After 20 years, Chip Ganassi is no longer a NASCAR team owner. Just before his final weekend in stock car racing, Ganassi spoke about his time in the sport, as well as highlights from his NASCAR tenure. The often blunt Ganassi held nothing back as he expressed his bittersweet goodbye to NASCAR.
BY JOSEPH WOLKIN, @JoeWolkin
“Most people think of sports highlights as big wins. Certainly, those are highlights, but there are a lot of highlights that I look back on like bringing some things to Nascar that maybe weren’t being employed at the time, whether it be particular ways of doing things or bringing some great sponsors to the sport and fresh names to the sport. We brought in some new drivers and I brought in some young drivers that went on to bigger and better things from time to time. We brought [Juan Pablo] Montoya along from Formula 1, the first Formula 1 driver to come into Nascar. There are plenty of highlights with Daytona, the Brickyard, Jamie McMurray’s win in his second race with us, Kyle Larson’s first win with us, Kurt Busch being one race away from the Final Four and those were all highlights.”
“I’ve been involved in racing before and I’m still involved in racing. It’s not like I’m getting out of auto racing. It was a perfect fit for me. You have to go back in time with what was going on 20 years ago in open-wheel racing. If you look around at 2000 and 2001, there was a lot of turmoil at the time in open-wheel racing that became a dark period for what was known as the Indy split. There was some uncertainty going forward, so I felt like if I was going to be in motor racing, I better expand my horizons a little bit. That was probably the impetus for getting into it.”
“If I had one regret over the last 20 years, it would be the fact that there were fewer years than I was comfortable with when we had the complete package to be ready to compete. When we had everything right, we could compete at the highest level. There were just so many years where we were fighting a loss of sponsorship, the financial downturn, a driver left us or we didn’t have the right team behind them. There were more of those than I was comfortable with. While that was going on, our IndyCar team was banging away wins, so it was challenging to deal with having good and bad days all in the same day. It was a challenge that I accepted.”
“I just think there seems to be a new wave of ownership coming in that brings a different business model and different approach to it. I see a lot of the spark in Justin’s eyes that I had 20-plus years ago when I first came in the sport. It's refreshing to see that. I’m 63 years old and I’m still in motor sports. I want to devote more time to our IndyCar team, our sports car team and our Extreme E team.”
“Obviously, you build a lot of great relationships over time and great friends who I think will transcend from me being in the pit lane with them every Sunday. I’ll miss being with them and the relationships. I’ll miss some of the great racing and it’s still some of the greatest racing in the world. There are some things I won’t miss, but there are some things I’ll think about for sure.”