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Ganassi, Penske Revel In IndyCar ‘Seesaw Battle’

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FRANCHITTI

BALTIMORE (AP) — Two of IndyCar’s winningest team owners sat shoulder to shoulder Saturday at the Baltimore Grand Prix and offered an explanation for their success.

Chip Ganassi gave the credit to Roger Penske, who was quick to return the favor. Drivers from Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi are in the midst of a duel to claim the Izod IndyCar Series points title. Dario Franchitti of Ganassi’s team holds a 25-point lead over Will Power of Team Penske, and Scott Dixon (Ganassi) is only 75 points off the lead.

“To have a team that sets the bar like Roger’s team does make it possible for people like me to come along and challenge him,” Ganassi said. “He’s the guy that I wanted to model my team after.”

Penske noted that Ganassi drivers have won 21 races over the last three years compared to 20 for Team Penske.

“We’ve had a real seesaw battle here the last few years, but he knows how to close the deal,” Penske said. “We’ve not been able to do that for the last couple years.”

Penske lauded Ganassi for his ability to land Target, a key sponsor.

“To have a company like that in the sport for a long as it has makes a huge difference,” Penske said. “I think the continuity of the sponsor, you can commit to your drivers, your crew chiefs, your engineers. All that is important. He’s done the best job of that.”

The men respect each other, but it’s still a rivalry.

“I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that we have IndyCar racing today because of this guy sitting next to me,” Ganassi said. “Having said that, I do want to kick his (butt) every week on the track. I think the feeling is mutual.”

UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE: The best way to experience the feeling of driving 180 mph without getting behind the wheel is through a camera affectionately known in the business as The Big Mac. Six drivers at the Baltimore Grand Prix have cameras installed on their cars, which enables television viewers to share the view with the man behind the wheel.

The camera is the size of a double-decker hamburger, which explains the nickname. It’s one thing to see the cars buzzing around the track. It’s quite another to share the sensation of being in the seat for a hairpin turn between two concrete walls.

“I can’t afford a million-dollar car, so this is the closest I’m going to get,” says Peter Larsson, general manager of Broadcast Sports, Inc. “Before, race coverage was impersonal. Now you can see how a guy gets beat up in the driver’s seat and how fast you have to make decisions.”

Larsson runs the show, which requires four cranes and six miles of fiber optic cable.

“In the early days, something like this had a gee-whiz factor. Now it’s part of the bread and butter of the telecast,” said

Larsson, whose kingdom on race day includes 14 workers and a compound of several trailers containing dozens of TVs. The drivers with cameras in their cars Sunday are: Helio Castroneves, JR Heildebrand, Ryan Briscoe, Will Power, Mike Conway and Dario Franchitti. Their entire race will be recorded, and each will receive a DVD of their journey. “Our way of saying thanks,” Larsson said.

KANE WINS LE MANS: Steven Kane turned it around on Guy Smith to win the American Le Mans Series race Saturday. Smith gained the pole on Friday and Kane finished second, but the sequence was reversed in a thrilling race through the streets of Baltimore. Kane won the race by 6.961 seconds. Both are members of the Dyson Racing team.

Kane, of Northern Ireland, said Friday: “My last street race was in Monaco six years ago. It’s great to back on city streets.”

Evidently so. Kyle Marcelli finished third and Elton Julian took fourth.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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