Tag: Chip Ganassi Racing

The Road Course Ringer Myth

There’s this myth that comes around NASCAR twice a year during the Cup Series schedule. That myth is if you get yourself a “road course ringer,” you’ll have instant success in the race. Well that’s not been the case more often than not and it’s actually surprising to me that this is still a thing.

Working against the road course specialist is how the Cup Series is structured now with 36 charters in play. Because of this guaranteed spot, it’s harder than ever for good and competitive rides to be open and available for someone to jump in once or twice in a given year. Usually the driver of the car is too tied to the sponsor that they cannot step away, or they might be in the thick of the championship battle. Continue reading “The Road Course Ringer Myth”

Kauffman, Bowyer Set For New NASCAR Life

News broke Wednesday that Rob Kauffman, majority owner of Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR), was closing in on purchasing Felix Sabates’ stake in Chip Ganassi Racing. (CGR)This will be a duel commentary post taking a look at Kauffman and driver Clint Bowyer’s potential revitalization.

When Kauffman bought into MWR in October 2007 it was assumed an influx of cash might help the organization get back on its feet, or at least get some traction. The process was slow and painful, but in time they did get there. Clint Bowyer finished second in the standings in 2012 with three victories in the season, just about half of the total in the organization’s history.

Then there was the 2013 Richmond Spingate that nearly crushed the organization and probably planted the bug in Kauffman’s ear about greener pastures elsewhere. The team has been average, at best, the past two seasons. The bright spot of the team is the charismatic and funny Bowyer, but he is in essence wasting away during the prime of his career.

If the plan comes to fruition, Kauffman buying into Chip Ganassi Racing, that could be the best thing that ever happened to not only Kauffman or Bowyer, but the sponsors that could be loyal to them and the Ganassi organization. Currently CGR has veteran Jamie McMurray who has quietly been having a solid season in the #1 car and second year man Kyle Larson, who is down in points, but has a very high ceiling given his talent. Pairing Bowyer with those two drivers will help make Bowyer a better driver, rather than comparing notes with a rotating door of drivers that he’s dealt with for most of his time at MWR.

The Ganassi team is on the cusp of getting over the preverbal hump, already having alliances with Hendrick Motorsports, and I would presume Kauffman would bring money to the table for the team to not only expand to three cars, but also invest into more R&D projects.

Not to mention how perfect of a match it could be for Kauffman and his road racing background to be paired with one of the best road racing owners in the business. That could open avenues in other areas of motorsports for the pair, something Kauffman tried to do with Waltrip, but again, he’s Waltrip and he likes to goo things up.

My only hope with Waltrip still owning a team was maybe one day he’d be forced off the airways to either concentrate on his team, or remove the obvious conflict of interest he has each week, but it seems that Kauffman will remove that question from Waltrip. So while I like the move for Kauffman and Bowyer, I dislike it because we’re almost guaranteed more Waltrip on TV. Oh…boy.

All Signs Point To 2015 As Do Or Die For Kahne

Today it was announced that Farmers Insurance would continue to sponsor the #5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports through the 2017. In the release it also says fans can help design the 2015 car Kasey Kahne will drive. What it lacks is language that indicate Kahne will be the driver for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Continue reading “All Signs Point To 2015 As Do Or Die For Kahne”

Excitement Builds At Earnhardt Ganassi Racing

Photo- Getty Images
Photo- Getty Images

For the first time in a very long time there is excitement building inside the walls at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. After years of mediocrity, the tide is turning for the organization for the better and Sunday’s win by Jamie McMurray just put a punctuation mark on it.

“Winning, it’s not just about me; it’s about everybody within our whole group.  You know, probably more so the 1 guys because they’re the ones that are in victory lane.  But it’s so cool to see their faces in victory lane and know that when we go to Martinsville, you have confidence, everybody does.  It’s so big for us because Martinsville    to me plate tracks are probably my best tracks, and Martinsville is probably my next best.  I love getting to go there,” said McMurray after the win Sunday.

This is a great place to be able to win at to take not only my confidence but everybody else within our group to that track where I feel we’ll run really well at. McMurray and teammate Juan Pablo Montoya have been running better than they have in the past few years. Prior to the win McMurray finished second at Kentucky and Montoya finished second at Dover. Other races they have been in contention, but one thing or another whipped out a good finish. McMurray has posted four top-5 finishes and eight top-10 finishes, which is more than 2011 and 2012 combined. Montoya has posted four top-5 finishes as well, better than 2011 and 2012 combined. His seven top-10 finishes is just shy of the eight he posted in 2011, in 2012 he had two all season.

Montoya is on his way out after the conclusion of this season, but momentum will continue because replacing him is highly touted rookie Kyle Larson. Larson, who will make his second Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Martinsville, was running in the top-15 during his debut at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. While he hasn’t collected any wins during his first season in the Nationwide Series, Larson has shown he has the skill set to get the job done.

