B.W.: Chip Ganassi is, and as far as we're concerned, will always be a racer. His organization brings a new point of view and a different way of achieving Dodge's goals for the Winston Cup program-winning races and championships. In 1999, Ganassi began to investigate the possibility of owning a NASCAR Winston Cup team. In 2000, he purchased a majority interest in Team SABCO from owner Felix Sabates. Ganassi and his new partner, Sabates, renamed the organization Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. In 2001, Ganassi changed car manufacturers and joined forces with Dodge Motorsports in its return to NASCAR racing. In addition to new cars, Ganassi hired engine builder Ernie Elliott to build the team's engines. He also brought in NASCAR Winston Cup veteran Andy Graves to join Tony Glover as team managers to oversee the two teams. In 2001, he matched veteran driver Sterling Marlin with rookie driver Jason Leffler. In 2002, Chip Ganassi placed Mr. Excitement (NASCAR veteran Jimmy Spencer) behind the wheel of the No. 41 Target Dodge Intrepid R/T. Just look at the records for the last two seasons; they speak for themselves.
MM: We understand the story behind signing Chip Ganassi was a bit different from how the rest of the guys came aboard.
B.W.: Chip was a great catch for us. He and I talked in 2000-well before he partnered with Felix Sabates. We [Dodge] had commitments from several of our key teams, but we weren't decided in our minds of the teams we wanted aboard that first year. Well, the way we got together was some of the folks that represent Chip got in touch with me and set up a meeting. At that point, I had never met Chip. I knew of his team's accomplishments-the championships and his phenomenal eye for talent- but I didn't know him as a person. Let me tell you, when you meet Chip Ganassi, it doesn't take long to realize this man has a fire in his belly. He and his organization are about winning. If he's got a goal, he's going to figure out how to accomplish it. What Chip and his organization bring to this party is the technology and resources from his open-wheel teams. As this whole NASCAR structure continues to develop, technology is going to become evermore important to stay on top of the game. NASCAR gives us a certain sized sandbox to play in, and it takes technology to figure out how to work within that box. What Chip has done is set up two strong race teams for NASCAR, with No. 40 and No. 41, yet his research and design engineers in Cup, CART, and IRL all share information. This allows them to draw from each other . . . it's always better to have an opinion from a different point of view.
The depth that Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has shown from day one, since the Dodge Intrepid R/Ts took to the track in February 2001, has been nothing short of amazing.
Last, but definitely not least, is Petty Enterprises. When you think of the name Richard Petty (Dodge is his middle name), you wonder how the manufacturer could dream of returning to the Winston Cup Series without the Pettys aboard. But it seems that King Richard knew of the return long before the media, fans, or even the Dodge officials themselves, but we'll let Bob tell that story: