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Motorsports: Chip Ganassi accepts inaugural Cameron R. Argetsinger Award, IMRRC

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Racing team owner, Chip Ganassi, in front of a host of other motor sports notables, accepted the inaugural Cameron R. Argetsinger Award for outstanding contributions to motor sports on Thursday evening, August 7. The award was presented by the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC). The presentation dinner took place at the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) in Corning, N.Y..

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Before the award presentation, hundreds of supporters and members of the motor sports community including legends, owners, executives, race car drivers, friends, and others enjoyed cocktails and dinner on a pleasant summer evening in the Finger Lakes Region of upstate N.Y.. Greeting them when they arrived were three Ganassi race cars on display -- the 2006 DP winner of the 24 Hours at Daytona driven by Dan Wheldon, Casey Mears, and Scott Dixon; a Sprint Cup car; and the 2010 winner of the Indianapolis 500 driven by Dario Franchitti.

President of the IMRRC, J. C. Argetsinger, welcomed guests by introducing some, and reminding others, about the Center and its mission. J. C. said the mission of the IMRRC is "to preserve the story" of motor sports for future generations.

As a non-profit archival facility dedicated to the preservation of motor sports history, the research library's important collections have outgrown the space needed to house them, so events like the dinner help the IMRRC mission of expansion. He also showed a video highlighting his father's, Cameron R. Argetsinger's, personal history of bringing European road racing to the States in post-war 1948 and thanked IMRRC Council member and regional entrepreneur Larry Kessler, for organizing the night's event.

Argetsinger made the point that Cameron did not just believe in road or circuit racing but also supported NASCAR and all forms of racing. The IMRRC houses documents and materials of all kinds for all branches of motor sport, not just from the United States, but globally. Researchers from all around the world walk into the library located in the village of Watkins Glen, he said.

The point of needing space to expand was further brought home when Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) President Lisa Noble later made the major announcement that the organization was donating its complete, 70-year, 65,000-member strong archives to the IMRRC.

Following a dinner of beef tenderloin and scallops complimented by Glenora Wine Cellars wines, the tributes to Chip Ganassi began. These were emceed by ESPN race commentator, Dr. Jerry Punch. Speakers included NASCAR President, Mike Helton; IndyCar Sr. Vice President of Competition, Brian Barnhart; SCCA President, Lisa Noble; IMRRC Governing Council Chairman and IndyCar team co-owner, Bobby Rahal; and Jamie McMurray, Chip Ganassi NASCAR racing driver.

Helton remarked, "“Very few have achieved what he has." Ganassi is in his 25th year as a team owner and can boast of 17 championships and 150 race wins, including five at the Indianapolis 500 and five at the Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona.

In 2010, Ganassi teams recorded 19 wins in all three series, including victories in the Daytona 500, the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400, making him the only team owner to win all three crown jewels of racing in a single season. That achievement was followed in early 2011 with a victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Ganassi became the first owner to hold all four titles at one time.

Relating to a photo in the award dinner program showing Ganassi standing with the Indy 500, Daytona 500 and Rolex 24 at Daytona trophies, Helton said, "That is significant hardware. If you stop and think about it, and really let it sink in, motorsports is a very challenging business to be in, particularly as a car owner, and there’s a few sitting here who can attest to that. The more aggressive you get, the more challenging it gets. So when you look at that photograph, understand that in today’s world you can count on one hand the individuals who are able to compete at the level that Chip Ganassi does today as successfully as he does."

In his remarks, Bobby Rahal, in his role as IMRRC Governing Council chairman, commented, "I really believe in everything the research center is doing." In complimenting Ganassi, he not only congratulated him on receiving the first Argetsinger Award but also in celebrating his 25th anniversary with Target as a sponsor this year.

Others on the program also said a few words. Barnhart said of Ganassi, "The true history of motorsports couldn’t be told without him." Ganassi Racing NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray joked with his employer, relating memorable moments and humorous stories of his experience with Ganassi Racing so far. In closing his remarks, however, he also said, "I hope we get to make a lot more history together."

Guests were entertained by video tributes from 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force and Ganassi’s long-time rival and friend, team owner Roger Penske. Ganassi’s exploits as a driver and team owner were chronicled in a video narrated by four-time IndyCar Series and three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti and produced by Ganassi’s longtime friend and fellow SCCA competitor, Tom Davey.

The award itself was presented to Ganassi by Argetsinger and Rahal. The Paul Revere-style, glass bowl trophy created for the Cameron R. Argetsinger Award is reminiscent of the sterling silver bowls Argetsinger would present to winners decades ago. The trophy was designed and created by Daniel Sherlock of Hawke + Axel in Corning, N.Y. The permanent trophy will be displayed at the IMRRC.

Dr. Jerry Punch then interviewed Ganassi, which gave the honoree a chance to thank his supporters and also reminisce about his career, Watkins Glen, and Corning, where the event was held. He told a few stories, one of which showed the close relationship Watkins Glen has always had with nearby Corning. The relationship was highlighted otherwise during the evening as well when Corning Incorporated was credited not only for its major assistance in getting Watkins Glen International back on its feet during a fallow period in the track's history but also with designing and creating the current glass trophy awarded at the NASCAR Cheez-It 355 at The Glen.

In the personal memory he shared, though, Ganassi said that his family had visited the Corning Museum of Glass when he was young and then made their way up to nearby Watkins Glen. Apparently, nothing was happening at the track that day so many years ago, he said, so they drove around it then stopped at the Glen Motor Inn for lunch. When they walked in, they saw race car drivers Mario Andretti, Jackie Stewart, and Jo Siffert all at one table eating lunch. It turned out tire testing was happening at the track that day. Ganassi never forgot the experience of seeing these legends of motor sports all together in one unexpected place.

As not only a team owner in more than one series but also a winner in those series, Ganassi was asked what the keys were to his success and longevity. "You don't do this stuff by yourself," Ganassi said and credited the people around him such as his parents, sponsors, team members, and drivers. "We race and that's all we do," he said of his operation.

Ganassi also commented on the International Motor Racing Research Center's need to expand, saying that their effort "is a worthy thing" and saying to his colleagues, "Let's dig in our pockets and get it going here."

At the end of the evening, a commissioned painting by Watkins Glen motor sports artist Bob Gillespie called "Crimson Cloud" was auctioned off with proceeds to benefit the IMRRC. Young driver Sage Karam took home the painting with a winning bid of $3,250. Karam, the 2013 Indy Lights champion, sat in for Ganassi Racing's injured Memo Rojas for two TUDOR SportsCar events last year.

Dr. Jerry Punch, who ran the quick auction, joked that Karam, perhaps the youngest person in the room at 19, had likely not even cashed his first paycheck as a driver yet. He's the smartest driver in the room, Punch quipped.

The International Motor Racing Research Center, located in downtown Watkins Glen, is dedicated to the preservation of the history of motor sport in all its forms. For more information about its mission or programs, see the IMRRC website.

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