Chip Ganassi has stated that the performance of his NASCAR team in 2011 was “pathetic.” Ganassi, whose Indycar and Grand Am teams won their respective championships last year – his Indycar arm taking their fourth consecutive title – saw his NASCAR operation flounder in 2011, with no wins and drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray down in 21st and 27th respectively in the points standings.
“I don’t need to get philosophical about it,” Ganassi said. “We were 21st and 27th in the standings. That’s pathetic for a team with our ability and our resources.”
EGR co-owner Felix Sabates agreed. “There’s not much further we can fall back,” Sabates said. “With the money we spent we should have done better. It’s time for us to put up or shut up. This is the year that we have to shine and show people we’re here.”
EGR's poor run of form prompted a dramatic personnel shuffle, with long-time employees Steve Hmiel, Tony Glover and Ed Nathman leaving the operation and Chris Heroy being brought in from Hendrick Motorsports as crew chief to Montoya's #42 team.
“You either have it or you don’t,” Ganassi said. “If you’re working, good. If you’re not, you’d better make some changes.”
“As for 2012, the great thing is you get to start all over again. Certainly after the year we had, we had to start over in a lot of areas.”
“It wasn’t one person,” Sabates added. “It was a combination of 40 people not doing a good job. If you are going to change that, you have to go big, and that’s what we did.”
Ganassi had his best ever season in 2010, with Dario Franchitti winning the Indy 500 and the Indycar title, and McMurray winning NASCAR's crown jewel – the Daytona 500 – in his first race with the team, as well as the Brickyard 400 and Bank of America 500 at Charlotte.
However the team's alarming regression means that they start 2012 essentially were they were two years ago – having taken one step forward and another step back.
“The one thing about sports is that it’s constantly changing,” Ganassi said. “You have to change with it and you have to change fast. I like to think I can shift gears and change directions as fast as anybody, but we got a little bit behind the curve — in terms of performance — and it’s because we didn’t change with the sport.”
“You’re always working to get your recipe just right. Sometimes you can have 100 or 200 items in your recipe, but sometimes [one thing] can make all the difference in the world to the other 99 ingredients.
“It doesn’t mean to take away from the other 99 things, but that one thing may be the difference between winning and losing.”
In such a tough economic climate, EGR can take heart from signing up a group of new sponsors. With reigning Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne looking unlikely to be able to find the funding for a full Nationwide Series season, and Matt Kenseth having lost two major sponsors over the off-season, Sabates believes it is a credit to his operation that it has the required funding to go racing.
“Most of these [Cup] teams don’t have full sponsorship, but we do,” Sabates said. “That shows the trust sponsors have in Chip to do the right things, and we are doing the right things.”
“There’s no way to go but up, so it shouldn’t be that hard,” Ganassi added.