As a young aspiring racer, Chip Ganassi enjoyed any form of motorsports. Years later, as one of the most successful team owners who dabbles in multiple forms of the sport, it is fitting that Ganassi is a 2016 inductee into the Motor Sports Hall of Fame of America.
Ganassi was announced last week as one of seven honorees in the Motor Sports Hall’s 28th class. Among those joining the longtime IndyCar team owner are 1955 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner Bob Sweikert, former IndyCar driver and TV commentator Sam Posey, and successful NASCAR team owner Richard Childress.
Ganassi was named in the Open Wheel category, appropriate since he has achieved most of his success as an IndyCar team owner. Following a short driving career that saw him named Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year in 1982, Chip Ganassi Racing began with a one-car effort in 1990. Since then, his drivers have won 100 races, including four Indianapolis 500s, and 11 season championships—most recently with Scott Dixon in 2015.
He has since branched into NASCAR, sports car and rallycross ownership, with a Daytona 500 win, a record six Rolex 24 At Daytona victories and seven sports car season championships. Ganassi also pulled off the “Chip Slam” when his teams won, in order, the 2010 Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 and 2011 Rolex 24 in a one-year span.
When introduced at news conference last week, the Pittsburgh native admitted he’d “never been humbled like this before.” It wasn’t lost on the 57-year-old that the Motor Sports Hall, which is building a new facility on the Daytona International Speedway grounds, includes a wide array of motor sports greats from the genres of motorcycles, airplanes, sports cars, off road, open wheel, stock cars and more.
Love for motor sports
“I always liked motor sports and I always appreciated the different forms of it,” Ganassi said. “I started out in go-karts and snowmobiles and dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles. So I always enjoyed different kinds of motor sports and I always appreciated the winners and champions in all those different forms.”
“Just the fact that they’re on a motorcycle versus an Indy car or a snowmobile instead of a Cup car, they’re still champions and the competition is just as fierce at every level. That’s why I’ve always enjoyed the different forms of the sport,” he added.
Ganassi gave full credit for his induction to the many people who have worked for him over the years. “No team owner, no team representative can do it on their own,” he said. “It takes a team and I’ve been lucky to work with some great people over the years.”
Sweikert was selected in the Historic category. The Los Angeles native had the ultimate year in 1955, winning the Indy 500, AAA national championship and Midwest sprint car championship – becoming the first driver to sweep all three honors in a season.
Unfortunately, Sweikert died a year later at the age of 30 in a sprint car crash at Salem (Indiana) Speedway. He was inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 1994.
Posey, 71, was a standout sports car racer who drove alongside Mark Donohue for owner Roger Penske in 1968 Trans Am competition. He also drove in Can Am, started 10 times in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, made 13 career IndyCar starts including the 1972 Indianapolis 500, two Formula One starts and one NASCAR Cup race appearance.
Following his retirement as a driver, Posey moved to the television booth and was part of ABC’s Indianapolis 500 broadcast team for nearly two decades.