Chip Ganassi may be a multiple championship-winning team owner but he was also a top-3 finisher in the Champ Car World Series. Educated at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University, he graduated with a degree in finance and first competed in local motocross races before switching to Formula Ford in 1977.
Formula Super Vee followed in 1981 and he attempted unsuccessfully to qualify a private Penske PC6-Cosworth for that year’s Phoenix Champ Car finale. Ganassi made his debut in the series at the Arizona oval at the start of the following season. His six races with a Rhoades Racing Wildcat Mk8-Cosworth lacked a top-10 finish but he was the quickest rookie at Indianapolis where he qualified in 11th position.
Champ Car switch to Patrick Racing
He joined Patrick Racing in 1983 and scored third place finishes at Las Vegas and Laguna Seca. The year ended with Ganassi qualifying in the top four for the final two races of the season as he clinched ninth in the points. Patrick switched from Wildcat to March 84C chassis for the 1984 Indianapolis 500 and Ganassi finished a career-best second in that year’s Cleveland Grand Prix.
However, that progress came to a shuddering halt at the next race when a puncture during the Michigan 500 launched Ganassi into Al Unser Jr and into the air. His car somersaulted and Ganassi suffered serious head injuries and a broken back when it landed upside down on the inside wall. Although he fully recovered, Ganassi only started another four Champ Car races and retired after the 1986 Indianapolis 500.
Chip Ganassi Racing Team
Ganassi acquired a stake in Patrick Racing in 1988 and Emerson Fittipaldi won that year’s Indy 500 and the 1989 Champ Car World Series for the team. Sole owner of the renamed Chip Ganassi Racing Team in 1990, it has become one of American racing’s finest operations.
It won four successive Champ Car titles from 1996 to 1999 thanks to drivers Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya. Ganassi then defected to the rival IndyCar Series and continued its winning ways. Champions in 2003, 2008 (both Scott Dixon), 2009, 2010, 2011 (all Dario Franchitti), 2013, 2015 and 2018 (Dixon), his cars also race in IMSA sports cars and NASCAR. They have won all of the country’s major races including Indianapolis 500 (2000, 2008, 2010 and 2012), Daytona 500 (2010) and Daytona 24 Hours (2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2015).
Ganassi was chosen to spearhead Ford’s return to the World Endurance Championship and IMSA from 2016. Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais narrowly beat Ferrari to the GTE class win at Le Mans that year, 50 years after Ford’s first outright win at the Circuit de la Sarthe.