Commentary

Cup preview: Chip Ganassi Racing

Originally Published: February 14, 2014
By John Oreovicz | ESPN.com

Jamie McMurrayGrant Halverson/Getty ImagesRising star Kyle Larson, far left, joins Jamie McMurray and Felix Sabates at Chip Ganassi Racing.

One in a series of 15 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team previews ahead of the season-opening Daytona 500:

[+] EnlargeFelix Sabates
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesFelix Sabates on why he'll be a more frequent visitor to the racetrack in 2014: "I want to be there when Kyle [Larson] wins for the first time."

CHIP GANASSI RACING WITH FELIX SABATES

Principal owners: Chip Ganassi, Felix Sabates

Manufacturer: Chevrolet

Engine source: Hendrick Motorsports

Alliances: None

Drivers (crew chief): Jamie McMurray (Keith Rodden), Kyle Larson (Chris Heroy)

2013's top finisher: McMurray, 15th

2013 grade: C-minus

2014 preseason grade: C-plus

2014 outlook: Chip Ganassi Racing is embarking on a yearlong celebration of the owner's 25 years in auto racing, yet consistent success in NASCAR has eluded one of the sport's most successful Indy car and sports car team bosses. Ganassi has just 11 race wins in 13 years as a NASCAR team owner, and his drivers have managed only two top-10 finishes in the Sprint Cup standings. Jamie McMurray has been victorious in some of NASCAR's biggest events (including the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400) but is still searching for season-long consistency that lands him in the Chase for the Cup. Keith Rodden, formerly an engineer for Kasey Kahne at Hendrick Motorsports, joins CGR as McMurray's new crew chief. Ganassi has called time on his long relationship with Juan Pablo Montoya that dates to 1999 in the CART Indy car series, replacing the Colombian with highly regarded rookie Kyle Larson. The 21-year-old has a golden opportunity to establish himself for a long and successful career with one of motorsports' most successful and diverse team owners.

Quotable: "It certainly wasn't the first year I've had success on one side and not on the other. I think, for one reason or another, we didn't have the results that we wanted in NASCAR. It was obviously time to make a change, and we had to fix it. Keith Rodden brings a lot of great experience with him to our organization. We are building the foundation for what we believe will be long-term success in our NASCAR operation, and Keith fits into those plans perfectly. I look forward to having him in the organization and leading the No. 1 team. Kyle Larson seems to accept everything that you put in front of him. I think he's a great kid and he's ready. We've always taken the best driver that's available at the time, and we'll give him everything it takes to keep his career rolling." -- Chip Ganassi

"This year, I've booked 28 races, which is the most races I've been on since the year 2000. I want to be there when Kyle wins for the first time. I don't want to miss the first opportunity to see the kid get to Victory Lane. I don't want to be down in Florida playing golf with a bunch of idiots. I've been following him for a while. When he was 17 years old, I said 'He's the real McCoy.' Very seldom do you get someone that age, that mature, in a race car." -- Felix Sabates

DRIVER LINEUP

McMurray
McMurray

Jamie McMurray (No. 1 McDonald's/Cessna Chevrolet): "Last year was challenging for different reasons, one of which was one of the drivers knew he was leaving in August. We also made a change in crew chief. We're going through this transition of one driver leaving and a crew chief leaving, and this sport is hard enough when everything is going right. When you add some of that in, it makes it even more challenging. Being able to win a race and win a pole made it a good season for the No. 1 car with the adversity we faced. We've made changes, including management, and I'm looking forward to this season."

2014 goal: Make the Chase

Larson
Larson

Kyle Larson (No. 42 Target Chevrolet): "I haven't had an offseason in the last four or five years, and I'm really excited to get going. I listen a lot to Jamie, and he says the organization is probably in the best spot it's been since he's been there. I want to be consistent. Last year, I had a lot of DNFs and that's what got me down in the points. We were fast every week, but we just had some DNFs. Hopefully I've learned from that and I can just be patient and just try and be top 12 to 15 each race. I would like to win the rookie of the year battle and be in the Chase."

2014 goal: Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.