Ganassi: Father is 'a mentor beyond all mentors'
Members of the IndyCar Series community will celebrate Father's Day June 21 at Iowa Speedway. That includes Target Chip Ganassi Racing owner Chip Ganassi, who is often joined by his father Floyd at the racetrack.
Through the years, father and son have shared the ups and downs of motorsports and life. Through the years, Floyd says he's seen his role as simple: support his son.
"Having not been a racer, the difference between what I did and what Chip was doing would be the difference between a sack of cement and a two-by-four," Floyd said. "My only encouragement was I wanted to see him do well, and I didn't want to see him get hurt. It took some of the pocketbook encouragement as well.
"Now (as an IndyCar Series team owner) it is exciting and different from normal business; it's different from what I did in the aggregate business. It's probably a diversion I needed because I'm not really that good at golf. I'm here to support Chip and enjoy myself at the same time."
Born on May 24, 1958, in Pittsburgh, Floyd "Chip" Ganassi developed his racing acumen to the point that he raced Formula Fords on weekends at circuits such as Watkins Glen, Nelson Ledges and Summit Point while a student at Duquesne University (graduated in 1982 with a degree in finance).
He moved to the major North American open-wheel racing ranks in 1981 and competed for the first of five times in the Indianapolis 500 in 1982 (fastest rookie qualifier starting 12th; best finish of eighth in '83). A crash at Michigan in 1984 resulting in serious injuries didn't curtail his career, but he decided to retire as a driver.
Chip took "a real job" in a family-owned business, but it wasn't long before feeling the tug of racing and buying into Patrick Racing - for whom he had competed in '84. The team won the 1989 Indy 500 and in 1990 he formed his own Indy car team with Target as the principal sponsor. Multiple championships and expansion to multiple forms of motorsports later, it's been quite a ride for Chip.
"When you're 5 years old and have a little go-kart, to think about the distance from then until now and the ground that's been covered is … those were really only dreams when you're 5 years old," Chip said. "I was fortunate that my father supported it -- not always in those days financially -- but supported the thought of it, which was just as important and probably just as much a learning experience. I wouldn't say anything was just handed to me. He had a great way about encouraging in one sense but then making it my decision.
"He was obviously a mentor beyond all mentors. People talk about how important a father is in their life, and you can't put that into words. My biggest admiration for him is the ground he's covered in his life. It's one thing for me to do what I did with his encouragement, but I don't know who was encouraging him. He came from a much larger family, with much less wherewithal than I ever had. He always encouraged me to look at things from a different point of view than everybody else looked at.
"There was a time when I was younger I would hate having him around and then as time goes on it's come full circle to where I call him up and say, 'Hey, you going with me?' He has been the single biggest influence on my life and career. I couldn't have done it without them."
So many recollections. So many stories, such as Chip not initially being able to reach the pedals of the go-kart on a track his father paved.
"The first time I heard (Indianapolis 500) I was probably 5 years old and my father had come to an equipment auction in Indianapolis, and he came home in the summer of 1963 with a Super-8 film, or an 8-milimeter film of the Indianapolis 500 from 1963, the year that Parnelli (Jones) won," Chip said.
"I must have played that thing a hundred times on our little Bell & Howell camera. I can tell you anything you want to know about 1963. That was something that I just remember myself being mesmerized watching the film, and soon after that we had some go karts and one thing led to another. And it went from go karts, I was always in some sort of fossil fuel fired vehicle, whether it was a go kart, a snowmobile, all terrain vehicle, six-wheel all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes, quads, anything that had a motor on it, any season. I was fortunate enough to have parents that provided me with the latest and greatest for that season."