Ganassi's Goal: Hold all the Big Trophies
DAYTONA BEACH — Chip Ganassi sent drivers to Victory Lane in three of the four most prestigious races in America last year.
The one that got away? The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, where his team was second.
Ganassi has three victories in the twice-around-the-clock endurance event. But when his drivers collected the trophies in the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400, not having the Rolex watch suddenly became a glaring void.
"To finish second in that race didn't really hurt that much until we started to have that year we had after that race," Ganassi said. "It hurt a little more then."
Ganassi goes back to this weekend's opening race of the Grand-Am season with an all-star lineup for the race on the 3.56-mile infield/oval course at Daytona International Speedway.
Ganassi brought eight drivers for two BMW Rileys. Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, winners of two of the past three Grand-Am titles, team with Graham Rahal and Joey Hand in the No. 01.
The No. 02 BMW Riley boasts reigning IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti, Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray, Scott Dixon and Juan Pablo Montoya.
The two star-studded lineups give Ganassi a good shot at a fourth title in the 24-hour race. Dixon, Franchitti, Montoya, Pruett and Rojas have been on winning teams as Ganassi entries earned three consecutive victories from 2006 to 2008.
McMurray, who also won the Brickyard 400 last year, and Franchitti made Ganassi the first owner to win the Daytona 500 and Indy 500 in one season.
"I think there's a lot of really good cars, but we have the most complete group of drivers you can find, and that plays into our advantage a little bit," Montoya said. "But you've still got to run the race, you've still got to get the job done, and you've got to have some things go your way."
Last year, the No. 02 Ganassi entry retired in the early morning hours with an engine failure after leading 139 laps.
The No. 01 entry contended until driver Justin Wilson made an ill-advised stop while leading with about three hours remaining because he thought something was wrong with his car.
That gave the victory to Action Express Racing, in its debut. Joao Barbosa was behind the wheel of the No. 9 Porsche Riley when it stunningly finished 50 seconds ahead of the Ganassi entry.
Jorg Bergmeister starts today from the pole in the No. 45 Porsche Riley for Flying Lizard Motorsports, with Max Angelelli of Sun Trust Racing up second. Pruett will start one Ganassi entry in third, Dixon starts the other in fifth, and the defending champions start 12th.