A news bomb was dropped on the NASCAR world Wednesday afternoon (June 30), when Justin Marks and Chip Ganassi announced that Trackhouse Racing had purchased the charters and assets of Chip Ganassi Racing.
Ganassi will leave the series after 21 years as an owner, while Marks’ team he co-owns with Pitbull, Trackhouse, is just getting started. The team will use one of the CGR charters to continue to field its No. 99 entry for Daniel Suarez and will field a second car for a driver to be determined.
Here’s how the transaction will affect each of the parties involved in the sale.
Ganassi’s motto is, “I like winners,” but he’s ending his NASCAR tenure without a whole lot of winning. As of July 1, his cars have won 19 races in 21 seasons, with Kyle Larson‘s six wins for the team being the most by any driver.
Sterling Marlin provided the team with its only top five in points, finishing third in the standings in 2001, CGR’s inaugural season after buying the team from Felix Sabates. The following year, Marlin provided Ganassi with his best chance at a NASCAR Cup Series championship. He led the standings for 25 straight races before losing the points lead late in the year, and a cracked vertebrae in his neck finished off Marlin’s title hopes.
Despite failing to achieve the level of success he’s achieved in other forms of motorsports, Ganassi won’t be leaving NASCAR with his tail tucked between his legs. Instead he’ll be leaving it driving a Brink’s truck filled to capacity with millions of dollars.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. told the Associated Press that charters are going for around $10 million a piece. So Ganassi is making at least $20 million off his charters alone. Then you factor in the race shop and equipment, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the deal reached at least $30 million.
After all, CGR wasn’t for sale until Marks called Ganassi and inquired about it. Marks must’ve dropped a pretty big check in order to buy something that wasn’t for sale.
And maybe this isn’t really the swan song for Ganassi in NASCAR. He’s with Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series, and Honda has been rumored to be coming into NASCAR. Could Ganassi take a few years off and then come back into NASCAR with Honda? Charters might not be going for as much money at that time, so he’d still come out ahead financially.
“I have a lot of friends in NASCAR, a lot of friends in the garage area, I’ve got a lot of friends in management at NASCAR, and I’m not going away from racing,” Ganassi said in the press conference. “I’ll be around.”
Justin Marks & Pitbull
Who would’ve thought when Marks won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course that in five years he’d be co-owning a two-car Cup team with Pitbull?
As for Pitbull, how about an eccentric Cuban-American millionaire buying the team Ganassi once purchased from a Cuban-American millionaire?
Trackhouse has exceeded all expectations this season and has even been more consistently fast than the more-hyped-up 23XI Racing. Now that the team is expanding and will have formerly CGR resources, I full expect the team to be battling for wins soon.
And who knows? Maybe author and motivational speaker Tony Robbins could be joining the team in some capacity down the road.
“I think Tony wants to get involved at some level, but this is not the result of any new equity infusion or new ownership or anything like that,” Marks said in the press conference. “We will continue on our trajectory on that ownership and marketing and business development side like we have and then obviously on the competition side this just gives us a lot of support and a lot of big foundation for the future.”
Awaken the giant within. pic.twitter.com/101vbCbTHB
— Trackhouse Racing (@TeamTrackhouse) June 30, 2021
For the first time since 2018, Suarez will drive the same car for a second season in a row. For the first time since 2019, Suarez will be driving for a team who owns a charter. He drove without a charter in 2020 for Gaunt Brothers Racing, and the charter Trackhouse has this year is leased from Spire Motorsports.
After a shaky start to his Cup career, Suarez finally has some stability.
The fact that Trackhouse remains committed to Suarez amid purchasing the rides of Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain speaks volumes to the belief the team has in him. He may be the driver whose career was the most rejuvenated in 2021, even more so than Larson.
“It’s happened very quickly, but I think that a transaction like this or getting to this kind of moment was certainly probably always in the plan, and when you’re talking about ‑‑ obviously to solidify your future in the sport, the charter is an important thing,” Marks said.
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) June 30, 2021
Kurt Busch & Ross Chastain
With Suarez staying with Trackhouse, one of the current Ganassi drivers will be the odd man out.
And as one of the top free agents of this Silly Season, Busch has a lot of control over what happens here. He could stay put, retire or go to 23XI or another team. If he stays at Trackhouse, who he mentioned was courting him a while back, then Chastain would lose a CGR ride for the second time in his career due to factors unrelated to his driving.
It’s also still possible that Trackhouse could come up with a third charter from somewhere else and run Busch, Chastain and Suarez as a three-car team. Or they could just buck the system and run a third car as an open team.
There’s still a lot up in the air with what will happen to the current Ganassi lineup, but Marks said Busch and Chastain will start as the “top two” candidates for the second car.
“Do I have a short list? I do have a short list, yeah,” Marks said.
Theresa Earnhardt won the battle, but Ty Norris won the war.
Norris, the general manager for Trackhouse, revealed on a recent episode of the Dale Jr. Download that Dale Earnhardt’s widow forced him out of his role as general manager at Dale Earnhardt, Inc., back in 2004.
DEI formerly fielded the No. 1 Chevrolet for Steve Park, then numerous other drivers before Martin Truex Jr. The team merged with CGR to form Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, which operated from 2009-2013, while continuing to field the No. 1 Chevy for Truex and later Jamie McMurray.
In 2014, the team went back to being CGR, as Theresa Earnhardt no longer had a stake in the team. But it continued fielding the No. 1 Chevy for McMurray and now Busch.
With Trackhouse purchasing CGR and the No. 1 Chevy, Norris is back in charge of one of the three cars he managed back in his DEI tenure. Talk about a long game, and all from the guy who was once banned from NASCAR for his role in Michael Waltrip Racing’s infamous “Spin-gate.”
“This is my 30th year in the sport,” Norris said in the press conference. “I’ve never seen it better. I’ve never seen them communicate better. I’m very proud to be a part of this organization going forward.”
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.
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