ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – It was the first official day on the race track for the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series, but the real action was the verbal jabs being exchanged between Team Penske and Target/Chip Ganassi Racing over a perceived rivalry.
It all started in a story published in USA Today on Thursday where Team Penske President Tim Cindric was asked about if the rivalry was similar to the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in Major League Baseball.
“Chip wants to think of it as a rivalry, but we don’t,” Cindric said. “It does fit the definition of an intense competition, but rivalries take place over a long period of time. If you want to think of it in baseball terms, it would be the Yankees and the Florida Marlins — a team with a long history against a younger team that came on strong and won a couple of World Series. Maybe that’s not a good analogy, but I don’t see it as the Yankees and Red Sox.”
On Friday, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and four-time IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti and team owner Chip Ganassi both fired back.
“I think Roger Penske is a class, class operator,” said Franchitti, who was forced to end his racing career on doctor’s orders after a crash at the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston last October. “He’s first class. I thought Tim’s comments weren’t in any way. I think they kind of summed him up a little bit.
“If I had the resources that he’s had in his hands, I would be a little upset with the success ratio they have had recently. I’m very proud of the record that the Ganassi organization and the Target organization has had.”
Team Penske entered the IndyCar Series full time in 2002 and have won four Indianapolis 500s and one IndyCar Series title when Sam Hornish Jr. won in 2006. Since joining the IndyCar Series full-time in 2003 Ganassi has won six IndyCar titles, including five in the past six years and three Indianapolis 500s.
Pretty impressive numbers, actually, but consider the Florida Marlins have won two World Series titles the two times they have made it that far – 1997 and 2003.
“I think even Mr. Penske this morning recalled that we won five of the last six championships, so I thought that was pretty good,” Ganassi said in an interview on Friday at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “He did not mention the Florida Marlins. He did notice, he did say that ‘I’m getting a lot of press the past couple of days with your name attached to it.’ He said something like that. And I said, ‘Yeah.’”