Chip Ganassi Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. will merge operations beginning with the 2009 Sprint Cup season, the teams announced in a news release Wednesday.
Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates will field the NASCAR-maximum four Sprint Cup cars in 2009, thus cutting out two full-time cars that DEI operated in 2008.
The Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing driver line-up will be Martin Truex Jr. in the #1 and Aric Almirola in the #8 from DEI, Juan Pablo Montoya in the #42 from Ganassi and a driver still to be determined for the #41.
Truex has previously announced sponsorship from Bass Pro Shops, and Montoya has a half-season sponsorship from Wrigley's. Ganassi executives have been adamant that Montoya would not go to the #41 Target-sponsored car, and it is expected that Target will go with Almirola or the driver the team still needs to hire.
“Having a partner like Chip who is heavily involved on the competition side of the business is an ideal situation for DEI,” DEI owner Teresa Earnhardt said. “He has a long history of managing championship teams in the IndyCar and Rolex Grand-Am Series, and I share his passion and goals of winning races and ultimately championships in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“I think this is a case where we are stronger together than we are apart.”
The news release did not mention a manufacturer. DEI currently fields Chevrolets with engines from Earnhardt-Childress Racing Technologies. Ganassi has its own engine department for his Dodge programme. Although a manufacturer wasn't announced, Chevy's NASCAR program manager Pat Suhy said last Friday that none of his teams could have a relationship with a non-Chevrolet organisation.
The merger caps a season in which neither organisation could muster a win and both have dealt with dire sponsorship situations.
“In this ultra-competitive era of NASCAR, it is necessary to build and sustain the strongest team possible, and our combining with the people and equipment at Dale Earnhardt Inc. will help create a strong four-car programme for years to come,” Chip Ganassi Racing owner Chip Ganassi said. “This is a win-win for both organisations as well as all of our partners.”
DEI had operated four teams this year, but Truex was the only full-time driver signed to return. Almirola and Mark Martin had shared the #8 car, and Almirola was signed for 2009 while Martin left for Hendrick Motorsports and sponsor U.S. Army left for Ryan Newman at Stewart-Haas Racing.