Commentary

Will Brickyard give Ganassi the trifecta?

Updated: July 25, 2010, 11:56 AM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

Chip Ganassi is one victory from one of the most cherished accomplishments in sports -- a triple crown.

[+] EnlargeChip Ganassi
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackChip Ganassi is the first person, driver or team owner, to have a chance at the trifecta of American auto racing.

If Juan Pablo Montoyaor Jamie McMurray wins the Brickyard 400 on Sunday, Ganassi would become the first team owner to win the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same season.

Ganassi is the first person, driver or team owner, to have a chance at the trifecta of American auto racing. With McMurray's win at Daytona and Dario Franchitti's victory at Indy, Ganassi became the first owner to win racing's two biggest events in the same season.

Now he's going for the sweep.

"The big events this season have been pretty good for us, obviously," Ganassi said Monday. "We have that covered. It's those races in between that we seem a bit challenged by from time to time. But if you're going to win some, these are the ones you want to win."

Aside from the two big ones, Ganassi's NASCAR and IndyCar drivers have gone to Victory Lane only one other time this year. Scott Dixon won the IndyCar event at Kansas.

That's 2-for-2 in the marquee events and 1-for-27 everywhere else.

"I wish I could put my finger on it," Ganassi said. "Our drivers get up for big events. Jamie and Juan both like Daytona. Dario and Scott both like Indy. They seem to be good at the places where we have the big races."

McMurray hopes to become the third driver to win the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year, joining Dale Jarrett (1996) and Jimmie Johnson (2006).

[+] EnlargeJamie McMurray
AP Photo/Glenn SmithJamie McMurray's win at the Daytona 500 coupled with Dario Franchitti's victory at the Indy 500 set Chip Ganassi up for a triple crown bid this weekend at the Brickyard.

But Montoya is the guy who probably feels Indy owes him one. He appeared to be on his way to victory in last year's Brickyard 400 before a speeding penalty on pit road dropped him to an 11th-place finish.

Montoya, the 2000 Indy 500 winner, also hopes to become the first man to win the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400. He finished second the 2007 Brickyard 400, his first start in the event.

"Drivers have certain tracks they like more than others," Ganassi said. "Indy is that place for Juan. For some reason, Juan gets around well there.

"There are little things that drivers always look for to help them feel comfortable at each track. What does that for Juan at Indy, I don't know, but he has it."

Montoya came to Indy last year ranked ninth in the Sprint Cup standings. He finished eighth in the 2009 Chase and entered this season expecting to contend for the championship.

But Montoya ranks 21st this year, 242 points outside of 12th, the Chase cutoff spot.

"We have the speed," Montoya said two weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway. "We're a lot faster than we were last year, so easily we should have been in the Chase. But we've been involved in wrecks, and all kinds of things have gone wrong. That's OK. As a team, we pull together."

Especially at the big events. A win on Sunday wouldn't cure everything, but it would make his team owner a triple crown winner.

"These race teams are like children to me," Ganassi said. "I love them all, and some of them need more love than others."


For the second time this season, Carl Edwards deliberately wrecked Brad Keselowski on a straightaway at high speed.

For the second time, it caused a dangerous accident that could have seriously injured or killed someone. The latest incident occurred on the final lap of the Nationwide race Saturday night.

And more than likely, in this era of "Have at it, boys," Edwards will get away with it without any meaningful reprimand.

Ganassi weighed in with his opinion on the incident during a Monday conference call.

"I don't think this is what NASCAR has in mind when they say 'Have at it, boys,'" Ganassi said. "I realize other people feel differently, but I don't think you should be allowed to use your car as a weapon.

"I should preface this by saying this stuff is hard to police, but someone has to be the referee. I think NASCAR does a good job of that. I've been accused of being a purist, but I would like to see more good driving we can respect and not having to crash a guy to win. Thankfully, no one has gotten hurt in these things."

Not yet. Most NASCAR drivers have used the looser rule-enforcement idea in the proper context, bumping one another to gain a position or retaliating in a way that doesn't endanger other competitors.

Edwards has stepped way over the line, not once, but twice. He will continue to do so until NASCAR officials say enough is enough.

If that doesn't happen, tragic consequences are inevitable.


The NHRA deserves praise for taking immediate action in response to the death of Top Alcohol Dragster driver Mark Nivers during the Northwest Nationals on July 11.

The NHRA announced changes last week to improve safety:

• Rear carbon-fiber brake rotors and pads now are mandatory for Top Fuel, Funny Car, Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car.
• A radio frequency-activated device, which shuts off the fuel supply, cuts ignition and deploys the parachutes if the driver has not done so after passing the finish line, will be mandatory beginning in 2011 for the Top Alcohol classes. The device became mandatory in Top Fuel and Funny Car earlier this year.
• The NHRA also is working with manufacturers on a secondary tethering device for parachutes in the classes listed above.

Nivers' death was the second for a driver and the third overall (including one spectator) at NHRA events this season. Other safety improvements are needed, including better runoff areas at several tracks, but the changes announced last week were a major step in the right direction.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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