Team Preview: Chip Ganassi Racing

Ganassi

Chip Ganassi Racing put both of its Cup Series teams in last year's Chase and both Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray are eager to build on that heading into the 2017 season. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Chip Ganassi Racing put both of its Cup Series teams in last year's Chase and both drivers are eager to build on that heading into the 2017 season.

Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray are bound for Speedweeks, which opens just days from now at Daytona International Speedway. And both are bound to take this year's performance to the next level.

Kyle Larson"To be a championship team, you need to be better than everybody at everything," said Larson, who qualified for last year's post-season Chase as the No. 10 seed. "I could do a better job behind the wheel. Our pit calls could be better. I'm not saying all that's bad, but we could be a little bit better to gain lap time and improve our finishes."

Last season was a breakthrough year for Larson, 24, who notched his first Cup Series win at Michigan International Speedway. That earned him a post-season berth in his third full season in  NASCAR's top national series. Larson's title aspirations ended with first-round elimination following a 25th-place finish at Dover.

"I just want to win," said Larson, who finished ninth in the final point standings. "Getting my second win is just as important as wanting to win the first one. I'm going to do the best job I can every week and hopefully, that'll lead to more wins."

He's taking a wait-and-see attitude into the 2017 campaign regarding NASCAR's new race format.

"Everybody already races hard, so it's not like we're all going to suddenly step up," Larson said. "Qualifying is going to be more important, now, with points to be gained in that first stage. But I won't know how the style of racing is going to change until we get through the first month or month-and-a-half."

In addition to his victory at MIS last summer, Larson - the 2014 Rookie of the Year now entering his fourth season in the No. 42 CGR Chevrolet - posted 14 other top-10 finishes including second place to Jimmie Johnson in his most recent start, last year's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Teammate McMurray rode home in fifth place in that race in South Florida, which helped carry him to a 13th-place finish in the final Chase standings. The 2016 season was a good-news, bad-news proposition for McMurray and the No. 1 Chevrolet. They secured the 16th, and final, spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. However, they were eliminated from title contention just three races in when engine failure saddled McMurray with a last-place finish at Dover.

Jamie McMurrayBut the new NASCAR format unveiled last month has McMurray, 40, optimistic on the threshold of his 16th Cup Series campaign.

"I like everything about it," he said of NASCAR's decision to split Monster Energy Cup Series races into three stages. "It's just what we need. I like the strategy that's going to come from this. I've been on the side of riding in the back at restrictor-plate races and then sometimes, you still get caught up in the wreck.

"I like the fact that NASCAR is paying points for winning segments and at all the tracks, if you run well all day long you'll be rewarded for that. If your engine blows or you get caught up in a wreck at the end, you'll still get something out of it from one of the earlier segments. I can't find any negative side to it."

And with that, McMurray turns his attention to Speedweeks, which opens later this week in Central Florida. But first, he'll have two good reasons to mark the arrival of Feb. 14 tomorrow. Not only is it Valentine's Day, it's the seventh anniversary of his season-opening victory in the 2010 Daytona 500.

Motor Racing Network will air a special edition "2017 Season Setup" preview show on Monday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. (ET). Daytona International Speedway will open for NASCAR teams on Friday with the season-opening Daytona 500 scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26. Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" will have live coverage of "The Great American Race" beginning at 1 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.

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Up Next: Motor Racing Network will preview Stewart-Haas Racing on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

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