EGR could drop to two cars

UPDATE #3 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will field full-time Sprint Cup teams for Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr. and Aric Almirola, team president Steve Lauletta said Tuesday.

Montoya will have sponsorship from Target on the No. 42 and Truex will have most races sponsored by Bass Pro Shops in the No.1, Lauletta said. Sponsorship for Almirola in the No. 8 will be announced at a later date. The team also plans a fourth car, with driver and sponsor to be announced, for at least the Daytona 500 and possibly for additional races.

The team originally had hoped to run four full-time cars this year following the merger of Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing.

Wrigley's, which had been slated to sponsor the Montoya car for half the season, will be an associate sponsor, Lauletta said.

“We’re still facing a very difficult sponsorship environment and a very difficult economic environment," Lauletta said. “And so the decision-making takes longer. … We took on this partnership and had about a year’s worth of work to do in two months and it’s taken us until today to get to the point of where we’re ready to say, ‘This is what we’re doing.’

“The reason it has taken us until today is because it’s a lot of hard decisions and it’s a lot of work and a lot of moving parts."

Lauletta stressed that Almirola, whose status seemed questionable without sponsorship, will run the full season and never was in danger of losing his ride. He said Almirola's sponsorship would come from multiple sponsors. Last year, Ganassi suspended operations of a team after sponsorship fell through for Dario Franchitti, but Lauletta indicated that Almirola could run without sponsorship.

“You’ve got to keep in mind that sponsorship is a piece to the puzzle," Lauletta said. “It’s a pretty big piece of the puzzle, but there also are other things that have happened. Look at DEI with the 01 [with Regan Smith]. They ran that car. It had sponsorship. It may not have had a main sponsor on the hold all year, but they ran it all year (last season)."

01/20/09 It looks as if the No. 8 Chevy at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing will not run any races in 2009.

Monday the team laid off another 40 employees bringing the total number of employees cut from the newly merged organization to nearly 170.

The team had been hopeful that they would find a primary sponsor for car and driver Aric Almirola but with less then a month before the start of the 2009 season no sponsor has been found.

Barring any last minute sponsor salvation, the team will compete with two cars, the No. 1 and No. 41.

Dale Earnhardt Junior made the No. 8 Chevy famous before he departed the team in 2007 for Hendrick Motorsports. The car was campaigned by Almirola and Mark Martin last year. Martin has joined Hendrick Motorsports and will be behind the wheel of the No. 5 Chevy this year. Cupscene

01/20/09 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. And while this wasn’t officially on the Media Tour, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing cut another 40 jobs on Monday, making it a virtual certainty that the team won’t field more than two full-time cars next year.

01/17/09 When Dale Earnhardt Inc. merged with Chip Ganassi Racing last year, the plan was to run four cars in NASCAR's top series. It could be down to two. Driver Martin Truex Jr. said Friday night that Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing is planning to field just three cars for next month's Daytona 500 — with him, Aric Almirola, behind the wheels. And Almirola said he has no guarantee to drive beyond the season-opening race because of sponsorship woes.

"As far as I can tell, I believe three," Truex Jr. said at NASCAR's preseason tour at Daytona International Speedway. "I'm pretty sure that's what's going on. .. I believe that's it. That's about all I've got there. Montoya, me and Aric."

Truex Jr. and Montoya are fully sponsored for 2009, but Almirola conceded his lack of sponsorship could be a problem this season. "Chip and Teresa (Earnhardt) have to do whatever makes financial sense to them, and hopefully for me that means run 36 races," Almirola said. "For them, I hope that's the case because that means that they'll have been able to afford to do that. Now, saying that, I don't know. I'm not privy to look at their financial statements every week or every month, so I don't know what they're going to be willing to do and not do without a sponsor. "The moral of the story is we need a sponsor badly. We need sponsorship dollars to be able to take our No. 8 Earnhardt-Ganassi with Felix Sabates' Chevrolet to every single race that we can. We need sponsorship dollars."
Teresa Earnhardt and Chip Ganassi combined their sponsorship-strapped teams in November in an effort to stabilize their organizations in a tough economic time. Both struggled to secure sponsorship last season. Ganassi shuttered his No. 40 team in July when he couldn't find sponsorship for former Indy Racing League champion Dario Franchitti. That move forced Ganassi to lay off 71 people. DEI reduced its staff with the new venture. Not running a fourth car could mean more cutbacks. "It's terrible," Truex Jr. said.

Whether EGR runs two or three cars, it could be at a competitive disadvantage in 2009, especially with NASCAR's testing restrictions that force teams to rely more on sharing information. "We're down to two or three, it makes it more difficult for us for sure," Truex Jr. said. "There's no two ways about it. Can we be successful? Yes, the best year we ever had we were a two-car team, 2007. So it can be done. We can do it. … I think we've got a good group of guys put together that we can make it work." The organization also lost Max Siegel this month, when he left to manage the Drive for Diversity program, which aims to develop minority and female drivers in NASCAR. Siegel spent the last two seasons as head of global operations for DEI. Siegel's role diminished when DEI merged with Chip Ganassi Racing. CBS

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