CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Chip Ganassi is expanding into Global Rally Cross this season with a two-car team that includes 13-time X Games medalist Brian Deegan.
It will be the fourth major American motorsports series for the Ganassi organization. The successful team owner fields cars in IndyCar, NASCAR and the United SportsCar Championship, and has wins in every major American event from the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and Rolex 24 at Daytona.
GRC counts two-thirds of its fan base from the 18-to-29 demographic, which would make the average fan more than 10 years younger than those from other racing series.
''We are a team that relies solely on outside sponsorship, so we need to tap that, and hopefully it's a two-way street with that demographic and our sponsors,'' Ganassi said Wednesday. ''That's the youngest demographic of all motor racing series, and a demographic all series are trying to attract.
''We're trying to grow. All these series are not static. they are growing, shrinking and you never know which way they are going,'' he added. ''To some extent you are hoping to get on a wave. Once you get your surfboard stabilized on a wave, you can start to look at look at other waves.''
Ganassi, who attended last year's GRC finale at Las Vegas, said he found the series to be a lot like ''4-wheeled SuperCross.''
He said his organization also looked at SuperCross, which also attracts a younger demographic, but Ganassi didn't feel he had much to offer to motorcycle racing. But a four-wheeled series, he understands. And when he looked around the Las Vegas event, he liked the product.
''It's exciting racing, it's short, it's heat races held in good venues, the racing is close to the crowd,'' Ganassi said. ''I like that you can sit in one place and see the whole race. I like that it attracts younger people. That's what we need to be doing in motorsports - if we are going to attract a younger demographic to NASCAR and IndyCar, we need to first to understand the client. The best way to understand the client is to get involved.''
Ganassi will field two cars, one for Deegan and one for dirt champion Steve Arpin. Deegan will compete in seven races in the No. 38 RockStar Energy Drink Ford Fiesta ST. Arpin will run all 12 in the No. 00 ENEOS Ford Fiesta ST.
Both drivers will compete in the X Games in June.
Ganassi has also partnered with energy and construction company Loenbro, which serves clients throughout the Rocky Mountain region and beyond, in the GRC expansion. Founding brothers Paul and Jon Leach have longtime personal interest in motorsports.
''Loenbro is thrilled to partner with Chip Ganassi Racing and to do great things with Steve and Brian behind the wheel,'' said Paul Leach, the president. ''My brother and I have had a passion for racing since we were kids, and many Loenbro employees are big fans of the sport.''
The teams will be based out of the Concord, North Carolina, shop that houses Ganassi's NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series programs.
Ganassi president Steve Lauletta noted the organization has been ahead of the curve in courting a younger audience. The team fields cars for millennials Kyle Larson, and has Sage Karam and Dylan Kwasniewski in its driver development program.
They've utilized the trio in several ways to attract new fans, and last year threw a concert with singer Cassadee Pope in which invitations did not go out to the core racing fan, but to local millennials influential in social media.
''Chip has been one of the biggest and best innovators in the sport,'' Lauletta said. ''Whether it's the series, the teams, the companies, he's always been trying to figure out how to talk to this younger generation, how to get them to be race fans. Getting involved in GRC fits in as his challenge to us to always look ahead of the curve.''