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Formula One
News & Features
News & Features
News & Features
 Wednesday, March 1
CART's Vasser, Montoya to race in Indy 500
By Bruce Martin news services

 MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Two of the biggest names in CART will compete in the Indianapolis 500 this year.

Target/Chip Ganassi Racing officially announced Monday that Indy 500 veteran Jimmy Vasser and defending CART champion Juan Montoya will compete against the drivers from the IRL in the Memorial Day weekend classic.

Jimmy Vasser
Jimmy Vasser won the U.S. 500 in 1996 on the same day the Indy 500 was held.
The team will use G Force chassis with Oldsmobile Aurora engines built by Comptech. Target will be the primary sponsor with Budweiser serving as the associate sponsor. Former NASCAR Winston Cup crew chief Andy Graves will be the team manager for the Indy 500 effort, and CART bosses Tom Anderson and Mike Hull will help oversee the program.

Ganassi and his two drivers made the announcement at the Brickyard Crossing. Ganassi turned in his entry forms over to Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and IRL founder Tony George.

"As I look around here this morning, I see a lot of familiar faces, and the only face I don't see out there is Jim Nabors," Ganassi said. "This is probably the right time to start off with a rendition of 'Back Home Again in Indiana.' I'm certainly proud to be here this morning and it is my pleasure to announce that Target/Chip Ganassi Racing will be returning to the Indianapolis 500.

"We have decided the time is right to give our drivers, our team and our sponsors the chance to experience the Indianapolis 500 -- the biggest auto race in the world."

This will be the first time Ganassi's team has competed at the Indianapolis 500 since 1995. CART teams have stayed away from the Indianapolis 500 since it became part of the rival IRL beginning in 1996.

In fact, when CART staged the U.S. 500 for the first time in 1996, it went head-to-head against the Indianapolis 500 on race day. Vasser won that race after he was involved in an infamous 15-car crash before the green flag waved to start the event.

In victory lane, Vasser said, "Who needs milk?" which led to some angry responses from the Indy 500 faithful.

Monday, Vasser said many things that were said back then were done in the heat of the battle over the IRL.

"I've been told that I'm calcium deficient so I need to add more milk to my diet," Vasser said. "I hope to get a chance to drink some milk in victory lane at the Indianapolis 500.

"I could probably stand up here for hours and talk about the five years that have passed since I raced here last. There were a lot of emotions and things that were said. I think the one that is the most important is personally I have missed racing in the Indianapolis 500 a great deal. Although we have been very busy in CART, this has been sorely missed by me and my teammates. I feel fortunate to be driving for a team like Target/Chip Ganassi and having the opportunity to do this."

Ganassi's team has won the last four CART titles with Vasser winning in 1996, Alex Zanardi in 1997-98 and Montoya last year.

"I think it's very nice for me to be here," Montoya said. "The Indy 500 is a huge race and it's special for us to be here. It's a bigger challenge and every year, I've been given a bigger challenge.

"There are a lot of things involved and Jimmy has the experience here and I hope he will give me a hand. As a driver, I'm going to come here to try to win. The team is prepared to give 100 percent and win the race. It's as simple as that."

The team owner said he will test the IRL package as many days as possible to prepare for the Indianapolis 500. However, Ganassi has not made a firm decision if the team will compete in the Las Vegas IRL race on April 22 for logistical reasons.

"We've outgrown our race shop in Indianapolis and we are in the process of moving into a new, bigger shop," Ganassi said. "If I were pressed today on whether we would be at Las Vegas or not, I'd probably say no. But, I don't want to rule that out right now.

"To quote a basketball term, this is not a layup to do a program like this. We want to approach it with the utmost professionalism like we have everything else. If that involves going to another race, we're going to do it."

A separate group of crew members will help prepare the IRL car, but the race day pit crew will be the same as in CART.

Ganassi also said Toyota, his engine supplier in CART, actually encouraged his team to compete in the Indianapolis 500. Ford and Mercedes-Benz have both thrown up roadblocks to keep their teams from crossing the battle lines and competing in the Indianapolis 500 with rival auto manufacturers equipment.

Ganassi fended off questions about the political ramifications of competing in the Indianapolis 500 from his fellow CART team owners, saying repeatedly, "That's something you should ask them."

When asked if he was afraid whether some of his CART owners would "hang him out to dry," Ganassi had a firm response.

"Nobody hangs me out to dry," Ganassi said. "I want to come here and I want to race. In terms of what everyone else is doing and why, I'm tired of that. I want to worry about my drivers, my team, our team and where we are going in the future.

"All I know is CART opened up two weeks in the schedule; they did that for some reason. I was there, there was a lot of excitement when they did that. I raised my hand and said, 'I'm going.' "


 Chip Ganassi wants his drivers to have an opportunity at Indy.
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 Jimmy Vasser is excited to go back to Indy.
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 Indy president Tony George says it will be tough on Ganassi's team.
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