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PRUETT: Around the world and back to Sebring

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I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to Sebring, and for those among us who work in both open-wheel and sports car racing, the crater-filled 3.7-mile circuit often feels like a second home. Between constant pre- and post-season Indycar testing on Sebring’s short course – a loop made by turning right toward Turn 3 after cars exit Turn 13, and full-course sports car testing and racing on the 17-turn layout, it’s easy to make at least a half-dozen visits per year.

Thinking about the various TUDOR United SportsCar Championship entrants who’ll compete for the first time at the upcoming Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, it dawned on me that many of the current IndyCar teams that frequent the 1.7-mile short course have also taken part in the 12 Hour. Andretti Autosport (under the Andretti-Green Racing banner) competed with their Acura P2s, Penske Racing led Porsche’s P2 effort, Rahal Letterman Lanigan continues to run BMW’s GT Le Mans effort, and if we reach back a few decades, A.J. Foyt Racing has a rich history at the 12 Hour.

The one IndyCar team that stood out as a glaring omission from the list is Ganassi Racing, which prompted an exchange with managing director Mike Hull to dig through their testing data. Ganassi’s Grand-Am Rolex DP team won five championships before the series merged with the ALMS, but they’ve never raced at Sebring – in the 12 Hour or any other event. The amount of miles they’ve completed in Indy car testing on the short course, however, is nothing less than staggering.

“Based on what our engineers were able to pull up, since Ganassi Racing first started testing at Sebring in 1994, we’ve done just over 30,000 miles!” Hull said with a sense of awe.

If you want to put that in some form of context, Audi Sport Team Joest completed 364 laps on the way to winning the 12 Hour race last year. Based on that 1361-mile distance completed by Audi and the 30,000 miles the team has completed over the past 20 years on the short course, Ganassi’s Indy car team has run the equivalent of the 12 Hours of Sebring an incredible 22 times.

Target IndyCar 2002Kenny Brack in the Target Ganassi Lola at Sebring in 2002. (LAT archive photos)

Put another way, the circumference of the earth is approximately 24,900 miles: Tucked away at the far end of the track, away from cameras and public viewing, drivers like Dario Franchitti, Michael Andretti, Scott Dixon, Kenny Brack, Dan Wheldon and many others have helped Ganassi Racing to circle the globe in Indy car testing and tack on an extra 5000 miles or so for good measure.

“I was there for the first test in ’94 and you have to understand we’re process-oriented people,” said Hull. “We don’t think about stuff like that; we only thought about running that test on that day. We never thought about the fact that we’ve accumulated so many miles.

“[Ganassi NASCAR Sprint Cup driver] Kyle Larson and I were talking about this last night after I told him we researched how many miles we’d done, and he asked me how close it was to going around the world. I told him I figured it was close, and it’s pretty wild to know we’ve actually gone farther than that.”

 

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