Arguably the two best teams in the IZOD IndyCar Series have been Ganassi Racing and Penske Racing. Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske have put together very solid and high performing organizations in IndyCar. Nothing has changed in 2013 as the top two drivers battling it out for the championship are Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves from Ganassi and Penske, respectively.
As everyone prepares for the last race of the year at Fontana, the Kiwi Dixon and the Brazilian Castroneves are the only drivers who can win the series title. Dixon has a 25 point lead and if he finishes fifth or better, there’s nothing Castroneves can do to win the championship. It would be the 33 year old Dixon’s third IndyCar crown – on the other hand if the 38 year old Castroneves can earn the title, it would be the first of an otherwise illustrious career.
And that's the point, as once again, it’s a Ganassi driver versus a Penske driver this season. Yes, Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay snagged the championship last year; but as a whole, Ganassi and Penske have had their wheelmen battling for the title every year, going back nine seasons. The last time Ganassi and/or Penske didn't have a driver in the top three was 2004 when Castroneves was fourth.
Here are some numbers that will cinch down the fact that these two teams are the class of the field for nearly a decade. Penske’s Sam Hornish Jr. won the title in ’06 with Castroneves third and Dixon fourth. On a side note, if you want to see what a close title race looks like, look up the 2006 IndyCar battle – close doesn't begin to describe it.
Anyway, Ganassi’s Dario Franchitti beat out Dixon for the ’07 championship, but then Dixon beat out Castroneves for the ’08 title. In ’09, Franchitti held off Dixon and Penske’s Ryan Briscoe with Castroneves fourth. In 2010, Franchitti and Penske’s Will Power began their duels with Franchitti nabbing the top spot and then again in 2011. Last season, when Hunter-Reay broke up the Ganassi/Penske supremacy, Power was nipped out with Dixon and Castroneves not far behind in third and fourth, respectively.
Dixon and Castroneves
This year, Castroneves led the point standings most of the year, while Dixon came on in the second half of the season after a bit of a slow start.
Two-time champ Dixon has 32 career wins in IndyCar and another three in ChampCar, plus he notched his name on the Borg Warner Trophy with an Indy 500 win in ‘08. Castroneves has 22 IndyCar victories and six wins in ChampCar and was the victor three times at the Indy 500, including his first IndyCar win of his career back in ’01 – he won the next year and then again in ’09. By the way, both drivers have been runner-ups in the final overall IndyCar standings.
To up the ante and continue their dominance in 2014, Ganassi and Penske signed a couple more veteran drivers with big names. Chip has added Tony Kanaan to his lineup, while Roger will have former Ganassi driver Juan Pablo Montoya manning one of his cars next year. All Kanaan and Montoya have done in the past is win IndyCar titles and Indy 500s.
Other teams will continue to give Ganassi and Penske problems, but certainly these two power teams aren't going anywhere. And to make it even more interesting, both organizations will be powered by Chevrolets with Ganassi leaving Toyota after 2013.
Ganassi and Penske will continue to be the nemesis of each other as well as other IndyCar teams for many years to come.
Sources: Racing Reference, Penske Racing, Ganassi Racing