It is difficult sometimes to sever ties after many years, but that is what will happen after the checkered flag falls on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series as major department store chain Target will part ways with its business relationship with Chip Ganassi Racing’s open wheel racing program.
The partnership began at the same time Chip Ganassi split from former business associate Pat Patrick to form his own team in the CART series in 1990 and from that point until now, Target was a major part of the program. After struggles in its formative years, the Target-Ganassi connection finally had made its breakthrough as a title contender in 1996 when Jimmy Vasser won the CART Championship and the tandem then went on to win the CART title in the following three seasons as well. Alex Zanardi won back to back titles in 1997 and 1998 before trying his luck the following year in Formula One and Juan Pablo Montoya won the title in 1999 and then went on to win the 2000 Indianapolis 500 in Target and Ganassi’s first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after a five-year absence.
In 2002, current Target-sponsored driver Scott Dixon joined the Ganassi fold and alongside a plethora of teammates, including Tomas Scheckter, Darren Manning, Dan Wheldon, and Dario Franchitti, the team has continued to consistently win races and championships. In total, Ganassi and Target have hoisted a series championship trophy eleven times and have won the Indianapolis 500-mile race four times.
Unfortunately, in recent years the interest and support shown by the Target brand began to wane, starting last year when the department store chain elected to only sponsor one car for Scott Dixon as opposed to its usual two, following CGR’s full time expansion to two cars in 1995. On Wednesday, Target senior vice president Scott Nygaard made the separation between the company and Chip Ganassi Racing in terms of IndyCar racing sponsorship official.
“It was a really difficult decision that we made — we’ve been with Chip Ganassi Racing for 27 years and we are ridiculously proud of the success,” Nygaard said to the Associated Press on Wednesday. “But the Target brand is about being fresh and new, so we felt like this was the time to make the difficult decision and expand our sports marketing platform.”
Target also sponsors Kyle Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing entry in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series a deal that expires after next season, yet it appears that Target will honor the contract through the end of next year.
With Target now out of the picture for CGR in terms of its 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series plans, the question is now how the loss of both Target and its multitude of secondary brands that often held one race sponsorship deals in recent years, may affect the driver lineup Ganassi and team manager Mike Hull send out for next season. Ganassi announced late on Wednesday that the team is hopeful of announcing a new sponsorship partner within sixty days and that despite the loss of Target’s backing, the squad still plans to enter four cars full-time in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series.
While this appears to be a minor bump for a power team in the sport like Ganassi has proven to be over the past two decades, the announcement by Target on Wednesday could have inadvertently signaled the start of the 2017 IndyCar Silly Season or at least an inkling that it is close at hand.
Stay tuned to OnPitRoad.com for further information on this developing story as it becomes available.