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Earnhardt-Ganassi off to great start in critical season

By admin | February 20, 2010

By Richard Allen

‘Coming through in the clutch’ is a commonly used phrase in the world of sports. Well, Earhnardt-Ganassi Racing seems to be doing just that at the beginning of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

Every season is critical for every team ,but for the EGR organization, this season could prove to a make or break year.

Why is 2010 so important for this team? The answer boils down to the same issue that almost everything in racing always boils down to…money. Sponsorships for both the #1 and #42 cars could well be in question for next year so posting good results this season might influence their current sponsors to return or lure new sponsors into the fold.

Jamie McMurray’s win in the Daytona 500 obviously provided a great publicity pop for the EGR organization. The driver has had an entire week of media frenzied travel around the country to promote himself, his team and his sponsors. That is paying immediate dividends but the greater reward could come later.

McMurray is only signed to a one year contract. After his release from Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the 2009 season the driver scrambled to find a ride. The EGR #1 car was available after Martin Truex left to go to Michael Waltrip’s team

McMurray’s signing with EGR seemed a logical fit. The team needed a driver and he was one of the better available candidates. However, it was not as easy as that. Team sponsor Bass Pro Shops seemed less than enthused about having McMurray as its driver. If rumors are to be believed, it took some convincing by team owner Chip Ganassi and others to get the sponsor to agree to stay on board. And with all that, Bass Pro is only signed to back the team for half the races on the schedule, as of now at least.

And to add to the urgency, rumors have been running wild that Bass Pro will leave EGR at the end of this year to join Stewart-Haas Racing.

Think Bass Pro Shops has gotten their money’s worth already this year? Apparently BPS head Johnny Morris has decided it was indeed worth while. He released a new commercial this week congratulating McMurray on his Daytona victory. But still, EGR would likely prefer the company expand their involvement with the team for this season and perhaps even extend their agreement for future seasons.

McMurray continued to ‘come through in the clutch’ on Friday when he put his Chevrolet on the pole for the Auto Club 500 in Fontana, California. Without doubt, in the early part of this season the #1 team is rising to the occasion.

The #42 team for driver Juan Pablo Montoya may find itself fighting some of the same battles as the #1 team.

Montoya is reportedly signed at least through 2011. However, that may not be the case for sponsor Target. Rumor was the retail giant had second thoughts about renewing for 2010. A good season this year would obviously be helpful in assuring that the long time backer of Ganassi would come back in the future.

JPM answered with a solid 10th place in Daytona. He actually ran further up the leader board in that race’s latter stages but was shuffled back in the closing laps.

Like McMurray, Montoya kept the momentum up by qualifying well in California for this weekend’s race. He will start alongside his EGR teammate on the front row.

Like so many other teams, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing is facing the possibility of losing sponsors and drivers in the future. Unlike any other teams so far, they have answered the challenge with the best possible performance.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

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