The 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for Chip Ganassi Racing would be considered a “normal” season for the team. This was the first full season under the ownership of Ganassi, Felix Sabates, and Rob Kauffman.
The team returned to on track competition with Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson. Both drivers made the Chase, a promise made by Sabates in 2015, but came into fruition in 2016.
McMurray’s 2016 season started off with three top-20 finishes in the first four races with his best finishes at Las Vegas and Phoenix where he finished 16th. At Auto Club Speedway, McMurray placed his first top-10 finish of the season. However at Martinsville, he finished 23rd. Despite a finish outside the top-20, McMurray was able to place two 13th place finishes at Texas and Bristol and a 16th place finish at Richmond. At Talladega, McMurray was able to finish fourth, making this his first top-five finish of the season. He went from a top-five finish to finishing outside the top-20 at Kansas and Dover. Despite those finishes, he went on a streak of four top-20 place finishes with the best finish coming at Michigan where he finished ninth. In the first road course race at Sonoma, he finished in 17th. His first DNF of the season came at Daytona in the Coke Zero 400 where he was involved in an accident. However, he was able to place two consecutive top-10 finishes at Kentucky and New Hampshire where he finished seventh and sixth respectively. Indianapolis and Pocono saw McMurray finish within the top-20. He went on a three race streak of eighth place finishes at Watkins Glen, Bristol, and Michigan. At Darlington, he finished 15th. In the final race of the regular season, McMurray finished seventh and made his way into the Chase through points. In the opening round, his best finish came at Chicago with an 11th place finish. He finished 19th in New Hampshire, but had engine issues at Dover which resulted in a 40th place finish and no hope to advance to the next round. After being knocked out of the Chase in the opening round, McMurray ended with a top-10 finish at Charlotte. The top-10 was backed by a 37th place finish at Kansas, and a 19th place finish at Talladega. At Martinsville, he scored an eighth place finish, but had two top-20 finishes at Texas and Phoenix. He ended his season with a top-five finish at Homestead.
McMurray competed in 10198 of 10523 laps in the season and led zero laps. He had two top-five finishes, 12 top-10’s, an average start of 16.6, an average finish of 15.8, and two DNF’s.
In his third full time season in Cup competition, Larson would have one of his best years of his career, so far. The season started out strong with a seventh place finish in the Daytona 500. However, Larson finished outside of the top-20 at Atlanta and Las Vegas, but was able to rebound with a 12th place finish at Phoenix International Raceway. Larson ended the west coast swing with a crash at Auto Club Speedway. He went to Martinsville and was able to rebound for a third place finish. He finished 14th at Texas, but had a dismal 35th place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway. Larson rebounded at Richmond with a 15th place finish, but quickly finished 29th at Talladega and crashed at Kansas that resulted in a 35th place finish. Larson rebounded at Dover with a second place finish and a 13th place finish at Charlotte. Larson kicked off the summer strong with four top-20 finishes. His best finish came at Michigan with a third place finish and his worst finish of those four races was Sonoma where he finished 12th. To kick off the second half of the season, Larson finished 19th at Kentucky Speedway. His next top-five came at Indianapolis where he finished fifth and finished sixth at Pocono the following week. Larson’s “luck” went south at Watkins Glen and Bristol where he finished 29th and 25th respectively. However, Larson’s first win of his Cup career came at Michigan where he beat rookie Chase Elliott. This win would lock Larson into the Chase. He followed the victory with a third and second place finish at Darlington and Richmond. In the opening round of the Chase, Larson had an 18th at Chicago, 10th at New Hampshire, and a 25th place finish at Dover. Just like his teammate, Larson did not advance any further in the chase grid. Despite not moving on in the Chase, Larson started the second round with a fifth at Charlotte, a 30th at Kansas, and a sixth place finish at Talladega. To finish out the season, Larson finished in the top 20 in the remaining four races. At Phoenix and Homestead, Larson finished third and second to finish off the season and have momentum into 2017.
Larson competed in 10271 of 10523 laps, and lead 379 laps in the 2016. Larson had one win, 10 top-fives, 15 top-10’s, an average start of 15.6, an average finish of 14.7 and 2 DNF’s.
For 2017, Larson and McMurray will be returning to Chip Ganassi Racing. For McMurray, 2017 will be another year of consistency for him. Larson has momentum going into 2017. There is a chance that he will win more races and contend for a championship barring any unforeseen circumstances that might arise during the season. The sponsorship picture for McMurray is set; However, for Larson, Target is reducing its sponsorship in NASCAR giving the team a chance to explore other sponsors. There has been no news made on that front for Larson.
The 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series season for Chip Ganassi Racing was one of the better seasons for the team. The team fielded two full time rides with Brennan Poole in the no. 48 with Justin Marks and Kyle Larson sharing the ride in the No. 42 Chevy.
For Poole, the 2016 season started off on the wrong foot at Daytona with a 27th place finish. Poole was able to rebound with a 14th place finish in Atlanta to go on a run of 13 top-20 finishes including a near victory at Talladega after a last lap crash in the tri-oval where he was the leader at the line, but was not the leader at the point of the caution flag waving. His streak of top-20 finishes ended with a crash at Daytona. Despite the poor finishes at Daytona in 2016, Poole remained consistent throughout the season. He rattled off five top-10 finishes throughout the next seven races. Despite a dismal 28th place finish at Bristol in August, Poole gained a Chase berth and four top-10 finishes. When the Chase began at Kentucky, Poole scored a top-10, but a 15th and an 18th place finish at Dover and Charlotte knocked him out of contention for championship after the first round. Despite being knocked out of contention in the opening round of the Chase, Poole scored two more top-10 finishes. The 2016 season ended for Poole with a 27th place finish at Homestead-Miami. Despite not contending for a championship, he finished eighth in the points.
In his first full-time season in Xfinity competition, Poole was able to complete 5538 of 5579 laps in the season with 11 laps led. He scored four top-fives, 17 top-10’s, had an average start of 13.1, an average finish of 12.4, and only one DNF on the season.
With the No. 42, Larson drove the car 16 times in 2016, where he saw the most success of any driver in that car. Larson kicked off the 2016 season where he scored a 34th and second place finish at Daytona and Atlanta. After a three week hiatus, Larson jumped back into the car for Texas and Bristol in which he scored an 11th and third place finish respectively. He returned to the car at Charlotte Motor Speedway in which he finished in the sixth position. A week later, Larson went to victory lane in the inaugural Xfinity race at Pocono. Despite the event being shortened due to weather, this was the first victory for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2016 Xfinity competition. When Larson returned to the no. 42 team for Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, Bristol, Darlington, Chicago, Charlotte, and Kansas, Larson scored top-five finishes in each event. When the series returned to Texas Motor Speedway, Larson scored the victory after starting in the fifth position. Larson closed out the 2016 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he started and finished seventh.
In his 16 starts, Larson competed in 2683 of the 2692 laps in the season while leading 651 laps. He has 11 top-five’s, 14 top-10’s, an average start of 5.8, an average finish of 6.1, and zero DNF’s.
While Larson was in the 42 car for 17 races in 2016, Marks was in the ride for 17 races. Despite the success Larson had in the car, