Coming off a career year in the Xfinity Series, Chip Ganassi Racing is aiming for bigger and better in 2017.
Last year, the company ran two full-time cars under its banner for the first time since 2008. The 2015 season had been run in association with HScott Motorsports. However, the decision to bring things back in house paid off.
Ganassi went to victory lane three times between Kyle Larson and Justin Marks (pictured above in the team's No. 42), while Brennan Poole burst onto the full-time scene by finishing eighth in points with 17 top-10 finishes. Statistically, 2016 easily surpassed any of the company's previous single-season accomplishments. In 66 total starts between its two cars, Ganassi earned three wins, 16 top five and 32 top-10 finishes with 705 laps led.
poole"When I first came on as part of the team it really was a first-year team, and it was kind of madness," Poole (pictured, No. 48, with Larson) told RACER of the growth of the company. "We weren't really organized, and I felt like we were behind. We've had a lot of really good people work on the cars over the past couple years, and they've been able to step up the whole program and make our racecars better.
"That's something that's really important, the people that you work with. Chip Ganassi and everyone apart of the organization has done a really good job of putting all the right people in place to make the program what it is now. It's come a long way."
In addition to Poole returning for a sophomore season, Tyler Reddick has joined the squad. He'll split time in the No. 42 with Larson. It gives Ganassi a chance to win both the driver's and owner's title.
After spending the last three years in the Camping World Truck Series, Reddick was ready for the move. Ganassi was appealing to him for what he called the quality, not quantity, of the race teams. Reddick finished 20th in the wreck-filled PowerShares QQQ 300 at Daytona, which was his series debut.
"I just need to do my part and nothing more," Reddick (pictured) said of this season's goals. "I feel like when people step up in a series, it's very easy to overthink and try and do too much at first. I'm going to try and take it as easy as I can – and honestly, sometimes I have to pull the reigns back a bit on the racetrack. But I feel like these cars are going to suit me pretty well, the less downforce."
With a background in dirt racing, Reddick believes all the aerodynamic changes to the car will play into his wheelhouse. But he won't know until the first time he gets into the car at a mile-and-a-half track. Without a doubt, Reddick believes, if he does his part and doesn't make any major mistakes, the team should be able to get the ball rolling pretty quick.
"It's nice to have the resources of Brennan, Jamie (McMurray) and Kyle to use to my advantage," Reddick said.
While the No. 42 team will continue to work with crew chief Mike Shiplett, the No. 48 team of Poole is again guided by Chad Norris. Toward the end of the 2016 season, Poole and Norris had developed consistent chemistry to where a win seemed imminent. The team also qualified for the playoffs and had it not been for parts failures, Poole was confident he could have been one of the final four at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Nick Harvey, the Xfinity competition manager at Chip Ganassi Racing, called the 2016 season a year of growth.
"Racing is all about the people, and we were fortunate to be able to piece together a great group, building on the foundation crew chief Mike Shiplett had started in 2015," Harvey said. "We approach everything together as one team that runs two cars and put a big emphasis on communication and pooling of resources and ideas."
The racing is different this year with the implementation of stages. Poole and Reddick like the change and are eager to see how it affects team strategies going forward. But no matter the changes, everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing has the feeling of the sky being the limit.
"I'm super pumped about this year," Poole said. "I'm going into my third year with them, and I'm excited to see what we're capable of because I believe we're going to be even more competitive. Both cars are going to be in a position to win races and run up front week in and week out, so I'm just excited to be a part of that and see what we're able to accomplish as a group."
Added Harvey: "(2016) was CGR's best year of Xfinity according to the record books, but we feel with the progress and growth we made, 2017 will be a further evolution."