Team Preview: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing

Earnhardt Ganassi

Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray went winless last year and wound up 21st and 27th, respectively, in the final Sprint Cup Series point standings. (Photo: Getty Images)

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MotorRacingNetwork.com counts down to the start of the NASCAR portion of Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway with a series of team previews. Next up is a look at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.

After a disappointing 2011, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates looks to turn things around from what team owner Chip Ganassi called a "pathetic" season.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray went winless last year and wound up 21st and 27th, respectively, in the final Sprint Cup Series point standings. The disappointing year prompted Ganassi to make a number of changes in the offseason that included naming Chris Heroy as Montoya's crew chief and Max Jones as head of competition. Last fall, John Probst also joined the team as technical director.

Montoya is optimistic about the chance to improve on last year’s performance for the No. 42 Chevrolet team and was encouraged by what he saw during the team’s offseason testing program.

Earnhardt Ganassi"Last year we were, by race 10, like eighth in points," Montoya said. "May for us was terrible and I think there were a lot of distractions and the team just headed the wrong way. I think Chip really handled everything well. He hires a bunch of great people. I'm excited about this year. Everyone is working well together and you can see the changes, so I can't wait to get to the racetrack."

After winning three races in 2010 including the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400, McMurray and the No. 1 Chevrolet group suffered through a disappointing follow-up campaign.

"Honestly, when you have a season like that it makes you appreciate what you had in 2010," McMurray said. "I sat here and was so excited about getting the season going because we ended running so well. Our season started out OK and slowly got worse. Chip has made a lot of big changes and brought a lot of new people in. I think our excitement comes from the changes we have seen. I don't know if it's going to be immediate, but they have made a lot of change to our cars."

Kevin "Bono" Manion will be back as the crew chief for McMurray and the pair will look to regain the magic from 2010.

"I feel fortunate to still be part of the team," Manion said. "There were a lot of changes. It seems like yesterday that we had a great season in 2010. Hopefully, that was part of his decision to keep me on. Everyone has a resume and credentials and they speak for themselves. Through the years myself, and the teams I have been associated with, have wins and championships so that's good news."

Heading into 2012, Earnhardt Ganassi has all of its primary sponsorship spots sold and will see its core partners - Target, Bass Pro Shops and McDonald's - return along with a number of new sponsors on McMurray's car.

Banana BoatMontoya will be backed by Target for the fourth consecutive season. Clorox, Energizer, Huggies and Degree for Men will also be the primary sponsor on the No. 42 with the first coming with Clorox at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

McMurray, who will return with Bass Pro Shops and McDonald's, will debut three new primary sponsors with Belkin (Martinsville - April), Banana Boat (Pocono - June) and Liftmaster (New Hampshire - Sept.).

With sponsors and new personnel now in place, Earnhardt Ganassi hopes to rebound and be much more competitive in the coming season.

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