By admin | July 22, 2008
By Richard Allen
Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske are two of the most successful team owners in the history of American motor sports. Each has won championships and major races. As a matter of fact, these car owners have won the two biggest races held in the U.S. in 2008. Penske won the Daytona 500 with Ryan Newman while Ganassi won the Indianapolis 500 with Scott Dixon.
However, there is one major accomplishment neither has been able to garner in their racing careers, and that is to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
This week, the Sprint Cup Series will return to the site of both car owner’s greatest glory, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Although, that glory has come in the month of May, rather than in the summer months.
Ganassi’s teams have won the Indy 500 twice, including this year. Along with those wins, his teams have taken a total of 50 wins in Champ Car or IRL racing. Also, Ganassi has collected five championship trophies from the two open wheel sanctioning bodies.
Ganassi’s open wheel success at ‘The Brickyard’ and elsewhere has not translated to the stock car circuit. Ganassi became a NASCAR owner in 2001 when he bought into the team owned by Felix Sabates.
While there have been some bright moments, Ganassi’s NASCAR efforts have paled in comparison to what he has been able to accomplish in Indy cars.
Overall, the Dodge owner has gone to victory lane six times. None of his teams has ever won a championship although Sterlin Marlin was in contention for the title in 2002 until an injury sidelined the Tennessee driver.
While Ganassi has had limited success in NASCAR, most IndyCar owners would be willing to trade places with him, except one.
Roger Penske may well be the most successful individual racing car owner in history. His teams have won 12 IndyCar championships under the various sanctioning bodies to have ruled over that sport throughout its history. And most impressive of all, Penske has stood in the winner’s circle after the Indianapolis 500 on 14 occasions.
Penske’s Indy Car teams have won a total of 134 times.
Penske has also had a good deal of success in NASCAR. He has won a total of 59 Sprint Cup races since first getting into the business of stock car racing in the 1970s.
However, of all the championship trophies to adorn the halls of Penske Racing, one mantle remains conspicuously bare and that is the one set aside for a Sprint Cup championship.
In 1993, Penske came close with long time driver Rusty Wallace. That year, Wallace won ten races but wound up in second place, 80 points behind eventual champ, Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
Wallace took 37 checkered flags while driving for Penske.
Both Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske have compiled impressive records in IndyCar racing as well as other forms of racing. However, they each have yet to find the same formula for success to bring a championship to their NASCAR teams.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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