The domination continues.
Roger Penske has long been regarded as one of the most successful men in motorsports. However, over the last seven years, Penske Racing doesn’t have a single IndyCar championship to its name. Furthermore, his arch rival Chip Ganassi just won his fifth title in six seasons. Ouch!
Scott Dixon won his third title last week driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. Except for a slight bobble the year before when Chip’s teams were third, seventh, tenth and nineteenth, Ganassi drivers have won all the championships over the past six IndyCar seasons. Overall, Dixon’s conquest gave Ganassi six IndyCar championships and when combined with his four CART/ChampCar titles back in the ‘90s, Chip has now won 10 championships as a car owner in American open wheel racing.
Penske winning races, just not championships
For Penske, the lack of championships is palpable but it isn’t as though he and his team have not been winning races or vying for the top spot at the end of the year. In fact, Penske cars have been runner-up to the title four consecutive seasons. Helio Castroneves was battling Dixon right to the bitter end this year before finishing second overall. From 2010 to 2012, Will Power was second best in the final standings.
Penske’s last championship was in 2006 with Sam Hornish Jr. winning his first title driving for Roger and the third overall of Sam’s career. That would be Penske Racing’s only championship in IndyCar to date. Of course, one of Roger’s biggest achievements was the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, which was his first after decades without a title in stock cars.
Started in CART
The beginning of the rivalry between Ganassi and Penske goes back two decades to the glory years of CART when open wheel was still king of American motorsports. Back then, Al Unser Jr. won the ’94 title for Penske; but two years later, Ganassi was victorious four years in-a-row with Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi (’97 & ’98) and Juan Pablo Montoya. Penske followed that up with Gil de Ferran winning back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001. With the advent of ChampCar and IndyCar battling each other for supremacy, the Ganassi and Penske organizations decided that IndyCar would be where they’d continue to fight each other for championships.
Next season, both teams are doubling down so-to-speak by adding veteran drivers who are former champions. Ganassi has signed Tony Kanaan to his stable that already includes current champ Dixon and four-time champion Dario Franchitti. Penske signed Montoya who is leaving NASCAR to come back to open wheel – he will join Castroneves and Power next season. Interestingly enough, in 2014, both teams will be powered by Chevrolet as Ganassi is leaving Honda.
However, for now, Ganassi has Penske covered with five championships over the past six seasons. Will 2014 be any different? Both teams will have an incredible amount of talent heading into next year and it should be yet another clash between the two titans of IndyCar.
As the great Formula One racer Ayrton Senna said:
“When you are fitted in a racing car and you race to win, second or third place is not enough.”
Sources: Racing Reference, Chip Ganassi Racing