Ganassi picks up key sponsor for NASCAR's McMurray
By Ralph N. Paulk
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 10:50 p.m.
CONCORD, N.C. — Even after a disappointing 2012 season, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing continues to attract sponsorship funding to position its drivers to legitimately compete for an elusive Sprint Cup championship.
Chip Ganassi, co-owner of EGR, announced Wednesday his stock-car operation has partnered with Cessna Aircraft Company to sponsor the No. 1 Chevrolet SS driven by 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray.
Ganassi, a Fox Chapel native, said the agreement with Cessna and parent company Textron reflects growing confidence that his NASCAR program has positioned itself to realize the success of his Indy Racing League program that has won the Indianapolis 500 four times.
“In this economy, I'm very proud of what we've accomplished,” Ganassi said. “To have a company like Textron to have the courage to come into the sport says a lot about it getting on offense and not managing defensively.
“I don't know how many people are announcing new sponsorships this week, but we are pretty proud to have one. It's assuring for us to know companies believe in us. We like it when a company like Textron sees some value in being involved in the team across the board.”
It's a significant sponsorship agreement with Cessna, considering McMurray and EGR teammate Juan Pablo Montoya have failed to qualify for the Chase the past two seasons. McMurray finished tied for 20th and Montoya finished 22nd in the 2012 points standings.
“We made a lot of changes in 2012 and invested a lot in engineering, software and development,” Ganassi said during Wednesday's NASCAR Media Tour. “Frankly, it didn't translate as fast as I wanted it to on the track. But our crew chiefs agree we are light years ahead of last year, and they think the early-season testing has been promising.
“We invested a lot of money into our business last year. We had a good enough bottom line to invest in our team, and we'll continue those investments.”
However, EGR experienced some angst when McMurray's primary sponsor the past three years, Bass Pro Shops, switched to Stewart-Haas Racing. But the outdoor recreation company will sponsor the No. 1 car for two races this season.
“This deal allows us to focus on racing,” McMurray said. “With the new (Generation-6) car, we can't afford any distractions heading to Daytona.”
Even with the loss of Bass Pro Shops, Ganassi said the team's overall sponsorship is up compared to last year.
“Bass Pro had been great to us, but I think their decision was a function of there being some assets available on Tony Stewart's car,” Ganassi said. “They've had a long relationship with Tony, so it was kind of a natural thing for them to do that.”
Ganassi said he never considered running a partial 36-race Cup schedule with McMurray. He was confident Cessna would come aboard after he met last year with company executives at Sonoma.
“The racing industry is built on the same principles of our company — a need for speed,” said Scott Ernest, Cessna's president and CEO. “The scope and success of Chip Ganassi's racing teams across all components of racing gives us a strong presence as we invest in the sport.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
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