- Associated Press - Thursday, May 10, 2012

Four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti will use the No. 50 for the Indianapolis 500 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of sponsor Target Corp.

Target and Chip Ganassi Racing have one of the longest running relationships in auto racing. The team was established in 1990, making this season the 23rd year of partnership between the organizations.

“It’s the most important relationship in my life, personally and professionally. It’s just way more than a sponsorship,” Ganassi said Thursday. “It’s obviously their 50th year in business, and I’ve been there almost half that time. It’s about racing for sure, but at the end of the day our relationship goes much deeper than just a sponsor-team relationship.

“It’s been my growth. As well as it fueling my business’ growth, it’s fueled my own personal growth even further.”

Franchitti, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who regularly uses No. 10, will have a new paint scheme that uses the trademark Target bullseye in place of the zero in his number.

Both Franchitti and teammate Scott Dixon will also have the bullseye on the chest of their firesuits for the entire month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Practice for the May 27 race begins Saturday.

For Target, the Ganassi relationship is the longest in company history. The next closest is the 12-year partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Target chairman Gregg Steinhafel called the Ganassi relationship “a true highlight of Target’s first 50 years in business.”

In January, Target brought Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dixon and Franchitti together for a two-day event in Minneapolis honoring their title runs. Vasser gave Ganassi his first championship in 1996, Zanardi added two more in `97-98, and Montoya made it four consecutive Ganassi titles in 1999.

Dixon started another four-year run for Ganassi in 2008, and Franchitti added the last three IndyCar championships to the reign.

Target chairman Gregg Steinhafel called the Ganassi relationship “a true highlight of Target’s first 50 years in business.”

With Target, Ganassi drivers have won 86 races and nine championships, including three Indianapolis 500 wins. In all forms of auto racing, the Target Racing Program has 95 wins in four different series.

The sponsorship landscape has changed dramatically since 2008, and almost every race team has been affected. Companies have pulled out and scaled back, forcing team owners to piece together sponsorship packages to keep their cars on the track.

Through it all, Ganassi and Target have been together.

“It’s a unique audience, and when you think of racing, you think fun and fast and friendly and modern and exciting _ those are all adjectives Target uses to describe itself,” said Dan Griffis, who spent almost 10 years with the Ganassi organization before moving to Target as director of events and strategic partnership.

“We like to say `expect more, pay less,’ and Chip falls fairly square on the `expect more’ part of our brand. You only turn 50 once, and for us to partner for the celebration with Chip, our longest standing partner, is very exciting.”

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