|Dario Franchitti and Chip Ganassi|
MODERATOR:Everybody knows by now that yesterday we had some unfortunate news that Dario Franchitti is going to be unable to continue his driving career. We have Chip Ganassi on the line, owner of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. We'll let what Dario said in his statement yesterday speak for the medical piece of this. Hopefully at some point in the near future we'll have the opportunity to get Dario on a conference call with everybody when the time is right. With that, I'm going to turn it over to Chip and ask you, what is it going to be like in 2014 to have the No. 10 Target car without Dario in it?
CHIP GANASSI: One thing I want to say. I don't want anybody to read into comments that Dario is not going to make a full recovery. Medically, he has been told he'll make a 100 percent recovery. We've been told that from day one. It's not like he has any injuries that he won't recover from. These are all injuries that are recoverable. I don't want anybody thinking he's maimed for life or anything like that. I think it's unfortunate. He's been told by his doctors to not race again basically. Obviously, having Dario part of our family for so many years, enjoying so much together, it's unfortunate. I think we all feel on the team that nobody wants to go out of the sport. They like to leave any sport or any avocation on their own terms. To be told that you can't continue is pretty disheartening, to say the least. I think we're all dealing with that initially. I don't think there's any reason to read anything more into that. I mean, I think Dario is a professional. He loves the sport. He understands the sport. He wants to stay involved. His involvement, like I said, like you've read, will probably continue with the team in some capacity.
I know he's very interested in the series, where it's going. Obviously, you know, his name, when you look at it, I hate to say these kind of things when you're active in a career, I've always shied away from saying this, but because he won't be driving again, I guess, I think it's safe to say that his name is up there with all the greats, like Foyt, Andretti, Unser. We've all seen the statistics. I was reminded yesterday of him winning the Daytona 24 Hours, the Indianapolis 500, the Sebring 12 Hours, all within a year period. These are things that no one has ever done in consecutive races. Again, you look at 31 career wins, tied for eighth all time. Only driver in history to win three titles consecutively. Those are no small feats. We kind of take them for granted sometimes in our team because we're so focused on next week's race, you never really turn around and look back at things.
Like we said in the release, I think this is just the turning of a page of sorts and the beginning of a new chapter in his career. I think he'll make a great ambassador to the sport. I can't think of anybody who would be better, as somebody that has worldwide recognition and a true interest in the sport of Indy car racing. We want to help him with that. We have a common interest in the sport, in furthering the sport, and we'll do it together I'm sure.
Q: Can you empathize a lot with what Dario goes through, because I know your driving career was also cut short by a serious accident?
CHIP GANASSI: Yes. As a matter of fact, I can. While we can't talk about the specifics of the injuries, and again, I don't want to belabor that point, but it's obviously around his head, concussions, things like that, has to do with a repeat of that type of concussion could be serious. I had a similar incident way back in 1984. That's when those type of injuries were in their infant stage, and I think to some extent still are. I have to be very careful about what I say because I'm obviously not a doctor. I think we've all seen and understood the impact that those kinds of injuries can have long term if they're not diagnosed properly. So I think this is connected to that in a way. So I can empathize with him in terms of not being able to leave the sport on your own terms. But I would hardly compare my career to his in terms of racing, in terms of driving I should say.
I don't think it matters what your sport is or what your daily routine is. No one wants to be told they have to stop. People want to leave on their own terms.
Q: What are your plans for the 10 car?
CHIP GANASSI: Fortunately we have strong sponsorship, as many of you know. You have to be living in a cave to not know that's a Target car. Target is a strong supporter of the series, a strong supporter of our team, a strong supporter of moving forward with that car. We have their full support. We hope to be able to announce something here in the coming weeks.
Q: Chip, NASCAR is going to start baseline testing. The big fear among the drivers is having a doctor tell them that you can't race again and the parameters used to make that decision. I know you can't go into the specifics of Dario's situation, but in general do you feel it's important to have these types of tests and the ability for someone who is maybe impartial making decisions about drivers' careers?
CHIP GANASSI: Let's just say I'm probably 180 degrees different than the current NASCAR champion feels about having doctors around, their input. That statement comes from experiences that I've had personally. I think to break a bone is one thing, or to have a surgical procedure is another. But when it comes to your head, I think it's important that everybody understands that's probably the least known area of expertise by any doctor, and certainly there's a lot of expertise out there. They're just in the last four or five years understanding what injuries and implications of those injuries are.
I'd have to say I'm probably in favor of it. I'm not in favor of a doctor telling somebody they can't continue their career. Nobody would be in favor of that. I think if you have an interest in the sport, though, I think you have to rely on professionals at all levels to move forward, whether that professional expertise is in the medical field, the field of engines, the field of engineering, or the field of marketing, whatever. You rely on professionals. I don't see any reason why we wouldn't rely on professionals in this area.
Q: Just a clarification. Is (Tony) Kanaan committed to the 8 car?
