Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will field a fourth entry - the #41 Chevrolet - in the Feb. 15 Daytona 500 and expects to decide on a driver Monday, team president Steve Lauletta said Saturday before the start of the Rolex 24 Hours Grand-Am race at Daytona International Speedway.
The #41 entry will join Juan Pablo Montoya (#42 Chevy), Martin Truex Jr. (#1 Chevy) and Aric Almirola (#8 Chevy) to make a four-car contingent for the organisation that was formed in an offseason merger of Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
Lauletta said the choice had been narrowed to two drivers but declined to name them, though he did indicate that veteran Sterling Marlin was not among the finalists.
“We're hoping by Monday,” Lauletta said of the decision process. “We came close to making a final decision (Friday). We need to work over the weekend and Monday, but it'll be pretty quick. Same thing with one of the sponsor deals we have done for Aric - next week.”
With sponsorship from Target and Bass Pro Shops, respectively, Montoya and Truex are set to run full schedules in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series this year. Though EGR intends to do the same for Almirola, his full-time status depends on sufficient sponsor signings to keep the car on the track.
“It's just a matter of what we have locked in versus what do we have that we're working on that we're confident is going to happen,” Lauletta said. “The biggest piece of the puzzle that we haven't been able to see yet is how we're going to perform on the track.
“If all three cars are running really well, that's going to help us get some of the sponsorship arrangements done faster. As I said to everybody when we had our team meeting, let's put all of the 'stuff' of the sport behind us. We know what we're going to do. We know what our plan is. So now let's just focus all our efforts and resources and everything we can on the performance side of things, which is up to (competition director Steve) Hmiel and the rest of the gang.”by Reid Spencer/Sporting News