Earnhardt Ganassi Racing has revealed that it is to close down its #8 NASCAR Sprint Cup team indefinitely after failing to find sponsorship to keep the car on track.
The car, driven by Aric Almirola, had been running on short-term deals after it lost its primary backing from the US Army to the Stewart-Haas Racing team during the winter.
The car currently sits outside the top 35 in owner points, meaning it isn't guaranteed an entry into Sprint Cup events, and team president Steve Lauletta admitted that the closure of the team had always been a possibility without a major backer.
"When we started last November forming Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, our plan was to go into the season and run the three cars, but we knew we needed funding for Aric's car in order to make that happen," he said. "We did everything we could to find that one company that would jump on board and take a number of races to keep going, but we haven't had the time to do that just yet. It takes a long time, especially in these economic conditions, to bring a sponsorship to closure. While we were doing that, we just couldn't continue to keep going to the race track without the proper funding from a sponsor perspective.
"We're talking to a lot of companies. We had a couple of companies with us at Texas. We've been doing this one [race] at a time, two at a time, three at a time, and it's really tough to do that. So we decided to not go to Phoenix and get ourselves to the point where we can get that sponsor that will believe in Aric and market around Aric and help our team. Once we do that, we'll be back with the #8 on the track."
Almirola himself admitted it wasn't a big surprise to see the team forced to take the decision, with the possibility that he may be allowed to drive elsewhere while the #8 programme is suspended.
"I've been kept abreast of everything going on, and it wasn't a secret we were looking for sponsors; so surprise is not the right word," he said. "But definitely a little bit if a disappointment, because I'm a race car driver and I love to race. I want to do nothing more than be at the race track every week and race, but I understand the situation, for sure. I understand it takes a lot of money to show up on the race track every weekend. And when you don't have it, you don't have it. We have to work hard at trying to go find it.
"At the point that I'm at in my career, I'm not a seasoned veteran by any means, so every day I'm in the race car I feel like I'm learning something new and getting better. Seat time is extremely important to me. But it costs money. Even to go test, it costs money. The moral of the story or the bottom line or however you want to put it is, you need money to do those kinds of things. So every day that goes by that I'm not in a race car and somebody else is, I feel like I'm at a disadvantage."