Team Preview: Chip Ganassi Racing
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on February 5, 2016 | 10:54 A.M. EST
Chip Ganassi Racing With Felix Sabates goes into the 2016 season looking for more success. (Photo: Getty Images)
Chip Ganassi Racing With Felix Sabates goes into the 2016 season looking for more success.
The team put one of its drivers in the Chase last year when Jamie McMurray scored his first career berth in NASCAR’s "playoff" season. Second-year driver Kyle Larson failed to qualify for the Chase, leaving the organization much room for improvement heading into the new year.
"Making the Chase and winning a championship is what it’s all about," said co-owner Felix Sabates. "We ran OK last year with Jamie and Kyle was better as the season went on, but our goal is to get both guys into the Chase and a have a shot at winning the title."
McMurray was proud of his achievement in making the Chase last year. He had four top fives and 10 top-10 finishes, and believes there’s a solid foundation on which to build.
"My crew chief, Matt McCall, did a great job getting us prepared every week of the season. That relationship was a big part of our success," said McMurray. "This team is strong and I have no reason to believe we’ll be any less competitive than we were a year ago. The low-downforce rules package is going to be a challenge, but it’s the right way to go. The racing has a chance to be really good. We’ll be in the mix to win races, make the Chase again and run for the championship."
Larson enters his third year of Sprint Cup competition on the heels of what was considered by some to be a letdown. After winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2014, many expected Larson to take the next step and win a race while making the Chase. That didn’t happen, but there’s much optimism from Larson as he readies for the new season.
"My biggest issue was that the rule changes didn't work out for our team," he said. "In 2014, I thought the package suited our team well. We were always fast on the mile-and-a-half tracks. When NASCAR cut horsepower, it didn't suit my driving style.
"This year, with lower downforce, it'll suit my style. I wish we had a little more horsepower but we don't, so we've got to get the hang of it."
Larson will have a new crew chief with veteran Chad Johnston moving over from Stewart-Haas Racing to replace Chris Heroy.
"Kyle's soft-spoken and laid back, and that's my approach - to try and keep an even temperament, whether things are going good or bad," Johnston said. "Calmer heads will prevail. When you stay calm in tough situations, you think more rationally."
Larson has high hopes for his relationship with Johnston, who shares a similar background with the young driver.
"He raced dirt open-wheel cars in Indiana," Larson said. "Him working with "Smoke" (Tony Stewart) for the past couple seasons, Tony and I have similar driving styles. The way we communicate will probably be similar and I hope the transition goes well for both of us."
Motor Racing Network – "The Voice of NASCAR" – will have live coverage of the 58th Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 21, starting at 12 p.m. (ET) – with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.
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