Chip Ganassi Team Q&A from Indy

Ganassi Team
Ganassi Team

Target Chip Ganassi Racing|
Chip Ganassi
Scott Dixon
Tony Kanaan
Charlie Kimball
Max Chilton
Mike Hull

Friday, May 20, 2016

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Now we'll visit with the Chip Ganassi Racing team. I'm looking at this assembled group of drivers here and I remember that you're actually born in England, are you not, Charlie? This is an international cast of like no other — really? — which is kind of interesting.

Chip, you always bring a squad that is capable of getting into Victory Lane and getting on the Borg-Warner. From your experience as a driver to an owner, it's the 100th running and you've been a big part of it for a long, long time now. Talk about your team and the feelings about that.

CHIP GANASSI: Thank you. Again, we're here the month of May in Indianapolis. Like you say, having a great group of drivers really, really helps in this situation.

You know, obviously bringing Scott Dixon back, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, then adding Max Chilton to that group. I was just talking to Max in the hallway out there about different things on the track and everything. And just having — fact of the matter is Dario should be up here with us, still a very much a part of our team and what we're doing. We're proud to represent the sport and proud to have this group of guys here with us in May. We think we have four good shots and pretty pleased about that.

MODERATOR: Should be. Mike Hull, you're the managing director and you've got an interesting mix of drivers, two drivers who have obviously won the Indianapolis 500 and Tony and Scott. You've got a fresh rookie. And we did a press conference the other day, it dawned on me Charlie has been a part of the squad for quite a while now.

So what's it like dealing with different drivers and their styles and their likes and dislikes and all with the same goal?

MIKE HULL: It's fantastic. What Chip does for us is finds talent. We try to surround that with talent to work on the cars for each of the drivers. As you said, Charlie has been here for quite a while. Five years? Five years. My mind is still good.

Certainly Scott for more than that. Max now, which is terrific, and Tony who is not only an Indy 500 champion but a teammate. That defines all the drivers we've ever had together is they're very unselfish with each other. And they're very unselfish with the people that work on their car to be able to share what goes on individually with them and they respect the process. For us the respect of the process has certainly given us the motivation to create the reward.

It's fantastic certainly to be here at Indianapolis.

MODERATOR: It's always good to have you.

Max, you're with us in the Gallagher Chevrolet. It's a big racetrack, it's a big event. It could produce a fair amount of nerves for a young guy trying to find his way. What's it been like for you?

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]MAX CHILTON: So far it's been absolutely fantastic and it's just getting started. Obviously today is Fast Friday, you're getting the sense of what the car is going to be like in the next two days of qualifying. I'm confident with a team who has had so much success here. As Mike said, I've never had teammates who are so open. Sometimes you just sat there doing your homework and they come over and give you advice, which I've never experienced in motorsports. You can see why they are such a successful team.

I'm loving every moment of it. This is a really, really special track. I'm sure the guys that have been here for 14, 15 years are still learning, and I'm like a sponge this week. I'm trying to suck up as much as I can. Yeah, it definitely gets you excited when you get out there. So hopefully I can replicate what Chip did in 1982 by being the fastest rookie, and we'll be happy from then on.

MODERATOR: You should be. We look forward to seeing what you do.

Charlie, I'm going to have to be careful here because we know you've got Tresiba on board which is a really, really great partner sponsorship and you've done such a great job as a spokesperson for diabetes and that really adds a lot to society, frankly. We appreciate that. We had Kyle Larson in, fresh off second place run at Dover, and we announced that the number changed. I looked, I'm going, "Who is in the 42?" It's Charlie Kimball.

CHARLIE KIMBALL: I was sitting in Pit Lane during one of the early days in practice, maybe on Monday. I looked up at the pylon, I thought, where's the No. 83? It's taken a lot of us a while to get used to being in the 42 car. It's been a good week of work.

You mentioned the partnership and being able to partner with Novo Nordisk and Chip Ganassi Racing and for them to be able to bring me along the last five years and be able to work with these guys as teammates.

It's interesting because Max talked about learning from us and, for me, I find that I learn from him because he's got a very fresh perspective. After being around for a few years, just a couple of years at least, his perspective in IndyCar racing and especially as you approach the month of May and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it reminds you to look at everything and try and learn as much as possible.

So it's been a lot of fun. Having Scott and Tony and Dario around to learn from has been completely invaluable and continues to be even in my sixth — you know, attempting to qualify for my sixth 500.

