On November 12, 2008, NASCAR welcomed it's newest member of the family... Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
Struggling car owners Teresa Earnhardt, Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates came together to start an all new, Chevrolet backed, four car team. The team is complete with three drivers, two full time sponsors, and now 110 less employees, after they were layed off after the merge.
No word yet on which team's shop will be used.
Martin Truex, Jr. signed a one year contract extension with the former Dale Earnhardt, Inc. early this year, and will continue to drive the #1 Bass Pro Shop's Chevrolet.
The #41 Target car also has full sponsorship, but with one race remaining in the 2008 season has yet to be named a driver. Regan Smith, Scott Riggs, and AJ Allmendinger are, according to Jayski, in the running for that ride.
Juan Pablo Montoya and his new #42 car will have sponsorship for nineteen races next season with Big Reg and other Wrigley products. The #8 of young Aric Almirola doesn't have a sponsor. In fact, no sponsor is really rumored to be going over there. It could be possible that Target will support that ride.
“In this ultra-competitive era of NASCAR, it is necessary to build and sustain the strongest team possible and our combining with the people and equipment at Dale Earnhardt Inc. will help create a strong four-car program for years to come,” said Chip Ganassi. “This is a win-win for both organizations as well as all of our partners.”
Dale Earnhardt, Inc. owner Teresa Earnhardt is hopeful for the newly merged teams.
“Having a partner like Chip who is heavily involved on the competition side of the business is an ideal situation for DEI,” she said. “He has a long history of managing championship teams in the IndyCar and Rolex Grand-Am Series and I share his passion and goals of winning races and ultimately championships in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. I think this is a case where we are stronger together than we are apart.”
Both teams have a lot of improvements to make. Neither team managed a win in 2008. DEI scored eight top fives- all coming from Truex, Jr., Mark Martin and Paul Menard had twenty four top tens and nine DNFs.
Ganassi's numbers aren't any better, if you can believe this, they're far worse. With their six drivers and three substitutes for an injured Dario Franchitti, the team scored a combined three top fives, five top tens and fourteen did not finishes.
The good news for both is that all the cars they will have next year are in the Top 35 in Owner's Points, guaranteeing them into at least the first six races of next season.
That, however, is about the only good news coming out of the merger. Regan Smith, along with several shop and crew members will be out of jobs. Sponsorship is scarce with the struggling economy and neither team is up to championship form.
I guess that's what the merger was for... right?
Thanks to Jayski, ESPN.com, Motorsports.com, Racing-Reference.com, and the USA Today for quotes, stats, and the information used in this piece.