“You know, my first indication (Larson is a special talent) was at Daytona this year.  I remember watching him in the race, hearing all the time how special he is, how special he is.  He’s running around the Nationwide race 14th or 12th.  I thought, What the hell is so special about this kid?  Sure enough, at the finish line, he was right there.  Of course, he was here and there at the finish line at Daytona this year, I should say.  Be that as it may, that to me was special.  I’ve seen that five or six, eight times now.  He gives you the impression he’s dilly-dallying in the middle of the pack, not paying attention.  Always at the end he’s where it seems to matter to be.  That says something to me,” said team co-owner Chip Ganassi.

Coming to Martinsville this weekend, McMurray will look to prove he’s not just a restrictor plate winner. While he has no wins at the paperclip shaped facility, he does have a second place finish in in 2004. Montoya will look to close his NASCAR career (potentially) on a high note by getting his first oval win at the tough track.

The Goody’s Headache Powder 500 gets under way at 2 PM EST and can be seen on ESPN.

The Time Is Right For The Return Of Number 3

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There is nothing official for the 2014 season, but all reports indicate that Austin Dillon will be driving a number 3 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This would be the first time that the number has run since Dale Earnhardt died in a last lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500.

The mere idea of Dillon running the number has been met with mixed responses from fans. One half say it’s time enough for the numbers return, the other half are opposed to the idea of using the number. In my opinion, it’s time to bring the number back.

The shock of Earnhardt’s death made it natural for owner Richard Childress to go in another direction for the rest of that year. Coping with a driver’s death is done in different ways by teams.

When Davey Allison died in July of 1993, team owner Robert Yates decided to skip the next race, but keep the #28 on the car. This came at the urging of Allison’s family. The same was done when Alan Kulwicki died earlier in the same year. Kulwicki was also the team owner, so the team was looked after by Felix Sabates until a buyer could be found, but also kept Kulwicki’s #7 on the car.

In 2000, Sabates was unfortunately put in the position once again as the direct team owner. Kenny Irwin, Jr. died during a practice crash at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The Sabates owned team withdrew from that race and the next week had re-branded the car from #42 to #01. It wasn’t until 2003 did the #42 reappear, which came after Chip Ganassi bought a majority stake in Sabates’ team.

Petty Enterprises had to endure the same situation as Sabates when Nationwide Series driver Adam Petty also died a practice crash at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The team did not change the number, 45, but rather team owner Kyle Petty (also Adam’s father) decided that only he would be the only driver of a car with a number 45 on it. That was the case from then until the tail end of Petty’s career in 2007 and 2008 when he had Chad McCumbee fill in for some races.

It all comes down to how a team can cope with something that might be a constant reminder of a fallen teammate. For Childress and his team, the scar was large and painful for a very long time after not only losing a teammate, but a dear friend.

In Dillon, they have a driver who grew up with the number (Dillon is Childress’ grandson) and understand what it means to his father and fans. While he’s not Dale Earnhardt, Dillon will represent the number with respect and I think having a #3 back on the track will do a lot for fans to finally be able to get over the loss of a legend.

Could We See Larson In The 42 This Year?

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The biggest question raised after Monday’s announcement that Juan Pablo Montoya would be going back to the Izod IndyCar series in 2014 is will this open the door to seeing Kyle Larson in the car before the close of the season.

The first reason this would make sense is that Montoya isn’t in the Chase, so it’s not like he’s going for the championship, it’s mainly just wins from here on out. While the team has been fast, I don’t see them getting any wins in the final nine races.

A second reason is the rivalry between Chip Ganassi (co-owner Earnhardt Ganassi Racing) and Roger Penske (owner Team Penske) could be one where Ganassi could be furious that is where Montoya is going. Instead of keeping him around where maybe he gather information to give Penske, he could cut him loose early.

A third reason is this way both organizations can focus their efforts on 2014. Montoya can begin to re-acclimate himself to IndyCar and Ganassi can bring up rookie Kyle Larson to get some races under his belt. Penske might not have a team in place for Montoya yet, but Larson could begin to work with the crew he’ll work with starting at Daytona next February.

I think a move like this could benefit both sides, but most likely would take place after this weekend’s activates at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This weekend the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series are not racing at the same location, so logistically it would make sense to not start Larson until the week after.

Too Fast, Too Soon?

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During the offseason Joey Logano looked back at his career and admitted what some people were thinking. Maybe going into Sprint Cup racing at age 19 was not the best decision, but it was not one he regrets. While I was unable to talk to Joey specifically about his comments, I was able to catch up with David Ragan, Blake Koch, and Kyle Larson to get their opinion on their experience rising through the ranks.

David Ragan was relatively unknown, running a handful of NASCAR Camping World and Nationwide Series races. Then at age 21, he was named the driver of the #6 Ford for Roush Racing. If that was not intimidating enough, add in that he was replacing a legend in that ride, Mark Martin.

