Drivers react to news of Ganassi sale: “Chip is a winner”
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ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Kurt Busch walked into the Chevrolet simulator last Wednesday with a clear mind – and on the phone. When it came out, there were around 200 unread messages. Busch immediately knew something had happened.
While performing laps on Virtual Road America, the Trackhouse Racing team announced that they had purchased Busch’s current team, Chip Ganassi Racing.
“It was a surprise to me,” Busch said on Saturday after posting the fastest speed in the NASCAR Cup Series practice at Road America. “But all of us at Ganassi looked at each other and said, ‘We have a playoff spot right in front of us. Let’s go get it, win and push as hard as we can here, right now, in 2021. ‘ “
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Chip Ganassi Racing has 16 NASCAR races left in his tank, starting with Sunday’s Jockey Made in America 250 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC / NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Trackhouse will acquire CGR equipment and two charters at the end of the 2021 season. Trackhouse is currently leasing a charter from Spire Motorsports to support the # 99 Toyota, driven by Daniel Suarez, which will return in 2022.
That leaves one seat open and there are two drivers at Chip Ganassi Racing – Busch in the No.1 Chevrolet and Ross Chastain in the No.42 entry. Busch is in his third season with Ganassi. Chastain is on his first.
“We actually talked – (owner) Justin Marks and I – about Trackhouse,” Busch said. “Now he’s going to have a different name and branding, and I know everyone at Ganassi, so it changes how we’ve talked before and what we still have to talk about.”
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Nothing in Busch’s long-term future is yet confirmed. The 2004 champion brought in FOX Sports, who is now an analyst after Jeff Gordon left for a vice president position at Hendrick Motorsports. Busch will be in the stand for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs this season and next, he confirmed.
The news of Trackhouse-Ganassi also came as a shock to Denny Hamlin, whose 23XI Racing Team are seeking a second charter, but the change of power does not worry him.
“I don’t think (charters are) as rare as people think,” Hamlin said. “There are always rules in there that you always have to go out there and compete. You can’t just walk around or else your charter might be for sale. There are a lot of provisions, a lot of ways to get into this sport. And we are looking at all the leads.
Kyle Larson, who now races for Hendrick Motorsports, is currently Chip Ganassi Racing’s most successful driver with six wins. Larson started his full-time Cup career with CGR in 2014 and continued until 2020, when he was released four races in the season after using a racial slur on an iRacing platform.
“Obviously I wish things had gone better for me last year and all of that with their racing team,” said Larson. “But he means a lot to me. He does not quit the race. It is still going to have a huge impact on motorsport. He is one of the greatest car owners there has ever been in motorsport. I’m just thankful that I got to run for him.
Jamie McMurray has the second most wins with five. He stepped out of Machine No.1 in 2018, giving Busch the wheel.
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Busch has two wins under the Chip Ganassi Racing banner – one each in 2019 and 2020. He currently ranks 14th in points and is three points clear of the playoff cup line. Chastain is 22nd.
“We won a few races, but we would like to see more wins,” said Busch. “I just have to go out and push hard here as a winner. Because Chip is a winner. I think that’s what his legacy is going to be.