The 2020 season marks three decades in the sport for iconic IndyCar, NASCAR and now Extreme E team owner Chip Ganassi.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years,” he said in a recent interview. “I always tell people I had a fossil fuel-fired youth, having raced karts, motorcycles, Indy cars and sports cars. I could never in my wildest dreams imagined owning a race team back then, and now it’s incredible to see where it is now.”
But even for someone of his experience, having the entire sport shut down for months due to a global pandemic was a new experience. So who better to check in with about NASCAR’s return from hibernation at Darlington Raceway last weekend?
“Everybody was cautiously optimistic at Darlington,” says Ganassi about the first NASCAR race of the post-COVID-19 clampdown era. “I think the entire sport, for once, was respectful of the fact that we were going to be the first live network sporting event, and people were clamoring for any sporting event, really. I think everybody there involved with the sport respected the fact that they didn’t want to be the Ricky Stenhouse on Monday, per se, and crash on the first lap. They wanted to be the ones that got the project done and put on a good show for the many, many new fans we were going to have watching.”
Of the countless races and events Ganassi has been a part of over the decades, he found the made-for-TV Real Heroes 400 to be a unique motor race that will be reflected back on for a hell of a long time.
“Well, you know, in some sense, people were saying it was like being at a big test, because there was no screaming and yelling of the fans, or no-one milling about the parking lots, and the parking lots were all somewhat empty,” he says.
“Again, I think the fact that we were so fortunate to be the first ones out of the blocks was very good. I think the country does need to get restarted again and get this economy started again, and I think it’s a little bit of a feather in NASCAR’s cap to bear the responsibility of being the first out, but also being the first out and putting on a damn good show.
“I temper my comments by saying all these events [usually] have an on-site crowd and you have a television crowd, and certainly we were disappointed that we were not able to have fans there in the stands, even local fans who might drive 200, 300 or 400 miles to get to a race. That was disappointing, in that respect.
“Yet for however disappointing it was, I think we were equally filled with excitement that we were the live show to be back, so we had a little bump and I’m sure we made some new fans there from people that never watched NASACR before. Yeah, obviously we were disappointed with the onsite crowd, but we had the TV crowd that was up, and that we were very happy about. Really, there’s some excitement with that, you know? In terms of being there, there’s a bigger play involved here than maybe than a few other individuals and how…
Read More: INTERVIEW: Ganassi reflects on NASCAR’s return 2020-05-21 20:55:42