After a dismal season in NASCAR by his own lofty standards, Chip Ganassi made a number of changes at Earnhardt Chip Ganassi Racing in the off-season and is adamant that things will be very different this year.
The week following the 2011 season finale at Homestead, Ganassi released long-time employees Steve Hmiel, Tony Glover and Ed Nathman. He then hired away Chris Heroy from Hendrick Motorsports to handle crew chief duties for Juan Montoya's No. 42 Chevrolet.
"Hopefully this is the last time I have to say, 'We finished 21st [Montoya] and 27th [Jamie McMurray] in the points last year.' Pathetic for a team with our ability and resources," Ganassi declared Tuesday during NASCAR's preseason media tour.
“Really, our season started out OK and just slowly got worse,” McMurray said. “Chip made a lot of good changes and brought a lot of new people in. I think our excitement comes from the changes we made.”
"We just need to run well everywhere and see what happens," Montoya said. "Once we get everybody together and the results start coming in, the attitude is going to change, the approach is going to change. I'm excited."
Another upside: Ganassi noted that his team's finances are in great shape. At a time when most NASCAR teams are struggling to find enough sponsors to complete their entire Sprint Cup schedule, EGR has managed to re-sign its current sponsors and add a few new ones. Current team sponsors Target, Bass Pro Shops and McDonald's will return to sponsor Montoya and McMurray. Joining them as one-race primary sponsors on McMurray's No. 1 Chevrolet are new backers Belkin, LiftMaster and Banana Boat, meaning that the team has full backing for every race.
“How about my sales team? There are no primary placings available on our cars,” Ganassi said. “They've brought back [the current sponsors] and brought these new people to the sport. I want to give a call out to our sales guys. What a great job they've done.
"I live for racing. There's no other place I'd rather be than a racetrack," he added. "I like being around our drivers. I like being around our teams. I like hanging out with these new guys – and they'll have to get used to me calling them at 7, 8, 9 o'clock at night, wanting to talk about racing, because that's all I like to do."
That said, Ganassi made it clear he was expecting results as well as good times: "I think it's about time to put some numbers up," he said.