Ganassi racers strive for consistency
AP Auto Racing Writer
SONOMA, Calif. – It’s been a continuous search for consistency at Chip Ganassi Racing, where the NASCAR program has never matched the performance levels of its dominant IndyCar entries.
But there’s no bitterness from Juan Pablo Montoya or Jamie McMurray, who have watched from afar as IndyCar counterparts Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon race for wins and championships every year.
“I don’t think we are jealous,” McMurray said. “We are happy for those guys.”
Franchitti, the four-time IndyCar champion, won his third Indianapolis 500 last month, and Dixon reached Victory Lane a week later at Belle Isle and is currently in the thick of the title race. But they both had to overcome early season struggles, which hasn’t been lost on Montoya.
“I laugh because this year has been the hardest year for them for quite a few years, and I am like ‘Welcome,’ ” he said, smiling.
Indeed, welcome to the up-and-down battles that Montoya and McMurray have faced the last several years in Ganassi’s NASCAR program. The two head into Sunday’s race at Sonoma at just about the halfway mark of another rebuilding year.
McMurray is 18th in the Sprint Cup Series, Montoya is 19th and combined they have only five top-10 finishes all season. But they say their cars are better, they’ve had increased speed of late and they are pleased with the direction of the race team.
“I think we’ve done a lot of progress,” Montoya said. “If you really go through the team right now and see how different everything is working, it’s pretty amazing. We haven’t had the results we want to have, but I think there has been a lot of really good changes and we’ve been putting people in the right places.
“You want to run better overnight, but things have got to change. Everybody has got to adapt, and it’s a process. But I really feel we made a lot of gains.”
Ganassi and co-owner Felix Sabates had arguably the most aggressive offseason in NASCAR as sweeping changes were made to the organization. Competition director Steve Hmiel and longtime team manager Tony Glover were replaced, and Brian Pattie left the organization at the end of the season after being removed as Montoya’s crew chief in late July.
Ganassi brought in Max Jones as general manager, John Probst as technical director and lured Chris Heroy away from Hendrick Motorsports to crew chief Montoya. There has been added personnel, improved engineering and a cohesiveness that had been absent.