Chevy Racing–2/21/14–Daytona–Chip Ganassi

FEBRUARY 21, 2014
CHIP GANASSI, OWNER OF CHIP GANASSI RACING TEAMS WITH FELIX SABATES, met with members of the media and discussed Kyle Larson, outlook for season, state of the business of motorsports, changes NASCAR has made to qualifying, the Chase, etc., racing at Daytona and other topics. Full transcript:
THOUGHTS ON KYLE LARSON GOING FORWARD: “I think it is one step-at-a-time, and I thought he did a great job last night (in the Duel at Daytona). He kept his nose clean; he stayed out of trouble; he learned a lot; he went to the front; went to the back…well almost to the front…went to the back and came back to where he was, so I thought it was mission accomplished last night.”
TALK ABOUT HOW JAMIE MCMURRAY IS SUCH A GOOD RESTRICTOR PLATE RACER: “You know, that is a big thing, especially for a guy like Kyle coming along to have a guy like Jamie that he can ask questions to and get an honest answer.  It might not always be the answer you want it to be, but I think it will be an honest answer. I was pretty happy with that, and couldn’t be happier with how the two of them are meshing, and how the teams are meshing together…couldn’t be happier.”
CAN YOU RELATE TO KYLE’S SITUATION, AS YOU WERE A ROOKIE ONCE IN INDY CARS: “Well that was maybe more than 25 years ago or so. So, I don’t know.  To some extent, I think the important thing to a young guy walking through the gates here, this place can be awful daunting. It is what racing is all about…Daytona. So often times, my advice is to tell him what is important and what is not important is maybe the best advice I can give him.”
ON PRACTICE PLANS FOR REMAINDER OF WEEK HEADING INTO DAYTONA: “Obviously with engine changes, and the obvious ability to hurt your car between now and Sunday, I have always left that in the driver’s hands. They know where they are at. They know if they need practice. They know what they need, and they are professionals.  Nobody goes out there to crash, so I leave in their hands.”
DOES THIS SPEEDWEEKS SEEM MORE EXPENSIVE TO CAR OWNERS IN TERMS OF THE NUMBER OF CARS DAMAGED OR IS THIS A NORMAL COURSE OF DAYTONA? “For us, it is kind of the normal course of Daytona I would say. I don’t want it to be, but it is. You just hope and pray, Number one, you want to be at the front, and number two you want to roll your car on to the truck down here. You see that even the best teams can make mistakes, and take out the field.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGTHS THAT NASCAR HAS MADE FOR THIS SEASON – QUALIFYING, THE CHASE, ETC.? “I like them. I think it is good. I’m a fan of new things like that. When you are in it every day, week in and week out, year in and year out, it is nice to see some change, and have some change and some new ways to approach the weekend. New ways to approach the Chase. I like it. I’m all in favor of it.”
DOES THE FACT THERE IS MORE NIGHT RUNNING MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN YOUR RACE STRATEGY? “Whether you run all at night, or all in the day, or half day half night – it is all the same for all of the teams. So it is just a matter of adjusting your car to what it likes in that condition. It’s nothing no one has ever done before. The last time I looked, Sunday starts at 1:00 o’clock. I hope we are not running at night. But I will say, that when we did run at night, we did have some success there in 2010 as I recall.”
IS THERE ANY CONCERN IN THE GARAGE ABOUT CARS GETTING AIRBOURNE? “I don’t think any more than normal. I think everybody is interested in safety, I don’t think anyone wants anybody to get hurt. The fans want to see a good show. It is the same ole thing, coming to the checkered. Between turn four and the start/finish line, anything can happen.”
WILL YOU CONSIDER A THREE-CAR TEAM FOR 2015? “Those things kind of come and go. There are guys out there, and we’ll be in the market if something presents itself. If not, I don’t see us replacing drivers. You kind of take those things as they come and go.  You know, kind of take those things as they come and go.”
IS KYLE WHERE YOU THOUGHT HE WOULD BE? “I think he is showing more mature than his races would tell him. I thought he looked good in the draft. I thought he learned some things.  He popped out and went to the back, and then was mature enough to keep his nose clean and come back up to the front slowly. That showed a lot of maturity to me.”
THAT IS STUFF YOU HAVE SEEN OUT OF HIM BEFORE? “Somewhat. Somewhat. But, you never know until you get there.  You’ve never seen him in a Cup race at Daytona. That is a different animal.”
HAVE THE ECONOMICS OF RUNNING A RACE TEAM GOTTEN ANY BETTER IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS? “No. Absolutely not. What would make you think that? Costs continue to go up. Just the increase in the entry fee. Increase in hard cards…I mean just increase after increase. And we are not getting increases from our sponsors. So it puts a lot of pressure on the teams to squeeze a little tighter, and it is getting difficult.”
ANY GLIMMER OF HOPE ON THE HORIZON? “I don’t know. I’m waiting to hear something good out of NASCAR. A lot of team owners I know are concerned.”
IS KYLE AS CALM AND UNFLAPPABLE AS HE APPEARS? “He seems to be. You know you saw him last night. He shot out of the….I guess that (David) Ragan was in front of him and he checked up. Kyle scooted out of line, and went down on the inside. He said ‘I don’t know what that guy was doing there, but no problem’, he got back in line and kept going. He lost about eight or so spots.”
DO YOU COMPARE KYLE WITH ANYBODY ELSE THAT HAS COME ALONG IN THE LAST 10-15 YEARS?  “That is for you guys to do, not me. We have a plan we want to work our plan with him. No one ask me about any other drivers, they always ask me about my drivers, so I am not good at comparing them to other people. I only compare our drivers when their careers are over.”
JUAN (PABLO MONTOYA) SAID HE MIGHT WANT TO RUN THE BRICKYARD, WOULD YOU CONSIDER THAT? “I would never say never. I wouldn’t never say no to that. I think he is talking about Penske though. They  are certainly capable of doing that. He says he is enjoying it over there.”
WITH THE NEW TV PACKAGE STARTING NEXT YEAR, IT HAS BEEN INDICATED THAT WILL HELP PROVIDE STABILITY. IS THAT NOT THE CASE? “New revenue next year doesn’t do anything for increased costs this year. Granted, new TV should be more money. Sounds good.”
ARE YOU EVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO ASK SPONSORS FOR MORE MONEY AGAIN UNTIL RATINGS GO UP OR THERE IS SOME SORT OF METRIC THAT SHOWS IT IS BETTER? “I think every sponsor is different, and everyone wants something different out of the sport. Increase ratings are not just the single factor. There are lots of metrics; there are new ones all the time. I’m sure there is some sponsor in the garage that has a new metric. I’m just saying my  metrics are different than Jack Roush or Rick Hendrick or someone elses.”
DO YOU THINK WE WILL GET TO THE POINT TO WHERE THEY WILL AGREE TO MORE MONEY –  TO SPEND MORE? “I remember in racing when a $1 million sponsor, I’ve been around that long, when a $1 million sponsor was….I thought boy we’ll never get more than a million dollars. And every one of those increments along the way, you just think… I’m sure there is some ceiling somewhere at some time. Thank God we haven’t gotten there yet.”
LOOKING AT  YOUR NASCAR TENURE, WHERE YOU HAVE COME FROM…WHERE ARE YOU GOING? “I thought our team had a lot of momentum there, and then when the financial crisis hit, that took a lot of wind out of our sails for a year or two there, and it took us awhile to rebound from that. I would have been perfectly happy
if Sterling Marlin didn’t hit his head and crack his neck. I would have been perfectly happy if that didn’t happen. I would have been perfectly happy if Jack Roush didn’t come along and offer Jamie McMurray a ton of money way back when. So, you look at things… But, I’d say, given all the challenges we’ve faced during that time, I would rather have a few more wins, but we are okay.”
HOW FAR AWAY FROM A CHAMPIONSHIP ARE YOU? “About as far as I was a couple of years ago, or four years. I think we have the impetus now, and the time and the basis of that. We are with a good foundation now. I think we have a strong foundation now to bui8ld upon.”
DOES IT FEEL DIFFERENT NOW TO HAVE A DIFFERENT DRIVER?  YOU HAD THE SAME DRIVER LINEUP WITH MCMURRAY AND MONTOYA THERE FOR SEVERAL YEARS?  DOES IT CHANGE THE ENERGY OF THE TEAM A LITTLE BIT? “Any time  you bring someone new into a team, especially a driver, it changes the energy. I don’t think it is anything other than business as normal. Kyle is certainly a capable race driver. It is not like we plucked him out of or took him off a dirt track last night and brought him to Daytona. The guy certainly has plenty of experience, and plenty of racing knowledge. Race craft…it is not like we are teaching the guy. Just one degree here, one degree there is about all we are working with. We aren’t talking about major, major changes.”
ARE THE GIBBS CARS THAT FAR AHEAD OF EVERYBODY? “When it comes to those kinds of things, one week in Daytona doesn’t make a season. I am very cautious to start coming to conclusions there. Let’s see what happens. Certainly it is the Daytona 500 on Sunday. But let’s see what happens when we get to Phoenix, and Vegas and Bristol. We’ll start to see some trends develop. I think to start calling it now is a little premature.”
FOR JUST THIS WEEK ARE THEY? “Good for them. They’ve been doing a good job. Good for them.”
HAS YOUR ANXIETY YOU HAD ABOUT THE  HYPE AROUND KYLE SUCH AS THE SUPERSTAR COMMENTS FROM TON Y STEWART AND JEFF GORDON  SUBSIDED AS HE SETTLES IN? IT DOESN’T SEEM TO HAVE AFFECTED HIM: “Those guys are going to say what they want to say, and don’t think that those comments by those guys; those aren’t just off the cuff comments those guys make. There is a reason they make those comments. I don’t get involved in their business, and I would be perfectly happy if they didn’t get involved in mine.”