As the offseason wore on and the economy and sponsors were the talk of bloggers, writers, drivers, and NASCAR top officials, many organizations were scrambling to secure sponsorship for 2009 and for some that meant mergers.
For Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing, this was exactly what occurred.The late Dale Earnhardt founded this company and left it to his wife, Teresa Earnhardt.
After a much publicized split from then DEI, Dale Earnhardt Jr. left in 2008 for Hendrick Motorsports.
DEI was left scrambling to fill the huge financial void Earnhardt left.
Let's fast forward to the offseason where Chip Ganassi and Teresa Earndhardt merged to save the two struggling organizations. The two became Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and ran three cars to start the season.
Soon after the season started, Aric Almirola's car was parked due to lack of sponsorship for the season. Since then, there have been reports that the famed eight car could be back on track before the year ends.
The two drivers that make EGR are Martin Truex Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya. Let’s take a look at where they are through the first trimester of the season.
Martin Truex Jr.
For Martin Truex Jr., the expectations to make the chase were sky high in 2008. He struggled to be competitive and failed to make the chase.
Coming into 2009, not only are the expectations high but this is a key year in Truex's career as he is in a contract year at EGR.
He started the year very strong with an 11thplace finish in the rain-shortened Daytona 500. But two consecutive finishes outside the top 20 saw him sitting 26th in points and searching for speed and consistency.
By the time they hit, Texas Truex was sitting in 28th place as a visibly frustrated team trying to find the missing piece, for the face of the organization.
Since Texas, he has had only two finishes in the top 10.That statistic alone gives you an idea of how the year has gone so far. He has had nine finishes outside the top 20.
The year started promising with the pole for the Daytona 500, but inconsistency has marred the season so far and with 13 races to go before the chase, they are sitting a disappointing 19th in the standings.
With the chase all but out of the picture for them once again, this team should be focusing on getting better for the remainder of this year.
Truex could be in another organization next year and if the rumors are true, that place could be a familiar face to the EGR organization: Michael Waltrip and his organization Michael Waltrip Racing.
With talk of Waltrip retiring at the end of 2009, Truex name has come in numerous reports of replacing the driver owner in No. 55.
The move would be a boost to a career that has stalled out at EGR.
Truex, an avid outdoors man, could persuade his sponsor Bass Pro Shops to leave EGR, which would be a major blow to that organization already struggling to secure sponsorship.
Truex would be the future of the organization who has found success in 2009 so far with David Reutimann.
For the first trimester, I give Truex a C+.
With two top 10 finishes and nine of the 13 races so far spent hovering in the mid 20's in points, he is going to have to get hot and quick if he wants any shot of making the chase.
It can be done but it’s a matter of if EGR has the equipment to do that, and that could be what decides his future.
Juan Pablo Montoya
For Juan Pablo Montoya, this is also a crucial year in NASCAR. No, it’s not a contract year for him but he has been driving in NASCAR top series for three years and has accumulated just one win, and five top five finishes. He also has 13 top 10 finishes.
His switch from Ganassi Chassis and Dodges to Chevy’s has been very seamless.
2009 started very well with two top 15 finishes, but like his teammate, saw consecutive finishes outside the top 20 that put him 21st in the standings at one point.
The team struggled with handling issues and bad luck. Now, the poor finishes have accumulated with a disappointing 30th place finish at Dover after he started in the top three.
Lack of consistency has hurt this team in the standings yet they stand as EGR's only chance to make the chase.
However, they too will need a lot of help and can only afford top 15 finishes if they want to be in the chase.
For Montoya, he has found recent success at the oval tracks this year and he is finding some speed and success with the new car every week.
Pit road mistakes and a team unable to adjust the car throughout the race has hurt them in quality finishes.
Montoya has shown that he will be a contender each week at the track but they need to learn to close the deal. Montoya's average finish is 17.2 in 2009 and has completed in 99.6 percent of the laps this season. However, he still sits 15th in the standings.
My first trimester grade for Montoya is a B-.
No, he hasn’t won a race so far in 2009, but I think with recent strong runs (not including Dover), Montoya has shown he is a threat.
EGR needs Montoya, with Truex in his contract year; the loss of Truex would be devastating for the organization struggling to find sponsorship.
Montoya appeal is large but sponsors are hesitant to put out money for single car organization, particularly those that aren’t running up front each week.
My overall grade for EGR so far is a C+. They have had strong runs where both these cars were strong throughout but watched a shot at victory all but end with pit road problems and late race accidents.
Note: Opinions expressed here of the writer only.