1974 CZ 250 - The Bike That Changed My Life

Rider: Chip Ganassi
Then: Wannabe motocrosser
Now: Indycar kingpin

"My first bike was a Honda Trail 90, and next I got an SL100. Then I got a green-tank Penton 125, which I raced a couple of times. After that I got a brand-new 1974 CZ 250, the very first red-framed one. I moved the shocks forward, put a Maico fork on it and a white-plastic Maico-style tank. Man, I was going for it then!

"In '75 my friend Bill Frank and I came out to Carlsbad for the USGP and to attend the Husky training center with Rolf Tibblin and Mark Blackwell. That was the year Rex Staten almost won on a CZ, and watching him had me pumped up. But riding there was kind of an eye-opener. It made me realize how much I needed to learn about the sport.

"For a guy from Pittsburgh, the California guys were miles ahead of us. They were racing lightweight Japanese bikes, whereas my CZ was from the previous era. It was a real transition time in motocross. The European bikes handled better but the Japanese bikes had much more squirt and were much lighter. In my class was a young California kid named Broc Glover, who went on to become national champion.

"When I got home I came together with a guy in mid-air and got knocked unconscious. That woke me up, and I took a year off from bikes. I started to get revved up about cars, and in June of '76 went to the Bondurant School. The CZ cost $1400 and you could buy a used Formula Ford for $3000-not that much more. It seemed like a natural step to go from a motorcycle to a formula car. I sold the CZ to a guy who's still involved in Indycar racing. That bike was my transition to car racing."

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