Sunday, May 25, 2003

Car owner Ganassi chases daily double

The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.C. - Chip Ganassi straddled his chair backward, settling in for a chat with NASCAR's top leaders. In Winston Cup just more than two years now, Ganassi is beginning to feel at home.

One of the top car owners in open-wheel racing, Ganassi has made a successful entrance into NASCAR and is looking for a banner day today in both series.

He has an excellent chance to win the Indianapolis 500 with either Scott Dixon or Tomas Scheckter. Tonight he'll be at Lowe's Motor Speedway, where either Sterling Marlin or Jamie McMurray could challenge in the Coca-Cola 600.

"I feel pretty good about our chances in Indy. We've got two good cars," Ganassi said. "I think winning Charlotte will be a taller order, because in speed, we have some catching up to do. But it's a long race and if we rely on race craft, we can get up front."

No car owner has ever won both of the Memorial Day weekend races on the same day, although Ganassi and Roger Penske both will be trying today.

And no driver has ever done it, but Robby Gordon will try for the fourth time to race all 1,100 miles.

All three will make a mad dash for North Carolina minutes after the Indy 500 ends - assuming there is no Victory Lane celebration.

Penske probably has the best chance at the sweep, although he fell short the past two years when Helio Castroneves won in Indy, but NASCAR drivers Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman came up empty.

Penske has Castroneves and Newman sitting on both poles.

Although Ganassi's cars aren't on the front row of either race, he's confident about his chances.

"I know what we have in Indy, and I know what we can have in Charlotte," Ganassi said. "It's not impossible to pull it off."

It's that aggressive attitude that has gotten Ganassi to the top so quickly. Since buying a majority stake of Felix Sabates' team before the 2001 season, Ganassi has turned Marlin into a championship contender, found two fresh young faces in McMurray and rookie Casey Mears, and won five races.

He also joined Penske in August 2001 as the only car owner to win in two series on the same day when Bruno Junqueira won the CART race and Marlin won in NASCAR.

Ganassi was at the CART race that day and barely able to celebrate Junqueira's victory because he was at the hospital tending to another one of his drivers' injuries.

But he was able to listen to the last 15 minutes of Marlin's win on the radio and flew into Michigan for the celebration shortly after.

The constant chase for success is what has helped Ganassi rapidly reach the elite group of car owners in NASCAR. He already was at the top in CART, winning an unprecedented four consecutive titles. He moved over to the rival IRL this year and emphasized his arrival when Dixon won the season opener.

"He is so competitive and driven, I really have never seen a person so focused on being successful," said Tony Glover, team manager of Ganassi's NASCAR operation.

Winston Cup lineup

Coca-Cola 600 Friday's qualifying; Sunday race

At Lowe's Motor Speedway

Concord, N.C.

1. (12) Ryan Newman, Dodge, 185.312 mph.

2. (38) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 184.300

3. (4) Mike Skinner, Pontiac, 183.999

4. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 183.986

5. (0) Jack Sprague, Pontiac, 183.530

6. (20) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 183.468

7. (25) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 183.231

8. (77) Dave Blaney, Ford, 183.231

9. (15) Michael Waltrip, Chevrolet, 183.156

10. (10) Johnny Benson, Pontiac, 183.125

11. (18) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 183.119

12. (97) Kurt Busch, Ford, 182.952

13. (7) Jimmy Spencer, Dodge, 182.593

14. (1) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, 182.580

15. (54) Todd Bodine, Ford, 182.482

16. (30) Steve Park, Chevrolet, 182.408

17. (42) Jamie McMurray, Dodge, 182.242

18. (17) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 182.235

19. (41) Casey Mears, Dodge, 181.996

20. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 181.953

21. (6) Mark Martin, Ford, 181.910

22. (19) Jeremy Mayfield, Dodge, 181.671

23. (88) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 181.586

24. (8) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 181.561

25. (74) Tony Raines, Chevrolet, 181.476

26. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 181.421

27. (71) Kevin Lepage, Chevrolet, 181.421

28. (23) Kenny Wallace, Dodge, 181.360

29. (14) Larry Foyt, Dodge, 181.275

30. (49) Ken Schrader, Dodge, 181.117

31. (45) Kyle Petty, Dodge, 181.044

32. (9) Bill Elliott, Dodge, 180.953

33. (32) Ricky Craven, Pontiac, 180.892

34. (2) Rusty Wallace, Dodge, 180.838

35. (99) Jeff Burton, Ford, 180.542

36. (40) Sterling Marlin, Dodge, 180.499

37. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Provisional.

38. (31) Robby Gordon, Chevrolet, Provisional.

39. (5) Terry Labonte, Chevrolet, Provisional.

40. (21) Ricky Rudd, Ford, Provisional.

41. (22) Ward Burton, Dodge, Provisional.

42. (43) John Andretti, Dodge, Provisional.

43. (01) Mike Wallace, Pontiac, Provisional.

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