NASCAR owner Chip Ganassi keeps ‘peeling the onion’

Team owner Chip Ganassi (left) and driver Kyle Larson, shown at Daytona in 2015, have formed a potent duo so far this season.
Team owner Chip Ganassi (left) and driver Kyle Larson, shown at Daytona in 2015, have formed a potent duo so far this season. AP

Kyle Larson’s victory Sunday in the Auto Club 400 at Fontana, Calif., only furthered what’s been a strong start to the NASCAR Cup season for the young driver from California.

Larson’s triumph followed three consecutive second-place finishes and puts Chip Ganassi Racing in the enviable postion of having two drivers in the top six of NASCAR’s points standings: Larson is first and Jamie McMurray, who was also sixth Sunday, is sixth.

Team owner Chip Ganassi spoke with reporters after Sunday’s race:

Q. What’s been the key to the success so far?

A. You know, it's just a culmination of a lot of hard work. Everybody said, What is it this year? Why are your cars good? Why this, why that?

I keep saying, in this business, it doesn't take much. It doesn't take much to be good. It doesn't take much to be bad. Just made some small changes over the winter in our organization. We tried to look at places that need improvements and we make improvements.

Little changes, like I said, can take you to the Promised Land. They can take you to the Day of Reckoning, too. Every team owner wants their cars, you know, to be like this on the track, not one in the front, one in the back. That's really rewarding from a team point of view.

Q. And Kyle has had a lot to do with that, right?

A. I think obviously a lot of it's down to Kyle. I think he's starting to mature in the series and learning what the cars will accept and what the cars won't accept in terms of putting a weekend together, putting together practice, putting together qualifying, put together race practice, a race, pit stop after pit stop after pit stop, keeping your head in the game. I think he's matured a lot in that manner.

Q. Was there ever a point that you thought Kyle wouldn’t get it?

A. No, I don't think so. I was talking to someone about how everybody wants to compare these drivers coming up to Jeff (Gordon) or to Tony (Stewart) or this guy, that guy, whoever they want to compare to. They always say, Well, Jimmie Johnson only won one Xfinity race. Everybody has these sort of one-liners that there's no answer to. They want to compare everybody.

I think today you have to look at these guys coming into the sport, you have to look in their totality. You have to look at their situation. You’ve got to look at who the team is, who's working on the car, who's engineering the cars, who's doing the pit stops. It's not just the automatically coming in and 100 races later you're winning races on a regular basis. I just think it takes a little more education than that today.

You have to peel a little more of the onion back to get to that kind of analysis today. You have to look more in the totality of the whole situation, these young guys come in. It's a big onion these days, getting bigger.

Q. How would you compare your two guys with other teams’?

A. With Jamie, he's proven himself at Daytona, the Brickyard, those kind of races. I think with Kyle, I don't think anybody knows. I think the runway, you know, he's got a lot of runway. We don't have the engine spooled up yet. I think he's just scratching the surface in terms of what he's capable of.  I have no idea what he's capable of. I mean, your guess is as good as mine.