CHIP GANASSI: You know, that's a team decision there. That's not public information. I understand where you're going with that question. The question was, if you were to ask, is he a possibility for the 10 car, I would answer by saying it's not out of the question.
Q: You're committed, I'm sure, of having a four-car team, though?
CHIP GANASSI: Yes, we are committed to having a four-car team.
Q: Chip, as one of the few people that has spoken to Dario since his announcement, what is his mood like and how did he take the news?
CHIP GANASSI: I don't think it's any secret, I'm not the type of owner that has daily conversations with their drivers. I know he was in Miami last week to get some testing done, then went right from Miami to Scotland. Obviously, this is a result of that testing.
He called me from Scotland. I can tell you that I've only ever received one call from Scotland before this. Usually when he goes away, he likes to be away and get away from things. I think that's really the reason he goes back home like that in the offseason for maybe a month at a time. This was obviously something planned a long time ago and something he does on a regular basis at the end of the season. I try to stay out of those guys' hair. I could tell when he called me the other day there was a difference in his voice. I mean, the first thing out of my mouth was, What's wrong? Of course, he began to tell me. So I don't think there's anything wrong with saying his voice was different, his demeanor was different. He was certainly heartbroken. But I would say at the same time he probably thought about it for 24 hours or so before he called me. I think it's also safe to say he's a bit of a realist about it, too. I mean, I went through all the obvious questions. He said, Look, I don't want to go forward. I'd never want to go forward and risk hurting somebody else or risk further injury. He said, further injury, much less hurt somebody else. That's the great thing about Dario.
We all know the respect he has for the sport of motor racing at all levels. Put his driving career aside for a moment. We all know his interest with the history of the sport. Take that facet of it for a moment, the history and the respect that he has for Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart. You know how Jackie was such a big part of his career. The Monterey Historics, going out there every year. Like I say, he was certainly heartbroken, but at the same time he wouldn't dare risk giving a black eye to the sport or something by, you know, trying some sort of end around. That was out of the question. He respects professionals. I think he has a lot of respect for (Drs.) Steve Olvey and Terry Trammell and those guys that he's been under those guys' care. A lot of the IndyCar drivers have been under those guys' care. They're at the highest levels of their game.
He wouldn't think of giving the sport a black eye by second-guessing something or wanting to participate in something he shouldn't.
Q: Chip, do you look at this as an opportunity to bring in the best available driver or promote new blood within the sport?
CHIP GANASSI: Those are obviously some of the questions we're dealing with now. The obvious question is, do you go with a proven talent in that car or do you go with a young up-and-comer. I think that's probably one of the first decisions you have to make.
We'll confer with everyone. I mean, we've always taken the best driver that's available at the time. We sort of followed that rule that we learned from a great mentor of all of ours, a guy named Morris Nunn. When you had a driver position available, Morris always said, You need to take the best driver available, and don't even think about anything else.
That will be our first procedure to go through. Once we go through that analysis, you know, we'll go from there. I mean, I would love the opportunity to give a young guy a chance. I think there are better places for young people to come into the sport than into that 10 car.
Whoever fills that seat not only has obviously big shoes if not the biggest shoes to fill in the sport, but you're also somebody that has to be a huge teammate and able to help Scott Dixon, as well, and Kanaan and Charlie (Kimball). So it's not just a single-faceted job to get in that car. That car is part of a team that I think for years has run at the front of the pack, and everything that goes along with running at the front in terms of scoring points for championships and helping teammates win championships.
So getting back to the original question. That's not always the best position for a young, up-and-coming driver to come into. I'm not saying it can't be done. But we have to look at all available options right now. Quite frankly, for the last couple days we've been thinking more about Dario, to tell you the truth, than we have filling the seat. Whether we fill the seat this week or next week I think is not going to make any difference. We have somebody that's on our team that's been dealt maybe some cards he doesn't want to play right now, but he's going to have to.
Our thoughts are with him right now, making sure that we get him in the right seat, if you will. We're not so much worried about ourselves as we are others right now.
Q: This weekend marks your final race with Juan (Pablo Montoya) before you both go your separate ways. If you could look back on your time together. Are you disappointed at all with the results? How do you think the relationship will be moving forward now that you're not going to be working together after so many years together?
CHIP GANASSI: I wouldn't say I'm disappointed. I think for one reason or another we didn't have the results that we wanted. But I think if you're disappointed in motor racing, you're not in the right sport, first of all. Nobody wins every race. Until you win every race, there's going to be some disappointment in your life. I think my relationship with Juan has never been one that sort of ebbs and flows with the performance of the race team. Our friendship has gone on since 1999, I guess. I think it's pretty hard to perforate that friendship with race results or movement among teams and everything. I think that would be somewhat childish to say that our friendship rests on that.
Obviously, it's going to set up the fact that he'll be driving for Roger (Penske) next year. It's a great thing. That's great that he's got a great ride. It's certainly going to open up the field for some banter back and forth at particular times. I'm sure that there will be some situations maybe that neither of us have either come across before in our friendship. While it may test our friendship, I don't think it will perforate it.