Ganassi Picks Stewart Vasser
May 7, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
"Tony and Jimmy are talented drivers who know their way around the Brickyard, and I'm confident they give Team Target a great chance to win back-to-back Indy 500 titles," Ganassi said.
Stewart, a regular on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, and Vasser, the 1996 CART FedEx Series champion, will replace Ganassi’s two rookie CART drivers for the race.
"Bruno (Junqueira) and Nicolas (Minassian) are great drivers and they'll get their chance to race at Indy, but they've lost some valuable experience - especially on ovals - with this year's two canceled CART races (Brazil and Texas)," Ganassi explained. "They've shown they can compete in the FedEx Series, and I know they'll challenge for our team's fifth CART championship. Winning the Indy 500 is also a goal this year, and I believe Tony and Jimmy give us the best shot at doing that."
This will be Stewart’s fifth attempt to win the Indy 500. He claimed the pole and Top Rookie Award in 1996 while driving full time in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. Stewart currently drives the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac for Joe Gibbs Racing in Winston Cup.
"I knew if I was going to race at Indy again it would be with a talented team that would give me a great opportunity to win," Stewart said. "Driving in the Indy 500 for a top-notch organization like Target Racing is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I'm very appreciative of Home Depot and Joe Gibbs for giving me this chance. I grew up in Indianapolis, so winning this race was obviously one of my dreams.
"Team Target dominated here last year, and I'm planning to start up where they left off in 2000."
Stewart will also compete in NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 on May 27.
Former Ganassi pilot Vasser, who jumped to Patrick Racing at the beginning of the year, led five laps during last year's Indy 500 and finished seventh.
"Returning to the Indy 500 last year was one of the highlights of my career, so it will feel great to drive for Team Target again and try to give them two in a row," Vasser said. "I've had some nice wins throughout my career, but winning at Indy has always been a goal, and I'm thrilled Chip, Target and Patrick Racing are giving me another chance to compete here."
Stewart will work with Team Target engineer Bill Pappas and drive the No. 33 G-Force/Oldsmobile Aurora at the Indy 500. Vasser will drive the No. 44 Target car and reunite with engineer Julian Robertson, with whom he partnered from 1995-2000.