Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Sports

Ganassi shifts aim again in sports cars

DAYTONA BEACH — Chip Ganassi was asked during a meeting last week who was driving for him in the 24 Hours at Daytona. The team owner grabbed a piece of paper and began to jot down the names.

"It took me a few minutes to write them all down to make sure I had all the drivers," he said.

Ganassi is putting forth a Herculean effort for this year's race, which started Saturday and concludes today. He fielded four cars for 14 drivers in two different classes.

This is also likely the last hurrah for one of the most celebrated cars in one of America's top sports car races.

Ganassi only fielded the No. 01 and No. 02 prototypes at Daytona because he is the defending race winner and he had the cars in his inventory. After today he will abandon the prototype class and focus on his newest endeavor — two-car, Ford GT production programs in both the GT Le Mans class in the United States and the LM GTE Pro class in Europe's FIA World Endurance Championship.

Ganassi — a former racer who as an owner has won the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, IndyCar championships and endurance races at Daytona and Sebring — is the cornerstone of Ford's return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans 50 years after the manufacturer went 1-2-3 with the GT40. Ford repeated its Le Mans victories with the GT40 from 1967 to 1969.

Returning to defend last year's Daytona win in the No. 02 "star car" are IndyCar champions Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan and NASCAR's Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson. The No. 01 prototype has Alex Wurz, Brendon Hartley, Andy Priaulx and 17-year-old Lance Stroll.

St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais and former IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg champion Ryan Briscoe are among Ganassi's six drivers in the two-car GTLM class effort.

"He's really proud. You can see how excited and proud he is that all of these drivers are driving for him on this weekend," McMurray said Friday. "No other owner in the world has this many guys from that many series who have won so many big races on one team."

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