As a young aspiring racer, Chip Ganassi enjoyed any form of motorsports. Years later, as one of the most successful team owners in US motorsport, it is fitting that he should be a 2016 inductee into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Ganassi was announced as one of seven honourees in the Motorsports Hall's 28th class on Friday (29 January), joining 1955 Indianapolis 500 winner Bob Sweikert, former Indycar driver and TV commentator Sam Posey and successful NASCAR team owner Richard Childress in those joining the elite this year.
Despite his involvement in both NASCAR and sportscar racing – his teams are this weekend competing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona - Ganassi was named in the open wheel category, appropriate since he has achieved most of his success as an Indycar team owner. Following a short driving career that saw him named Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year in 1982, Chip Ganassi Racing began with a one-car effort in 1990. Since then, his drivers have won 100 races, including four Indianapolis 500s, and 11 season championships, most recently with Scott Dixon in 2015.
He has since branched into NASCAR, sportscar and rallycross ownership, with a Daytona 500 win, a record six Rolex 24 at Daytona victories and seven sportscar season championships. Ganassi also pulled off the 'Chip Slam' when his teams won, in order, the 2010 Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 and 2011 Rolex 24 in a one-year span.
On hearing of his selection, the Pittsburgh native admitted he'd 'never been humbled like this before', and it wasn't lost on the 57-year old that the Motorsports Hall, which is building a new facility on the Daytona International Speedway grounds, includes a wide array of motorsports greats from the genres of motorcycles, airplanes, sportscars, off road, open wheel, stock cars and more.
"I always liked motorsports and I always appreciated the different forms of it," Ganassi said, "I started out in go-karts and snowmobiles and dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, so I always enjoyed different kinds of motorsports and I always appreciated the winners and champions in all those different forms.
"Just the fact that they're on a motorcycle versus an Indycar or a snowmobile instead of a Cup car, they're still champions and the competition is just as fierce at every level. That's why I've always enjoyed the different forms of the sport."
Ganassi gave full credit for his induction to the many people who have worked for him over the years.
"No team owner, no team representative can do it on their own," he said, "It takes a team and I've been lucky to work with some great people over the years."