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Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Wednesday June 14, 2006
As far back as last year, when Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates unceremoniously dumped longtime veteran Sterling Marlin, I said at the time it was the beginning of the end for the Ganassi team in Nextel Cup. At the time, Ganassi had Marlin, Casey Mears, and Jamie McMurray all driving in NASCAR’s top series.
Early into the ’05 season, Ganassi and longtime Marlin sponsor Coors, apparently suffering from a severe case of cerebral flatulence, decided that Sterling was too old to represent a hip beer such as Coors Light. Their idea of a replacement was development driver David Stremme. Stremme got the nod over the more capable Reed Sorenson only because Sorenson was not yet 21 and it was felt to be in bad taste to have an “underage” driver driving a “beer” car. The ousting of Marlin left any chance of winning an event for Ganassi squarely on the shoulders of McMurray and Mears.
Suddenly, Ganassi was blindsided by the announced defection of McMurray for Roush Racing at the end of 2006. As history has shown, after first balking at the idea of letting McMurray out of his contract early, Ganassi did in fact let Jamie go. With Marlin and McMurray gone, Mears became the best in the stable.
Now, just as I predicted, Mears, who is arguably better than Marlin and McMurray anyway, has announced that he is leaving Ganassi for a multi-year deal with Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the current season. Reed Sorenson, who replaced Mears in the No. 41 Target car when Mears was moved to the No. 42, is the only hope Ganassi has left considering Stremme’s season of struggle. Considering the recent history of firings and defections from Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, one can’t help but wonder how long it will be before Sorenson will head out the door, too.
While I have no idea how long Sorenson is signed to drive for Ganassi, I will go on record here and say that Sorenson, being the more than capable driver he is, will be highly sought after in the future by teams that can offer better opportunities than are available to him now. Sorenson will soon be gone, leaving Ganassi with nothing but Stremme and an egotistically long name for a joke of a racing organization. (I mean, really! Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates!? What’s wrong with something like Ganassi/Sabates Motorsports!?)
Stay off the wall (Stremme won’t),
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I think Chip is caught up in the ‘anything Roger Penske can do, I can do better’ syndrome. Chip’s bread was buttered in open wheel racing and that’s where he’s had much success. His IRL stable is vying for the title again so it might be natural for his NASCAR operation to stumble. Penske is having the same problems and it’s his operation and Ganassi’s that’s duking it out in the IRL for supremacy this season. Chip’s a tad aloof, but as long as Target still signs the checks, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Maybe not this year, but his NASCAR operation will bounce back as long as Target is still in the picture.
Ganassi is going to find it very difficult to find anyone willing to replace Mears. Between the 2003 and 2005 seasons he had both Jamie McMurray and Casey Mears who everyone kept expecting to breakout and win a race. Neither did. At the end of last year and early this year Mears once again looked like a lock to win a race. Never happened. No one who is interested in winning races is going to go to Ganassi. With Mears gone and Brian Vickers going to Toyota both of this years best free agents are off the market. Ganassi is probably going to have to sign another Busch Series driver to replace Mears. I expect to see either Brendan Gaughan make a return to Cup or Regan Smith run for Rookie of the Year and have a season similar to Stremme’s.
I think the wheels started coming off the Ganassi wagon when he back-stabbed “old man” Spencer and tossed him out of the Target ride. Ganassi doesn’t belong in NASCAR, he should stick to the open wheels.
Good article. I just wanted to say I agree with the person that said that Brendan Gaughan could make a return to Cup via Ganassi. I always felt that he didn’t get fair treatment during his tenure with Penske. Plus, he’s good sponsor material and I think that given seat time, he could develop into a good Cup racer. I’m honestly surprised that he hasn’t been picked up already for at least a decent Busch series ride. Disclaimer – I’m not a Gaughan fan or anything, it just kind of surprised me that he didn’t land on his feet too well after separating from Penske.
Joel Kauffman’s abysmal failure at Fitz Bradshaw Racing has made the future for Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR house even bleaker.
First off, I have to say I love the article. As a Marlin fan I was upset at the way Ganassi just dumped Sterling on the side of the road. Yes it’s been awhile since Sterling won a race but he probably gave Ganassi Racing their best shot at the championship a few years back. I can’t really blame McMurray or Mears for defecting. As you said, no one who wants to actually win a race is likely to head to the Ganassi garage.
I thought dumping marlin was probably the biggest pr disaster i’ve ever seen. Ganassi wouldn’t even stand up and say it was a business decision. He said Coor’s made him do it. I think the teams have long let the sponsors dictate their decisions and that is just the way it is. But, now they even acknowlege it in the press. It’s funny when you have the sponsor calling the shots and saying that they’d rather run around the back of the pack than victory lane as long as they can use the cute guy in the ads. I say, let the cute guys run ARCA and Busch. But, if you want to win the big races and compete for championships, let the cream rise to the top. But, I guess selling your soul has its perks.
Ganassi/Sabates Racing has the look and sound of a top notch racing organization…but perception isn’t always reality. There are bigger issues than their drivers. They have all the bells and whistles but can’t make them work. They can blame Marlin, McMurray and Mears..well not any more. Stremme might sell beer to the 20 somethings but I doubt a win is in his future.
Chip has lost his marbles. They could have and should have kept Sterling. Good vetrans are hard to come by and with a shallow pool of talent up and coming they are in a world of hurt. I doubt Sterling is too old to sell oil/ gas. I am not sure Coors is still a sponsor, you never see the car anymore. If you do the sales pitch would be seeing the 40 car wrecked and then tell the kids this is what your car would look like if you drink and drive. Maybe Streeme is drunk, he wrecks alot.
screw all of you . David Stremme needs better cars to get better finished
Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:
Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
BSNews! Bruton’s Plans Extend Beyond Bristol’s Track
Top Ten Reasons Fans Failed To Show Up At Bristol Sunday
BSNews! NASCAR CEO Given "Special" Award Amidst Lavish Fanfare
Fan Coun-ci-What? Just What Is It That NASCAR Wants To Study?
Want to know more about Jeff Meyer or view his complete article archives? Then hop on over to his archive and bio page.