Editor’s note: NASCAR.com continues its countdown of team previews for the Monster Energy Series season, ranked in order of best finish in last year’s owner standings. Today’s feature: Chip Ganassi Racing and drivers Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson.
Chip Ganassi Racing
Engine: Hendrick Engines
Drivers: Kurt Busch, No. 1; Kyle Larson, No. 42
Crew chiefs: No. 1: Matt McCall; No. 42: Chad Johnston
2018 standings: Kyle Larson finished ninth in the driver standings and the No. 42 car was also ninth in the owner standings. Jamie McMurray was 20th in the driver standings and the No. 1 car was also 20th in the owner standings. In his final season for Stewart-Haas Racing, Kurt Busch was seventh in the driver standings and the No. 41 car was seventh in the owner standings.
What’s new: McMurray’s run as a full-time driver is over after nine straight seasons with Chip Ganassi in which he compiled four wins in the Monster Energy Series and qualified for the playoffs five times. McMurray will compete in this season’s Daytona 500 for Spire Motorsports, in partnership with CGR, driving the No. 40 Chevrolet in what could be his final race in the Monster Energy Series. Enter Busch, the 2004 premier series champion who spent the past five seasons with Stewart-Haas Racing, where he compiled six wins and made the playoffs five times with a high finish of seventh in the standings (2016, 2018).
Outlook: Busch brings a championship pedigree, veteran savvy and perhaps a dash of edginess that could be just what the team needs to get Larson back on the right track. Larson compiled four wins in 2017 and has the talent to be among the championship contenders, but he didn’t crack the win column in 2018. With Busch and Larson able to lean on each other for information it would not be surprising to see both cars in the playoffs come September. Both drivers have shown the ability to make a deep playoff run, but the next step is to break into the Championship 4.
Kurt Busch, No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet: Busch had six wins, including the 2017 Daytona 500, in his five seasons with SHR, re-establishing himself as a championship contender. He comes to CGR for at least one season, but the future beyond that is open-ended. With perhaps a short window of opportunity, Busch will need to get up to speed quickly with crew chief Matt McCall and adjust to his new team’s surroundings, including switching manufacturers from Ford to Chevrolet. Partnering with Larson, Busch sounds open to taking on a mentoring role if it means a better performance overall for CGR.
“Larson can be bigger. He can be better,” Busch said. “And I see something in him. And that’s part of the draw of why I came here. There are plenty of reasons, but that’s one of those things on the side. It’s not a trophy. It’s not a win. But I would feel a sense of accomplishment by helping him out.”
Kyle Larson, No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet: Larson appeared primed to make the jump to Championship 4 regular after enjoying a breakout season in 2017 when he won four times and finished eighth in the standings. Although he did not win last season, Larson still managed to compile a career-best 12.6 average finish. That was due in large part to six second-place finishes where for one reason or another Larson couldn’t break through to Victory Lane. It’s easy to see that if Larson finds a way to finish races better that he could be right back where he was two years ago, which is to say on par with the Big 3 and in the thick of the championship hunt. And with Larson’s strong history at Homestead, if he manages to get there someday as part of the Championship 4, he’ll be a good bet to win it all.
• Jan. 22: Assorted teams
• Jan. 23: Richard Petty Motorsports
• Jan. 24: Germain Racing
• Jan. 25: Leavine Family Racing
• Jan 28: Front Row Motorsports
• Jan. 29: JTG Daugherty Racing
• Jan. 30: Wood Brothers Racing
• Jan. 31: Roush Fenway Racing
• Feb. 1: Richard Childress Racing
• Feb. 4: Chip Ganasssi Racing
• Feb. 5: Hendrick Motorsports
• Feb. 6: Joe Gibbs Racing
• Feb. 7: Stewart-Haas Racing
• Feb. 8: Team Penske