INDIANAPOLIS – Lunch at Chip Ganassi Racing had a nice championship ring to it on Tuesday afternoon.
Scott Dixon’s fifth NTT IndyCar Series title last season was commemorated in style as, starting with team owner Ganassi and driver Dixon, gold-colored Jostens rings were presented to practically everyone at the team’s shop that houses its INDYCAR and sports car operations. It was all smiles from management, crew members, employees and even sponsor representatives at PNC Bank as they received the special keepsakes with their last names on one side and an Indy car likeness mounted on blue stone at the top.
“That’s a fun part about the job today, handing out rings,” Ganassi said after the ceremony.
He’s become quite experienced at doing so. The 2018 championship was the 12th for Chip Ganassi Racing in Indy cars, five coming with Dixon at the wheel. Ganassi also has four more rings for winning the Indianapolis 500, including with Dixon in 2008.
“You think about all the individuals that make up a team,” Ganassi said. “You think about the families. Each one of these people here, they have a family at home. They’re a part of this also. They let us go do what we want to do, and they support us.
“It’s nice to be a part of a team of people who endeavor to accomplish a goal, and they do that. They’ve done that now 12 times.”
Whereas Ganassi rotates wearing his special rings, Dixon reminded he’s not one to do so. The “Ice Man” might make highlights on a racetrack, but refrains from showing off the hardware.
“Just the wedding ring,” Dixon said, showing the only band on his fingers.
But as a five-time series champion, the 38-year-old New Zealander would already need to use his second hand to wear them all, counting the Indy 500 ring.
“I’ve got to move onto the next, right?” Dixon said, alluding to the opportunity for a sixth championship that begins this week. “It would be nice to get some toe rings going.”
Dixon and Ganassi smiled with pride as each employee stepped forward to receive a ring from Barry Wanser, team manager of competition.
“Never gets old, mate,” Dixon said. “I hope we’re celebrating No. 6 later this year.”
Truth be told, he’s been looking forward to this week ahead for months. A new season begins with Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 1 p.m., Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).
“This is just extremely important for the appreciation to the crew guys,” Dixon said. “A lot of people give up a lot of things, they give up their weekends, they give up a lot of their family time to still do what they love and the passion that they have for this sport that we’re so lucky to be involved in.”
Wanser also doesn’t wear his rings. This is his 17th — 11 Indy car titles, four for the Indy 500, another from Joe Amato’s 1991 NHRA Top Fuel championship and one for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Time to visit the bank to add the latest jewelry piece to a safety deposit box.
“I’m really a behind-the-scenes guy, which makes me a modest guy,” Wanser said. “I wear one of my Indy 500 rings occasionally to a racing event.
“I keep ‘em at the bank safety deposit box because I don’t want them to disappear. I probably look at them once a year.”
The Ganassi team member since 1997 doesn’t even think about how many rings are in that box.
“I’m very, very privileged and blessed to have worked with so many dedicated team members over the years,” Wanser said. “I moved into my current role in 2003, which required me to manage a large group of people and a large part of the competition. The success we’ve had over the years has been from some incredibly dedicated people doing their jobs. It’s been great to ride along with it.”
Dixon summed up the sentiment of many in describing the special significance of having a championship ring.
“You can look back at one of those things,” he said, “see the year, and immediately you get a ton of emotions but also memories that come back.”