So now that the worst kept secret of the 2009 season is out, that Martin Truex Jr. is leaving Earnhardt Ganassi Racing for Michael Waltrip Rass Racing, it seems the popular thing to do is to pile on EGR and its future as an organization.
Following the announcement by MWR and Truex, both Truex himself and MWR’s General Manager Ty Norris questioned the stability and the future of the EGR team. The future of the Bass Pro Shops deal and how the GM bankruptcy will affect support being at the center of their barbs.
There was also a piece by FOXSports.com’s Lee Spencer about the situation and the outlook for EGR. In it, she discusses a new company being formed by the DEI side called Earnhardt Technologies Group. About this new venture she says:
ETG will provide a variety of engineering services to the racing community, including access to its seven-post shaker rig and pull down rigs, coordinate measuring for chassis geometry and data acquisition.
She then goes on to say that ETG could be the foundation for a future team and that she’s been told the Earnhardt/Ganassi partnership may not last beyond 2009.
While I don’t have specific knowledge of DEI’s plans for ETG, it would appear on the surface that this new company is more about creating a new revenue stream for DEI then it is about laying the foundation for a future team. Isn’t the foundation really already there?
Before we do EGR a favor and end the team’s misery, lets take a look at the reality of the situation facing the team.
Currently EGR is running two full time Cup teams; the #1 for Truex and the #42 for Juan Pablo Montoya. Entering this weekend’s race at Chicago, Montoya is sitting in the 11th position in points, is inside the Chase, and is 86 points ahead of 13th place Mark Martin. He has yet to finish in the top five in a race this season, but he continues to have solid performances. For more on Montoya’s solid season, see Journo’s post from Monday.
Truex is currently 24th in driver points, which isn’t terrible, but not great either. The team has shown the potential to run well, but can’t seem to put an entire weekend together on a regular basis. But seeing as how Montoya is running well, it’s hard to blame Truex’s problems on the team and the equipment. We may be seeing a bit of the lame duck syndrome here.
Heading into the 2010 season, EGR has full time backing from long time sponsor Target, and according to team President Steve Lauletta Bass Pro Shops will return. Some have said the Bass Pro deal is only for a half season, but even if that is the case, EGR has done a fine job this season of filling the races where Bass Pro isn’t the primary. There is no reason to believe they couldn’t do the same in 2010.
We’ve also heard that EGR is very close to putting a deal together that would return the #8 car and driver Aric Almirola to competition before this season is out. If that happens, and Almirola performs, a full time deal for Almirola in 2010 isn’t unrealistic.
So with that said, we are looking at two, possibly three funded cars for the remainder of 2009 and into 2010. What is unstable about that?
The other point of contention here is the backing from Chevrolet. There is no doubt that with the GM bankruptcy the level of support from the manufacturer will be drastically reduced. But if that makes EGR unstable, shouldn’t we be saying the same for NASCAR pillars Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing? EGR is not the only team that will be affected.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not blaming Truex for leaving EGR for the NAPA ride at Waltrip’s joint. His contract was up and he is certainly free to explore his options. If he got a better deal at MWR, more power to him. But I think it is a bit ridiculous to now pile on EGR and call them unstable. Chip Ganassi is committed to his race teams for the long term and he’s got some great partners and some great people in place.