It’s been a rough journey since Dale Earnhardt Incorporated merged with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in 2009. The team has recorded just four wins, each of which came during the 2010 season including the illusive Daytona 500.
During the 2012 season, the two-car team consisting of Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya struggled mightily. Combined, the two drivers had just five top-1o’s and neither of them finished inside of the top-20 in points for the second year in a row. Throughout the season, it seemed like the teammates were next to each other at every race and it was basically like that.
The Daytona 500 was just horrific for the team. First, Montoya slammed into a jet dryer which caused a gigantic explosion. Then, McMurray was involved in an accident on lap 188. The season actually seemed bright for a few weeks after McMurray had back-to-back top-10’s at Las Vegas and Bristol. However, their struggles continued as neither of the drivers were able to run inside of the top-15 on a consistent basis which simply destroyed their hopes at being competitive.
With Bass Pro Shops moving over to Stewart/Haas Racing, the team is hoping that their secondary sponsors will step up to become primary sponsors for multiple races. LiftMaster will sponsor McMurray in the Daytona 500 with McDonald’s stepping up their primary sponsor schedule by adding an undetermined amount of races. Banana Boat and Belkin are each expected to extend their sponsorship considering that McMurray gave each a decent amount of exposure for the races which they were involved within. Kevin Manion will continue to be the crew chief on the No. 1 car with hopes of competing for race wins once again.
Not much will change for Montoya’s team. Chris Heroy will remain as his crew chief, but will remain on the hot seat if the team has results similar to what they did in 2012.
The largest change for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will be their engine combination. Since the merger in 2009, the team has used Earnhardt-Childress Racing engines. However, in 2013 things will change quite a bit under the hood. The team will be purchasing engines from Hendrick Motorsports which they hope can give them an edge with the Generation Six stock car.
McMurray’s contract runs up at the end of the season which could mean he will be on the move even though it would be unlikely if he doesn’t win a few races. Montoya has nothing to worry about since he has been with the team since he entered NASCAR and has a long-term contract with the team. Both drivers must perform in 2013 and it can happen considering all of the changes that Chip Ganassi has made over the off-season.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.