MODERATOR: Well, Tony, I've said this many times. There have been fewer more, if I would say, popular wins at Indianapolis than yours. I mean we were inside and we could hear the crowd erupt when you won. That's testimony to your longevity here and your connection with the fans.

You've also, as Chip indicated, have been a good teammate. Chip said Dario should be here. Funny enough, I saw Charlie laughing in the media center and he showed me a picture. "Did you have a birthday cake for Dario yesterday? It was very nice for of you."

TONY KANAAN: No, the team had a birthday cake for Dario, but Chip got there and I kind of had to ask permission to pull one of my pranks. And Chip says, "Go ahead, go for it, but do it good because anything that we do, we need to do it at our best."

So I went from the bottom to the top.

MODERATOR: He's a good-looking guy. Did he look good with that cake on him?

KANAAN: Of course. It's his birthday. It's a good way to celebrate.

MODERATOR: What's it like when you've been here? You've been, as a person who's been involved, the first time I drive under the tunnel, I'm so excited. Do you still have that feeling as a driver?

KANAAN: Of course. I think if I didn't feel this way, I wouldn't be here. This place is magical. It's definitely turned my life around. I went from one of the guys that almost won and was so close to the guy that won. And that changed my life. I got hired by Chip and my longevity in IndyCar actually got extended because of this win as well.

So I love this place. Hopefully we can get the crowd excited again next weekend. It's been, you know, a great month so far. I think the buzz around the city, it's unbelievable. The past 14 years being here, I thought I had seen it all, but I haven't seen this place sold out. I haven't raced here, you know — '95 was the last time. So I think when I thought that I had seen it all, I can't wait to see that, too.

MODERATOR: We can't either.

With the 100th running, it's been a lot about history. Chip has been a big part of the history. We had Roger Penske in here, Rick Mears was sitting here. We just heard Graham Rahal talking about A.J. Foyt and Al Unser and Mario and all the great names of the sport and that is a part of what we do here.

But the Bolt is back, and that's Scott Dixon. I don't know if anybody is paying attention to the record book, but with four championships under his belt, and the number of all-time victories is beginning to climb and climb and climb, folks, to where when we talk about some of the all-time greats, we've got a couple sitting here and this guy is on that list.

Now, Scott, are you cognizant of that? Does that ever enter your consciousness that "I'm start to go climb this list in terms of all-time wins and the names I'm being associated with" when you come to a place like this?

SCOTT DIXON: You know, I think obviously earlier this year — and big thanks to Chip and the team and Belk and everybody, the whole Legends event before the Long Beach Grand Prix, and that started to put it in perspective, I think, to set up on stage and still felt out of place, by all means, listening to the stories of Big Al and Mario. And it was a shame that A.J. couldn't be there. And Mario's stories. But what a fun era that would have been to be a part of.

But to sort of — a lot of credit has to go to the team. All but one of the victories has been with Chip and Mike and Target. So it's a hell of a partnership for many years right now, and I just hope it continues. We try to, as a team, to keep bettering ourselves. We all work with some really amazing people and very inspiring people, whether it's people that come to the team, but the whole understanding is we're here to do one thing and that's to win. I hope that that continues. I think this is definitely the month to peak and try and do that.

And the atmosphere around the city has been unbelievable. To live in Indianapolis and be a part of everybody talking about the 100th running for the last eleven, twelve months, you know, no matter where you are, what restaurant you go into, whether I'm dropping the kids off at school, everybody is pumped about this race. It's so cool to see.

I went for a run the other day, and seeing the checkered flags in Indianapolis in all the driveways out front is cool to see. I think all of us are very privileged and can't wait to be, you know, running in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 and, you know, of course all of us want to win that one. There's going to be some bragging rights if we pull that off.

MODERATOR: One more thing, and I know Tony can respond to this. I remember the time when I was probably the most impressed with you, period, just in general, was a time no race team is ever on the top all the time, and there was a time you came here and, frankly, you couldn't find speed. The team couldn't find speed at all. You were standing up there in front of the media taking question after question like a professional.

You got to weather the good times and the bad times if you want to be on top. And you know all about those. It's not always been victories.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]DIXON: Oh, yeah. Every year is full of highs and lows. We had some pretty tough years but I think as a team those are the years that also made us so strong. We learned the most in those years. I remember '04 and '05 like it was pretty damn miserable. I'm not going to lie. But those years I think we learned so much about who we are as people, you know, how to achieve the same goal in different areas. It made us look in different areas, which I think are very important which still plays through in different races and championships today.

