Chip Ganassi, who will receive the inaugural Cameron R. Argetsinger Award on Aug. 7 for contributions to motorsports, is quick to point out that such acknowledgement should be reversed.
In fact, it was in Argetsinger’s adopted hometown of Watkins Glen, N.Y., where as a youngster he received a gift that keeps on giving.
“My mother used to take us on these little weekend trips from Pittsburgh, so once we went to the Corning Glass Works and as a side trip we went to Watkins Glen,” Ganassi said. “We went to the Glen Motor Inn for lunch and that’s really when my understanding of the history of motor racing began.
“We walk into the Glen Motor Inn, which I had heard of for many years, and sure enough Mario Andretti was in there with Jackie Stewart and Jo Siffert. They had been testing tires. I got their autographs. I don’t know what impact that had on my racing career, but as an 11-year-old going into Watkins Glen and meeting pillars of the sport is a pretty spectacular day.
“Meeting those guys at lunch that day didn’t help me qualify for the Indy 500, but it didn’t hurt me. You don’t really know what impact it had. I’ve often said that my career started at Indianapolis but it fact it probably started at Watkins Glen.
“For me, the award is extra special.”
INDYCAR vice president of competition Brian Barnhart and Team Penske owner Roger Penske are among the guest speakers at the event at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. ESPN motorsports broadcaster Dr. Jerry Punch is the master of ceremonies.
As a team owner for a quarter-century, Ganassi fields programs in the Verizon IndyCar Series, NASCAR Sprint Cup and TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. He has won 17 championships, four Indianapolis 500 titles and five Rolex 24 At Daytona wins among other races. Scott Dixon, the longest-tenured driver for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, won the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 3 for the team’s 95th Indy car victory.
Additionally, Ganassi's 25-year partnership with Target is among the longest in professional sports.
“Chip getting an award it’s well-deserved,” said Mike Hull, the team’s INDYCAR managing director. “What I like about Chip is that he devotes every waking moment, and I think he probably dreams about it, about how he can make us better. I think that’s really why people like Chip are honored with awards like this because they do what all of us do. They have that passion for racing, and that passion is rewarded with success.”
History on the shelves at Center
Argetsinger conceived, organized and drove in the first post-war road race in America on the roads of Watkins Glen in 1948. He is often referred to as the father of American road racing.
Argetsinger brought Formula One to Watkins Glen International, which hosted the United States Grand Prix from 1960 to 1980. Ganassi competed at The Glen in SCCA Formula Ford, Formula Super Vee and in sports cars.
“I most recently drove it on an iRacing simulator,” said Ganassi, who made 28 Indy car starts overall.
Indy car races were contested at the road course from 1979-81 under CART sanction and from 2005-2010 under the INDYCAR banner. Dixon, driving the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, won in 2005, 2006 and ’07. A Penske Racing driver swept the three CART races (Bobby Unser in 19790 and ’80 and Rick Mears in ‘81) and Will Power, driving a Team Penske entry, won the 2010 race.
“As I got into racing I understood what impact Cameron Argetsinger would have on a sport. Arguably, without his impetus at that time racing in America would not be what it is today. Not on a regional scale but a global scale,” said Ganassi, who turns 57 on May 24 – the date of the 99th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. “To be recognized in the same breath as a name like that I can tell you I’m without words.”
Argetsinger was president of the International Motor Racing Research Center for five years until his death in 2008. The facility in Watkins Glen is an archival library dedicated to the preservation of the history of motorsports.
Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner and Indy car champion Bobby Rahal, chairman of the Center’s governing council, and IMRRC president J.C. Argetsinger will present the award to Ganassi.
“I’ve always been a student of the sport and its history and I think what is being done there is so important,” Rahal said. “Future generations can go there and learn about all aspects of the sport.
“This year we’ll honor Chip with the first award. Chip certainly deserves the accolades with everything he’s done in racing. It’s the start of something special. We’re all committed to making it the foremost repository of racing history, records in the world and I’m excited to be a part of it.”