Team Preview: Chip Ganassi Racing
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin on February 6, 2014 | 2:45 P.M. EST
Chip Ganassi Racing looks towards the future with the addition of rookie Kyle Larson to join Jamie McMurray. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has undergone a number of changes in the last decade - from drivers, personnel and manufacturers to the engine department. Now, the team is looking to build its future with more change as they bring in some new faces to the team that include rookie Kyle Larson.
Larson, who has been praised by the likes of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart as one of the best up-and-coming talents, will team with Jamie McMurray for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
"He's (Kyle) a very special racecar driver," said Felix Sabates. "He's used to driving anything that you can put him in. I think he will be ... better than all the other rookies coming to the series. I want to say that so I can put some pressure on him."
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
Drivers: Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet) and Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet)
Crew Chiefs: Keith Rodden (McMurray) and Chris Heroy (Larson)
3 - Races Rodden served as crew chief as a replacement for Kenny Francis in 2007 at Evernham Motorsports.
58 - Larson will become the 58th driver to race for Chip Ganassi Racing among all the series the team competes in.
85 - The number of points McMurray has scored in the last two restrictor-plate races, the most of any driver.
What’s New: Along with a new name (dropping Earnhardt) and the addition of Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates is changing up some members on the No. 1 team ... including bringing in Rodden as crew chief. He comes to CGR from Hendrick Motorsports, where he served as a lead engineer on Kasey Kahne's No. 5 team.
What They’re Saying
McMurray: "Quite a few changes to the '1' car this year, a lot of new crew guys, new engineer, a new car chief and a new crew chief. The transition to Keith coming in has gone better than what I expected. He’s really fit into our shop. One of the best parts of Keith coming in is that he already somewhat understood the simulation program we had. So there’s all good stuff on that side."
Larson: "I’ve been a rookie a lot and I never really thought it was that great of an award (Rookie of the Year). But this year, since I'm going up against drivers like Austin Dillon - who's won a Truck Series championship and then the Nationwide championship last year, that makes it more special to me. So it will mean that much more than it has in the past to win this thing and hopefully, we can pull it off."
Keys To Season
McMurray was able to score one win and finish 15th in points last season - the first with Hendrick engines, knowing at the end of the year he was going have a new crew chief and a new teammate. A proven winner, McMurray will now play the veteran role on the team to keep the momentum rolling and help Kyle Larson in his first season in Cup. The last time McMurray had a crew chief change was in 2010 and it turned out to be his best season based on wins, with three. The new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format could play right into CGR's hands with McMurray looking to make his first career post-season run and a hungry Larson, who is not afraid to get up on the wheel. With new crew members and drivers, it's time for the team to start building continuity for the long run.
With the extra horsepower in the Cup cars, watch out for Larson on the 1.5-mile and 2-mile tracks, where he can search around for grip similar to dirt-track racing, where he's had success. The older track surfaces like Atlanta Motor Speedway could benefit Larson, too, as he won on one of the roughest sufaces in the Camping World Truck Series at Rockingham Speedway. The restrictor-plate tracks could be key for McMurray as four of his seven career wins have come on those types of tracks, including his last at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2013.