Over the past year, no race team in the United States has performed better in the biggest contests of the year than those run by Chip Ganassi (and Felix Sabates).
They started the 2010 NASCAR season with a win in the Daytona 500 with Jamie McMurray, followed that up with victory at the Indianapolis 500 with a dominant Dario Franchitti (who later won his second straight IndyCar Series title with Ganassi’s Team Target), copped victory at the Brickyard 400 with McMurray, took the Grand-Am title with Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas doing the driving, won at Watkins Glen with Juan Pablo Montoya earning his second Sprint Cup victory and earned another victory at Homestead-Miami with two-time Ganassi IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon.
Ganassi was exceptionally pleased that every single one of his drivers took home at least one victory during the 2010 campaign; he nearly aced the Rolex 24 at Daytona last year but finished second to the upstart Action Express team. Ganassi and Sabates’ team made up for that this past January, winning their fourth Rolex 24 at Daytona Grand-Am race with Pruett, Rojas, Joey Hand and Graham Rahal at the helm of the Riley/BMW.
This was no ordinary Rolex 24, where the winning car is customarily far ahead of the second-placed entry. With a green-white-checker finish that seemed to come straight from the NASCAR playbook, Scott Pruett beat teammate Scott Dixon to the checkered flags by a remarkable 2.4 seconds, giving Riley its seventh consecutive win in the grueling twice-around-the-clock enduro.
The victory was engine maker BMW’s second Rolex 24 victory and was a long time coming as the last win occurred in 1976, a year when water in fuel caused many engines to expire. The team overcame a 52-second deficit in the final hours and took over the lead when the team car of Dario Franchitti pitted to hand over the car to Scott Dixon (McMurray and Montoya also co-drove the second place Ganassi entry).
Not only was this victory Ganassi/Sabates’ fourth win on the road/oval circuit at Daytona Beach, Florida, it was Pruett’s fourth overall win as well. The Californian has nine class victories at the track and a record 32 overall Grand-Am victories, the latter with Ganassi/Sabates.
Ganassi and Sabates’ team has now won 10 of the lat 13 Grand-Am Rolex Series contests and, in the last six Rolex 24 endurance races has taken four wins and two second place results.
While Ganassi doesn’t like to take credit for his successes, it is his management style and his willingness to let his teams do their jobs without intrusion that makes his achievements so special.
“I don't drive the cars, I don't change the tires, I don't work on the engines, and there are a lot of great competitors that it takes to make up a team. I'm just the guy that gets to stand up here and talk about it,” Ganassi contended.
“You're just really fortunate to be in any sport or any business or any endeavor with a group of people that Felix and I are as lucky to have working for us, driving for us and being a part of the team, It's a great thing to be a part of a group of people that want to be a team, and they want to excel and they want to do well. That's a great thing to be a part of in life."
Sabates, for his part wished that both teams could have won: “I thought it was a shame that they don't have co-winners because I would have loved to have seen both cars finish first. But one had to finish first and the other had to finish second and that's all I could think of. All of these guys work very hard. The Indy guys that helped with the 02 car deserve a tremendous amount of credit because they just do this once a year.”
Â© 2011 Anne Proffit