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Chip Ganassi Racing's NASCAR operation has been sold.
Trackhouse Racing announced Wednesday that it had purchased Ganassi's two-car Cup Series team effective at the end of the year. Trackhouse, which operates the No. 99 car for Daniel Suarez, will become a two-car team in 2022. CGR currently fields the No. 1 car for Kurt Busch and the No. 42 car for Ross Chastain.
“This is a landmark moment for Trackhouse Racing," team owner Justin Marks said in a statement. "It is humbling to know we have secured our position in NASCAR for the next decade. These are never decisions made without a lot of thorough consideration and deep reflection by both parties. This process took several weeks and I want to thank Chip for being so open and candid with me every step of the journey."
Trackhouse made its Cup Series debut at the start of the 2021 season and has been leasing a charter to guarantee Suarez's place in every Cup Series race. As part of the acquisition, Trackhouse will obtain the two charters that Ganassi currently has.
Ganassi said in a statement that his team wasn't for sale but that he couldn't turn down the offer that Marks made him.
"I can honestly say that my NASCAR team was not for sale," Ganassi said. "Justin simply came to me with a great offer and an even better vision. As everyone knows, I care deeply for my employees so selling to someone like Justin, who is part of the CGR family, made the reality of selling much easier. He knows our organization and the people. That gives me comfort. Everyone needs to know that I am still completely dedicated to the motorsports industry and will continue to run my other teams in INDYCAR, IMSA and Extreme E with the same enthusiasm that I always have."
Who will drive for the team?
Trackhouse said that Suarez would continue to drive for the team in 2022 but the team's other driver is currently undetermined.
Busch, the 2004 Cup Series champion, is a free agent at the end of the season. Chastain also signed a one-year deal to drive full-time in the No. 42 car in 2021. He became the team's driver after Matt Kenseth was the fill-in driver for 32 races in 2020 after Kyle Larson was fired for saying a racial slur during a video game race in April.
Busch has been mentioned as a possible candidate to drive a second car for 23XI Racing if the team decides to add a car alongside Bubba Wallace in 2022. Chastain has improved as the season has gone on and there hadn't been many public rumblings about his future before this announcement.
The Cup Series is implementing a new car in 2022 and that new car has made securing a charter a high priority for teams. Kaulig Racing recently announced that it had purchased two charters from Spire and would be moving up from the Xfinity Series in 2022. There are 36 charters that guarantee teams entry into every race and provide a larger share of prize money.
Chip Ganassi Racing's NASCAR history
Ganassi moved to the Cup Series in 2001 as part of Dodge's entry into NASCAR's top level. The team has existed as Chip Ganassi Racing for most of its 20-plus years in the Cup Series apart from a run from 2009-13 as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
Cars owned by Ganassi have won 19 Cup Series races including the 2010 Daytona 500. The infamous pothole race was won by Jamie McMurray, who went on to win the Brickyard 400 later that season.
Ganassi was never a top-tier Cup Series team like it is in the IndyCar Series outside of its first two seasons. Sterling Marlin finished third in the points standings in 2001 and was in the top five again through 29 races in 2002. But Marlin was injured in a crash at Kansas Speedway and missed the final seven races of the season.
Marlin remains the only driver to score a top-five points finish in Ganassi's Cup Series history. Only three other drivers — Juan Pablo Montoya, Larson and Busch — have finished in the top 10 in the points standings while driving for Ganassi.
Larson had been Ganassi's biggest NASCAR success story. Ganassi elevated the uber-talented Larson to the Cup Series in 2014 and he scored his first win in 2016. Larson won six races across four seasons for Ganassi and finished in the top 10 in the points standings from 2016-19.
Larson entered the 2020 season as an impending free agent as he searched for just the second multi-win season of his career. That season was over after four races after the racial slur and CGR immediately suspended him after the incident.
The suspension turned into a firing when Ganassi found it untenable to keep Larson around. Companies that sponsored Larson’s car like Credit One and McDonald’s disassociated themselves from the driver and faced with the prospect of a driver on an expiring contract without any sponsors to finance the car, Ganassi fired Larson from the team.
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