As one of the most decorated owners in auto racing today, Fox Chapel resident Floyd "Chip" Ganassi has helped to put Pittsburgh on the international racing map.
Born in Westmoreland County in 1958, Mr. Ganassi developed an affinity for auto racing at an early age after racing go-karts and dirt bikes. He began his open-wheel racing career in 1981 and competed in the Indianapolis 500 five times, finishing a career-best eighth place in 1983. He was seriously injured after crashing in the 1984 Michigan 500, an accident that effectively ended his career as a driver.
Determined to stay involved in the sport, Mr. Ganassi purchased an interest in Patrick Racing, and the team won the 1989 Indianapolis 500 with driver Emerson Fittipaldi less than a year later. In 1990, Mr. Ganassi created his own one-car Indy car team and established a partnership with a new sponsor, Target, with which he has maintained a long-standing relationship. Operations have now grown to encompass four teams in the IZOD IndyCar Series, two in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and one in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.
On the NASCAR circuit, Ganassi Racing partnered with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. in 2008 to form Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Since its debut at the 2009 Daytona 500, the team has earned four race victories including a trip to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint cup in 2009.
One of Mr. Ganassi's greatest accomplishments as an owner came in 2010. With wins at the Daytona 500 (NASCAR) in February and the Indianapolis 500 (Indy car) in May, Chip Ganassi Racing became the first team in auto racing history to win both prestigious races in the same year. Two months later, the team claimed victory at the Brickyard 400 (NASCAR), making Mr. Ganassi the first owner ever to win the "Triple Crown" of auto racing.
In January 2011, his Grand-Am team won the Rolex 24 At Daytona, making him the first owner to win these four major races all within the same 12-month time period.
Through the years, his open-wheel teams have amassed nine championships, 86 wins -- including three in the Indianapolis 500 -- while his teams show 14 championships and 145 victories overall.
His NASCAR teams have 16 wins, including first-place finishes in the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400, plus a trip to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
The Duquesne University graduate was formerly a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates and is a strong supporter of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, to which his teams have donated more than $500,000 over the years.
The Heinz History Center will honor Mr. Ganassi for his contributions to the region and the nation at the 20th Annual History Makers Award Dinner on April 13. To purchase tickets, call Mark Burnett at 412-454-6405 or email email@example.com.
First Published April 5, 2012 9:30 AM