Fan Awards: Owner Of The Year
December 20, 2006 | 5:20 P.M. EST
Making one choice for the “Best Owner of 2006” forced the RacingOne staff to think outside the box a little bit – and in hindsight, it was outside the box thinking that led to this person being selected over every other owner: Chip Ganassi.
Unlike other candidates in this category, Ganassi’s teams did not have a championship winning driver in their stable. Sure, his combination of Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon and Casey Mears won the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, and yes, Wheldon did end the season tied for the IRL IndyCar Series Championship (losing on a tiebreaker to Sam Hornish Jr.) and his Grand Am Rolex Sports Car team of Luis Diaz and Scott Pruett did win the team championship for the series (losing out in the drivers championship to Jorg Bergmeister). However, it was his signing of former Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya for the No. 42 Texaco Havoline Dodge in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series that made Ganassi an easy choice for best owner of the year.
While Ganassi’s teams have fared well in other racing series, his partnership with Felix Sabates in NASCAR has not produced many positive results in six seasons of competition. Combine that with the defection of veteran Casey Mears at the end of 2006, who announced that he was headed to Hendrick Motorsports, and one could tell that Ganassi’s NASCAR program was in trouble.
Undeterred, Ganassi made a bold move by hiring Montoya – who was on the outs with his employer at the time, Team McLaren Mercedes – for the 2007 season. Although a select few pundits were critical of the unconventional pick, since the Colombian born driver had little stock car experience prior to the signing, the media and fans alike rejoiced Ganassi’s selection of a world class driver that brings with him not only a fresh perspective, but also a new fan base to the sport.
Other candidates in this category included; Rick Hendrick (Had three of his drivers compete in the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" and also claimed his sixth NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Championship, doing so with a record third different driver), Roger Penske (captured the Indianapolis 500 and IRL IndyCar Series championship) and Richard Childress (Had two drivers make the "Chase" while also winning the NASCAR Busch Series title).
Do you agree or disagree with RacingOne's selection? Here's your chance to cast your vote for the 2006 RacingOne Fan Awards. Just visit the Message Boards or email (email@example.com) to make your selection. Over the next two weeks RacingOne will have a different daily category culminating with the Award winners on Dec. 22nd. Note: Selections are limited just to the series' RacingOne covers.