Owners - Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates
Manufacturer - Dodge
Cars and Drivers
No. 42 Texaco/Havoline
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates endured a mediocre Nextel Cup season in 2007. There were a few bright spots, though.
The first Formula One regular to drive Nextel Cup full time will return to Ganassi Racing in the famous No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge. After choosing the Nextel Cup Series over the McLaren Mercedes Formula One team in 2006, Juan Pablo Montoya demonstrated his versatility and won the 2007 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award. He finished 20th in the season standings, with one win in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway. The first season in stock cars for any open-wheel driver has proven to be a very difficult one, but Montoya bucked the trend. By winning a race in his first season in a stock car, not to mention stock car racing's top series, Montoya established himself as a major contender for the future. Chip Ganassi stated that he expected Montoya to make the Chase for the Cup this year.
Returning with Montoya is veteran crew chief Donnie Wingo, whose success in helping Montoya adapt to NASCAR cannot be understated. Critics will be looking for the No. 42 team to win on an oval. A second place finish at the Indianapolis Motorspeedway in his first trip there in NASCAR equipment would imply that the first oval win may not be too far off. Another issue that plagued the No. 42 team in 2007 was inconsistency. After seven DNFs, hopefully the team has learned its lessons and will be able to put past inconsistencies behind them.
No. 40 (No sponsor)
Driver David Stremme, the lowest placing Ganassi driver, placed 24th in Nextel Cup points while driving the No. 40 car. Stremme only managed three top-10 finishes in 2007, but he qualified for all 36 races.
Ganassi decided to release Stremme in favor of current Indy Racing League champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti for 2008. Franchitti will be looking to achieve the results Stremme did not while also trying to match fellow open-wheel convert and teammate Montoya. Qualifying sixth in his first stock car race in the ARCA RE/MAX Series shows that Franchitti could have potential in NASCAR. He finished 17th in that race, which is remarkable considering the track was the daunting Talladega Superspeedway. His crew chief will be Steve Lane, who is in his third season with the team.
No. 41 Target
Reed Sorenson will return to the No. 41 Dodge, along with his crew chief, Jimmy Elledge, in 2008. Sorenson finished 22nd in the points standings in 2007 and will be looking for improvement. With two full years under their belts, Sorensen and Elledge will have a stable base from which to improve upon. Sorenson's first pole position and best finish in the Nextel Cup series came last season. For the No. 41 teammates, 2008 has the potential to be a breakout year in their third full year together.
Equipment and Resources
The only manufacturer that Dodge finished ahead of in the 2007 season was Toyota. Winning only three races in 2007 was a big disappointment to a manufacturer looking to build momentum. Given that no one topped the performance of Chevrolet, Dodge was the best of the rest in average start position. The top eight drivers for the manufacturer averaged a 19th-place starting position over the 2007 season.
Ganassi will be looking to take Dodge's qualifying strength and turn it into finishes. Dodge will have a new Sprint Cup engine for 2008, and it's supposed to improve water flow and the ability to make power reliably. This new engine is expected to be phased in throughout the summer and fall, much like Chevy did with its new engine last season. With one win, six top fives and 15 top 10s, Ganassi will be desperate to improve their results.
Coors Light is leaving as sponsor of the No. 40 car, and the team seized the opportunity for a driver change. Leaning on an established team and crew, Franchitti will be looking to head down the trail paved by Montoya. Another area that Ganassi will need to improve upon is its 17 DNFs, but that may be difficult with another rookie making his first starts in the series.
About C.J. Radune
Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.
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