Wednesday Notebook: Buoyed by new sponsorship, Ganassi expects improvement in 2013
By: By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
CONCORD, N.C. -- The reason for the visit to Hangar F at the Concord Airport was immediately obvious.
The Cessna Citation X, a $23-million jet with a top speed approaching Mach 1, was a dead giveaway.
That was the setting for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing's announcement Wednesday of an important new sponsor, the Cessna Aircraft Company, which will occupy primary position on the hood of Jamie McMurray's No. 1 Chevrolet for 10 races this season.
The multi-year deal with Cessna also includes primary placement for one IndyCar race and one GRAND-AM event.
Cessna's foray into the motorsports realm fills a void left by the reduced presence at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing of Bass Pro Shops, which is migrating to Stewart-Haas Racing. McMurray's car will have 10 races with Cessna, 15 with McDonald's, two with Bass Pro Shops and one each with Liftmaster and Banana Boat.
Though the No. 1 car has sponsorship for three races that will be announced later and four races left in inventory, the economics of the organization are solid. Where improvement is needed -- and expected -- is on the race track.
"There's two bottom lines in the sports business," Ganassi said after the formal program. "There's wins and losses and profits and losses. You guys are talking about wins and losses, which is very important. They're both connected on many, many different levels.
"I've never shied from the fact that we need to get our NASCAR team up to where our other teams are, and that's why I'm in the business. That's why I'm here."
EGR's results in 2012 left much room for improvement. After McMurray feasted on wins in the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and Bank of America 500 at Charlotte in 2010 -- to go with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya's victory at Watkins Glen -- the organization has endured two years of famine.
McMurray and Montoya finished 21st and 22nd, respectively, in the final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings last year.
Ganassi acknowledged wholesale changes to his competition division last year hadn't produced results as quickly as he would have liked. The organization added technical director John Probst (formerly of Red Bull Racing), team manager Max Jones (formerly of Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports) and Montoya's crew chief Chris Heroy (a former engineer for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports), to name a few.
It took most of the year to get the various constituencies on the same page.
"I feel better about it going into this season because everybody is leaning the same direction," McMurray said after Wednesday's announcement. "When you hire five people from five different organizations and five different backgrounds, everyone has a different idea of what they think we need to do. And we spent all of last year going through all of those ideas, and 90 percent of what people suggest doesn't work.
"When they built the current car that we have now (NASCAR's new Gen-6 race car), they took all the bad ideas and all the good ideas, and they were able to weed out what we didn't want and what we did. I think the goal for us and the key for us to have success this year is to keep everybody going in the same direction and believing in the tools that we have and keep working towards that."
Those tools include new engineering capabilities.
"We made a lot of changes in 2012," Ganassi said. "We invested a lot in engineering, software, a seven-post rig. We have a whole new area, facility at our shop over there that we invested heavily in, and, quite frankly, it didn't translate as fast as I would want it to on the track.
"But if you talk to Max or John Probst, the crew chiefs -- they'll tell you we're light years ahead of where we were a year ago in the process. And I think the early-season testing has been very promising."
That EGR got a head start on developing and building the new car also kindles optimism in the team owner, who would like nothing more than to add a NASCAR championship to the titles he has won in IndyCar and GRAND-AM.
"We got an early start on it," Ganassi said. "I know the guys came at me, and they wanted some budget to get started early on the 2013 car, and we did.
"And, hopefully, that'll pay some dividends."