Story By: JEFF OLSON / INDYCAR – INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Once upon a time, a young Chip Ganassi walked into a PNC Bank branch in Pittsburgh and opened his first checking account. It’s only fitting, then, that one of his race cars will carry PNC’s logo and colors in 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series competition.
Ganassi and Scott Dixon helped pull the cover back on the orange and blue No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda during a ceremony this morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum announcing the partnership and revealing the car’s new livery. For Ganassi, it was an especially memorable experience.
“I opened my first checking account with PNC when I was a youngster in Pittsburgh,” Ganassi said. “I’ve had a great relationship over many years. I’ve watched PNC develop over the years from a Pittsburgh bank to a world-class financial institution. I couldn’t be more proud to be associated with a world-class institution like PNC and pair them up with a world-class driver like Scott Dixon.”
Primary sponsorship for Dixon’s car had been a question for Ganassi’s team since Target decided to leave its INDYCAR operation at the end of the 2016 season. PNC, which had been involved with the team as an associate sponsor since 2014, stepped forward to serve as a full-season primary sponsor.
PNC has a presence in eight of the 15 markets the Verizon IndyCar Series will visit in 2018, including Indianapolis. Dixon, who lives in Indianapolis, has been involved in the company’s Grow Up Great program, which assists families, educators and communities to enhance children’s learning and development, particularly in underserved communities.
“Emma (Dixon’s wife) and my family are a very big part of the Indianapolis community, and I think it’s very important to have those ties,” said Dixon, the four-time series champion who sits fourth on the all-time wins list with 41. “For us, with a brand like this, it’s definitely going to be very exciting to have feet on the ground and be able to do that. It’s a big demographic for both brands.”
The news was one of several recent sponsorship announcements and livery unveilings by Verizon IndyCar Series teams in recent days. Ganassi gives credit for the resurgence to Hulman & Company President and CEO Mark Miles and INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Jay Frye.
“You’ve seen a flurry of announcements in the last week or so,” Ganassi said. “People are displaying their new liveries. You’re hearing about a lot of new sponsorships and new involvements from many teams. That just sort of tells the backstory of what Mark and his team and Jay have been doing.”
When young Ganassi opened his first account in Pittsburgh – he reckons he was 10 or 12 years old at the time – PNC was a local bank. Since then, it has become a global institution with more than 2,500 branches in the United States.
Just as PNC has grown, so has its partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing.
“Our past relationship had largely been around activating our corporate client relationship at events around races where we would bring in clients,” said Bill Demchak, chairman, president and CEO of PNC. “It was incredible what we found in terms of just the interest in Indy. When you find a true car enthusiast and you take them to a very specialized event right here in town in Indy, you have a client for life.”
“This new opportunity activates our brand on the retail side in addition to the corporate side. Eight of these races are inside of our major markets, so we’ll be activating this through our employees in our branches, create excitement around the towns where the races will be. We’re excited by the opportunities and we’re excited by the build in the INDYCAR brand.
“The idea of expanding (the partnership) for a fifth year as Scott drives towards his fifth series championship just seemed to make a lot of sense for us.”
Dixon and Ganassi are fresh from another milestone – the team’s 200th overall victory Jan. 28 at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“For us, it’s a very good team-building exercise,” Dixon said. “There’s a lot of crossover between the three categories that Chip’s running in (INDYCAR, sports cars and NASCAR). But for me, I just love to drive. The 24 hours (at Daytona) is definitely a great example of that. More importantly, it starts the winning trend. It’s a great way to start the season.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series season begins March 11 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (12:30 p.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). First, Dixon will join 22 other drivers for two days of open testing on Friday and Saturday at IMS Raceway near Phoenix (live stream on racecontrol.indycar.com).
For one of the series’ most prominent competitors, the future just got better with today’s sponsorship announcement.
“It’s going to be a big year,” Dixon said. “A big year for us and a big year for INDYCAR.”