Zanardi gifted with Ganassi car from Laguna Seca race in 1996

Chip Ganassi handed Alex Zanardi the keys of the car he won the 1996 CART race in at Laguna Seca in, in an emotional ceremony at Indianapolis.

Zanardi gifted with Ganassi car from Laguna Seca race in 1996

Indianapolis, Ind. – In a special ceremony at the Yard of Bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Chip Ganassi presented Alex Zanardi with the Reynard 961/Honda that Zanardi drove to victory in the CART race at Mazda Raceway in Laguna Seca in September 1996. In that legendary race, Zanardi passed Bryan Herta in the famed “Corkscrew” turn on the last lap for the famous victory in the car.

Zanardi won CART championships for the Ganassi team in 1997 and 1998, but suffered severe injuries in a crash in Germany in 2001. The injuries resulted in the amputation of both legs above the knee. Zanardi resumed his racing career not long ago in touring cars and also won a gold medal in the hand cycling men’s road time trials in the Paralympic Games in London a year ago.

Said Ganassi in making the surprise presentation, “I’m happy to have Alex and his team as special guests of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. (Jimmy) Vasser and Alex were the foundation of Chip Ganassi Racing. Nothing that Alex has done has surprised anybody. There is no one like Alex – the mold was broken when he was born. We never had him in a race car at Indianapolis, but his pass at Laguna Seca will never be forgotten.”

In an emotional response, Zanardi said, “It is really difficult to put it into words. I’m lucky to have had a long career with many highlights, along with two championships we won with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, which were, for sure, amazing accomplishments. Laguna Seca was probably the most emotional win for me and the one that changed my life. If I had not tried that move, who knows what my race career would have been. The perception by many is that after that day, I was a different guy. I won a lot of fans that day and caused some controversy, but that is what keeps us alive, and I was definitely alive that day.”

Zanardi will have the bright red car shipped to Italy. The car was dubbed “Midnight,” as so many late-night hours had been poured into the car to prepare it for racing.

Alex Zanardi returns to Indianapolis
Alex Zanardi returns to Indianapolis

Photo by: Jay Alley

Thinking about whether he could compete at Indianapolis today, Zanardi said, “Technically speak, I would say yes to the possibility of racing at Indianapolis. A lot of good drivers would die for the opportunity to drive for a great team that Chip runs, but I want to state it clearly, Chip doesn’t need Alex Zanardi to have a competitive event. For me, I know it is possible but at my age, you don’t have the capability to keep the right focus throughout the season that you have in your 20s. You have other things to think about.

“Why I have been successful in cycling is not because it is easy, but because I have the time. Racing at Indianapolis would not be easy to organize, but I believe I am very passionate for the sport and have the capacity to steer the wheel. If the right opportunity would arise, I would have to be curious about it and look at it. Indianapolis was not my dream from childhood because my dream was to race a red car (Ferrari) in Imola and pass Jody Scheckter, who was hero as a boy, in the last corner of the last lap.”

The glib Zanardi went on to say he had his day in the sun in a red car but it was a Ganassi car not a F1 car. “Chip changed my life and is a close friend of mine, a friendship that will last forever.”

Zanardi basked in the spotlight throughout the day and gauging by the hordes of fans and media that gathered around him, he’s as popular today as he was years ago.

shares
comments
The Indianapolis 500: iconic is more than a word

Previous article

The Indianapolis 500: iconic is more than a word

Next article

Pagenaud leads final practice, Castroneves' crew wins pit stop contest

Pagenaud leads final practice, Castroneves' crew wins pit stop contest
Load comments
IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch Prime

IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch

The 2021 IndyCar silly season is one of the silliest of all, but it’s satisfying to see so many talented drivers in play – including Callum Ilott. David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Sep 11, 2021
IndyCar young guns are great, but the elders aren’t done yet Prime

IndyCar young guns are great, but the elders aren’t done yet

The ace 20-somethings in IndyCar have risen to become title contenders, but the best of the series veterans are digging deep and responding – and will continue to do so over the next couple of years, says David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Aug 20, 2021
The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career Prime

The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career

Emerson Fittipaldi’s decision to go racing with his brother led to him falling out of F1, but he bloomed again on the IndyCar scene. NIGEL ROEBUCK considers a career of two halves

Formula 1
Jul 31, 2021
The lasting legacy of a fallen Indy car rookie Prime

The lasting legacy of a fallen Indy car rookie

Jeff Krosnoff was plucked out of obscurity to become a respected and highly popular professional in Japan, and then got his big break in CART Indy car for 1996. But a tragic accident at Toronto 25 years ago cut short a promising career and curtailed his regular teammate Mauro Martini's passion for racing.

IndyCar
Jul 14, 2021
The winners and losers in IndyCar 2021 – Mid-season review Prime

The winners and losers in IndyCar 2021 – Mid-season review

At the halfway point in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season, we've had seven winners in eight races, spread between five teams – none of them Team Penske. In this unusual season, even by IndyCar standards, who’s excelling and who’s dragging their heels? David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Jun 18, 2021
The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness Prime

The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness

Long-awaited wins for ex-Formula 1 drivers Marcus Ericsson and Kevin Magnussen in IndyCar and IMSA last weekend gave F1 a reminder of what it is missing. But with the new rules aimed at levelling the playing field, there’s renewed optimism that more drivers can have a rewarding result when their day of days comes

Formula 1
Jun 17, 2021
Castroneves: How I kept it under control to make Indy 500 history Prime

Castroneves: How I kept it under control to make Indy 500 history

Helio Castroneves’ overwhelming vivaciousness outside the cockpit belies a hardcore racer who knows how to plot his moves – and then recall it all for us. A day after his fourth Indy 500 win, Helio explained his tactics to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Jun 2, 2021
How 'chess master' Castroneves cemented his Indy legend status Prime

How 'chess master' Castroneves cemented his Indy legend status

Helio Castroneves joined AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears with the most Indianapolis 500 wins after sweeping around the outside of Alex Palou on the penultimate lap in a thrilling climax. In one race, he validated Michael Shank's and Jim Meyer's faith in him, and Helio himself discovered there's life after Penske after all.

IndyCar
Jun 1, 2021