As the IZOD IndyCar season hits another oval, the gnashing of teeth over the dominance of Target-Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske Racing will surface once more. When you haven't lost on an oval since 2008, it's fairly understandable that people would be sick of seeing those two teams win nearly everything.
I would know; as a self-avowed Tony Kanaan fan, I know full-well the annoyance that comes with seeing red, white (and black) cars dominate most of the races. It was the same feeling those fans had when Andretti-Green had control of the series in the middle of the 2000's.
But while I will always be in Kanaan's corner, the last four months have given me a newfound appreciation for just what Target Chip Ganassi Racing has accomplished in the last 15 years. While the IZOD IndyCar season was getting underway, I was coaching high school baseball in Indianapolis at my alma mater.
In much the same way that Ganassi has become the leader (or one of the two leaders) of the series, the high school I coach at has done the same in the last 13 years or so (which is why I will refer to them and not the dominators of the last 30+ years, Penske). And I hear the same grumbling about our program that I hear about the Ganassi's and Penske's of the racing world.
As a spectator and fan, does it get old watching the same two teams control many of the races? Of course. But as someone who as a player and a coach had the opportunity to be a part of a similar squad, I can understand why Ganassi would refuse to make any apologies for his team's stranglehold of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
First, if you want to win, you cannot make apologies for it. And if you don't want to win, what's the point of racing? If you'd like to turn a profit, go to IndyLights, which for years has been rumored to actually offer owners a chance at a small profit. But if you want to win, you need to surround yourself with the best, and Chip Ganassi has built one of the top staffs in the series, from top to bottom.
Ganassi demands excellence. Just staying on the lead lap has never been enough for Ganassi (even if it might have been during his driving career). His demands of excellence upon all members of the team trickles down, elevating the baseline performance of all team members.
Excellence begets excellence. When you've established a repeated pattern of success, other successful people want to enter into that environment. It's easier to bring in rising engineers, tire changers, what-have-you, when you're successful.
Instead of complaining that Ganassi and Penske dominate, perhaps we should reserve our scorn for those who limit themselves. Yes, I understand budgets. And if it's as simple as a lack of money or other resources, I can understand that. But for those who have the means yet don't commit to becoming the best in one way shape or form, they ultimately deserve to have the fans asking questions.
Look, do I wish that Andretti Autosport would raise their game and create a chance where 9-10 drivers might have a shot at winning every week? Yes, without hesitation. I'd like to see Dreyer & Reinbold and Panther Racing get there too (and at the Iowa Bull Ring, who knows what could happen). But, as I hopefully am reflecting upon an IHSAA Baseball Championship on Sunday, I hope that those teams rise to the level of Ganassi and Penske, elevating the entire series.