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Ganassi Pulls No Punches About 2011
There are two things you need to know about Chip Ganassi: He hates to lose, and he's exceedingly blunt about the reasons why he doesn't win.
"Hopefully this is the last time I have to say we finished 21st and 27th in the points last year," Ganassi said Tuesday during NASCAR's preseason media tour session with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. "... [That's] pathetic for a team with our ability and resources."
It didn't take long for Ganassi to clean house. In the week following the season finale at Homestead, Ganassi released long-time employees Steve Hmiel, Tony Glover and Ed Nathman. He then hired away Chris Heroy from Hendrick Motorsports to handle crew chief duties for Juan Montoya's No. 42 Chevrolet.
"You either have it or you don't," Ganassi said. "If you're working, good. If you're not, you'd better make some changes."
The good news for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing? Sales and marketing landed additional sponsorship, selling out all available primary space on the two-car team for 2012.
Now it's a matter of getting the on-track performance to match.
"As for 2012, the great thing is you get to start all over again," Ganassi said. "Certainly after the year we had, we had to start over in a lot of areas. We made some changes in the team. We feel pretty good about them. Like so many other sports, racing's about momentum. We want to start out fast, and certainly success can breed success."
And Montoya is buying into the boss' blunt assessment. After breaking through with a road-course victory in 2010 -- and coming within a pit-stop violation of a Brickyard 400 win -- Montoya regressed in 2011, recording just two top-fives and eight top-10s.
"We just need to run well everywhere and see what happens," Montoya said. "Once we get everybody together and the results start coming in, the attitude is going to change, the approach is going to change. I'm excited."
Ganassi is willing to take some of the blame for the poor performance by Montoya and Jamie McMurray last season, particularly in light of how well the team ran in 2010. Part of that was his inability to respond when things began to spiral downward.
"The one thing about sports is that it's constantly changing," Ganassi said. "You have to change with it and you have to change fast. I like to think I can shift gears and change directions as fast as anybody, but we got a little bit behind the curve -- in terms of performance -- and it's because we didn't change with the sport."
What makes it particularly tricky, according to Ganassi, is finding the one piece of the puzzle -- be that in performance or personnel -- that can turn your program around.
"You're always working to get your recipe just right," Ganassi said. "Sometimes you can have 100 or 200 items in your recipe, but sometimes [one thing] can make all the difference in the world to the other 99 ingredients.
"It doesn't mean to take away from the other 99 things, but that one thing may be the difference between winning and losing."
For now, Ganassi is content to stick with a two-car operation, even if additional sponsors want on board.
"As tough as the sponsorship market is today, that's probably still the easiest part of the puzzle," Ganassi said. "It's putting the rest of the team together, and getting the rest of the group that would mesh with the current two cars that we have. That's the hard part.
"I think I'm going to be back in the mode where we need to get these two cars running right before we start thinking about a third. And I've sort of changed on that."
As bad as 2011 seemed, it failed to dampen Ganassi's enthusiasm for the sport -- and his drive to succeed in NASCAR.
"I live for racing. There's no other place I'd rather be than a race track," Ganassi said. "I like being around our drivers. I like being around our teams. I like hanging out with these new guys -- and they'll have to get used to me calling them at 7, 8, 9 o'clock at night, wanting to talk about racing, because that's all I like to do."
At the same time, it's all about the bottom line. And for Chip Ganassi, that's running up front -- early and often. With that, he issued a challenge to his team.
"I think it's about time to put some numbers up," Ganassi said.