Was it too fast of an ascension for him?

“I was definitely not ready for a full-time Cup series ride. The previous series I ran full-time in before was legends car series in 2002,” says Ragan. “I was fast enough to go fast, but not mature enough to finish these 500/600 mile races and to race for points over the course of a year.”  The greatest factor maturity plays in racing is the ability to race for points, because, like we all know, it is the points that crown you champion of the series at the end of the season. So where it is important to drive fast to win a race, it is equally important to have consistency to win race after race, which is where mature focus comes in.

There are a couple of ways to reach that level of maturity before racing Sprint Cup fulltime. Ragan states, “Looking back I would definitely change things: run Trucks for a couple of years, Nationwide for a year and learn how to points race; learn how to race at these tracks.” He brings up a good point that having more experience working as a team and racing on the same tracks is what allows a driver to gain confidence while maintaining a stable and mature nature on the track. As each track differs from the next, it is important to understand the ins and outs of each for successful preparation that allows the team to gain points, not just win.

When we were young, we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. As adults, some of us adjusted our dreams to be realistic, but for a select few their dreams came true. Now despite your age, would you ever turn down the opportunity to live your dream? Majority vote is no. “In this day and age when you’re given an opportunity, you can’t look back; you have to make the best of it. It was tough for a couple of years,” comments Ragan.

Lately in NASCAR, there have been less and less of those opportunities for new, young drivers, teams, and manufacturers to enter the scene. Ragan explains, “With the current structure of the Sprint Cup Series and the economy the way it is, it isn’t really acceptable to new teams, drivers, and owners. You see a lot of drivers staying for 10-15 years, and there’s only a couple of rides open each year. If you don’t cut the grade soon, you’re usually left behind.” With this small window of opportunity, it makes sense why young drivers would not decline an offer even if they feel they are not ready.

Blake Koch took a different path to NASCAR. He started out racing motocross, but after some injuries decided that it was not for him. “I stopped and went to college. My step-dad bought me a car for a local track. I tried it out and fell in love with it.” In 2008 he placed a series of calls to different teams about getting on their developmental programs. One team listened: Richard Childress Racing.

Koch went through a handful of starts before getting a full-time Nationwide Series ride in 2011. Then part-way through 2012, he lost ride. That put Koch in a precarious position of what he wanted to do. He could continue to chase his dream, or give up for a regular job away from racing. He decided to plug on. “I had the opportunity to do a start and park car, and I said ‘no, I don’t want to do it. It is too early in my career, I don’t want to be labeled as a start and park driver.’ Then two weeks later when my mortgage was due, I realized it was something I might have to do.”

That was not all he was doing those weekends, “sometimes I was driving Trevor Bayne’s motorhome, starting and parking a truck, and doing some spotting on the Cup side,” stated Koch. That perseverance has paid off with a full-time ride with SR2 Motorsports this year.

Previous experience with former development drivers might be working into the fortunes of Kyle Larson. He is a developmental driver for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, has spent 2013 driving for Turner-Scott Motorsports in the Nationwide Series. ”You can’t turn down opportunities like that (driving for EGR/TSM), but Chip Ganassi (team owner) won’t move me up if I’m not ready. I’m just going to try to do the best I can and learn as much as I can to try and be prepared if he throws me in a Cup car,” said Larson.

That call came Friday when Ganassi announced Larson as the new driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet. Both Ganassi and Larson sounded ok with dealing with the growing pains that will come. “I think Kyle is the kind of driver, when he sees an opportunity in front of him, he takes it.  If that means it’s a win, hey, great.  There’s no pressure for him to win his first year out,” said Ganassi Friday.

Larson even had a little bit of time to reflect on going from K&N East Series champion to Sprint Cup Series regular in under two years. “It’s definitely been quite a whirlwind.  I was walking over here saying a year ago today I was making my second Truck start.  It’s been a really quick road.  But I feel like I’ve done okay with it and learned quite a bit. As far as next year goes, I know I’ll have to focus more on the Sprint Cup stuff.  I understand it’s probably going to be the toughest step in my whole career.  I’m going to have to dedicate a lot of time to it and grow as a driver, do a great job for Target, for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and make everybody there happy.”

Hindsight is 20/20, but as David Ragan said, “given an opportunity you can’t look back, you have to make the best of it, and it makes you stronger in the long run.” No matter the path a driver takes to NASCAR, they have to be willing to take chances on and off the track. If it is getting into a series before they’re ready, then they will do that.

Hindsight is 20/20, but as David Ragan said, “given an opportunity you can’t look back, you have to make the best of it, and it makes you stronger in the long run.” No matter the path a driver takes to NASCAR, they have to be willing to take chances on and off the track. If it is getting into a series before they’re ready, then they will do that.