It's motor racing. It's full of ups and downs. You can be on top of the world and the next minute you can be at the bottom of it. So you've got to cherish those moments and keep dreaming and keep hoping that you can keep pulling those big days off.

MODERATOR: They can humble you in a hurry for sure. Let's take some questions.

Q: I have a question for you, Max. You made the move from Formula One to American racing first in Lights, now in IndyCars. Can you talk about your first feeling when you entered the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and had your first race here on the oval?

CHILTON: So I haven't actually raced here yet. I missed all the testing last year in the Lights. I did a 30-minute practice and qualified but had a fuel leak before the race. My first experience racing here is going to be the Indy 500, which is going to be absolutely mind-blowing. Everyone says the track sort of narrows on Race Day because there's so many fans about.

It's unlike any other sporting event whether it's Formula One, World Endurance Championship. You can't compare it.

And yeah, as I said, I'm like a sponge. I'm trying to suck up as much as I can, because I have very little oval experience on the whole. I've done a test at Fontana, but that was still nothing like this place. This place is bigger, less banking.

So I can see this place creates fantastic racing. It's got long straights to be able to draft past. Yeah, I can't compare it to anything like F1. F1 is more predictable. This is really unpredictable. You could have some car in 20th with 50 laps to go and they could end up winning the race. That would never happen in Formula One. To me this is more of a spectacle for anyone watching the race.

Q: This is for Tony. You've said before that you feel that this place chooses the winner. How, when you think about that, what has happened to you over the years, just anyone, that you have come to that conclusion? You might elaborate on that.

KANAAN: You have to have a perfect day. But even having a perfect day, if the track chooses not to pick you, you're done. The wind changes and conditions during the race. I was talking to Scott yesterday, he went out to do a qualifying run and he still doesn't know what happened in turn 3 in one lap and the next lap was fine.

I think this place is alive. I call her a she because, you know, I like — she's supposed to be a girl. I still believe that. I still believe that this place has a lot of — how many perfect days this team had and ended up not having the win? And how many bad days they start — I remember Dario's win a few years back, first stop, spun first lap, a lap down and came and won the race.

Q: Chip, a while ago Penske was in here with his four drivers. What is your personal way of competing with him, just personally between the two of you? You run in NASCAR, you run here with four great drivers, each of you.

GANASSI: Well, you know, I think first and foremost I have to thank Roger for doing what he did for racing because it really provided a runway for people like me coming into the sport.

I've told the story plenty of times, you know, when I was a young kid in my early 20s, someone put me on the phone with Roger Penske and was asking him different questions about the sport. I often think about that when young people contact me. And I remember what an impact it had on me as a young 20-year-old or 23- or 24-year-old at the time. You know, talking to someone who was such an obvious luminary in the sport.

So I think, you know, just start with that. Obviously a lot of respect and a lot of — he's still the one that sets the bar and sets the height of the bar, if you will. It's at a high level, I can tell you. It's made — like I said, it made opportunities for people like myself. I'll be forever grateful to him for that.

MODERATOR: We're going to take one more question. There's going to be some time for one-on-ones, and the drivers also have a driver's meeting.

Q: Chip, there was a question for Roger about how hard it was to step out of the car to make the transition to being a team owner. How hard was it for you to step out of the cockpit to become a team owner in the late '80s and become an owner for you?

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]GANASSI: That's a good question. I don't remember what was going through my head at the time. I remember —

I started in those days — in my own mind, you had to sort of make a five-year commitment, I think, if you're going to be in this sport. I was looking at it in five-year chunks. I just, you know, I thought that my — it was probably time for me to look into doing something else in the sport.

There were younger drivers coming along at the time that were getting the opportunities that I had gotten, you know, in years past. And they seemed to be taking advantage of that a little more. Guys like Michael and Al, Jr., were coming along. So they were taking up spots that were there and opportunities that were normally there for someone like myself, those guys were getting those opportunities. And good for them. I was happy for them. Not so happy that I wasn't getting them myself.

But you know, it was probably time for me to look at some other way to enjoy the sport and some other way to take up my weekends, and so ownership seemed to work out OK.

MODERATOR: Yeah, we think it worked out pretty good for you.

Thank you very much.

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