s, five championships and 49 race wins. TCGR team managing director Mike Hull says most aspects of their success in the past two years involves cooperation.
“We've proven over the years that when you have two guys working as one, they can climb up the grid higher and finish higher,” Hull says. “They get more out of it. They help each other. If there's a doubt in the driver's mind about the racetrack or the setup or anything involved in running the car on the racetrack, he has an ally that is unselfish. When you get that right, it helps the entire team understand what teamwork really means.
“With two drivers, reading the racetrack is the key, no matter how different their driving styles might be. They can tell each other immediately, ‘My right front tire was terrible today' or ‘My right front was really good today' or ‘I had to change my arc in this particular corner.' It's those kinds of things that you get immediately when you have different driving styles. What makes them so good is that they take the time to find out why and how the other guy is faster and how the track contributes to that.”
The Ganassi pilots are not without their differences. One likes a tight racecar while referring to the other as Captain Oversteer. One is meticulous and detailed; the other calls himself lazy. One is the accomplished veteran; the other is the younger prodigy. One makes it look effortless when it's not; the other makes it look more difficult than it should be. The differences are a major part of what makes them so effective.
“You've got to have something or someone pushing you on,” Franchitti says. “You know that if you're having a bad day, you better pick it up because Scott is going to be right there. As long as I've been doing this, I've learned from every teammate I've ever had. Certainly when I was younger that was the case, but it's still true today.”
But if their relationship weren't so positive, what would happen? “It goes right from the two drivers all the way through the team,” Dixon explains. “It goes back to the shop. The subtle teamwork disappears. One side won't offer up a part to the other like they normally would, or they won't make this or that for them. It travels all the way through. I've seen it. If a driver combination doesn't work, it filters down to every single guy on the team.”
There are famous cases of teammates who disliked each other while still being successful: Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, Mario Andretti and Nigel Mansell (see sidebar), Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman. But feuds are uncomfortable for all involved, even those on the periphery. In the case of Franchitti and Dixon, it's the opposite. Because the two individuals get along and enjoy each other's company and work cooperatively instead of independently, so, too, do their crews.
“You notice it in the food line – the No. 9 car guys and the No. 10 car guys eating together is a good indication that our two drivers get along,” Hull says. “It's very much a sharing situation without any judgment. It's a pleasure to be lucky enough to be a part of it. We have two drivers who have won the Indianapolis 500 and won IndyCar championships. They've achieved those goals, and they understand that it takes an entire team to get there. When you have one driver who understands that fully, you're blessed. When you have two drivers who get it, then you achieve the kinds of results Target Chip Ganassi Racing has.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the final question of the Dixon/Dario interview – What quality have you picked up from your teammate? – is met with mock sincerity.
Franchitti answers first: “Lice.”
Dixon's laughter is no match for his faked solemnity.
“Dario is my hero,” he says, pretending to gush. “He's everything I've ever wanted to be. But most of all, I like his shoes.”
• For the full version of this feature article, plus much more, check out the March 2011 issue of RACER magazine. CLICK HERE to subscribe.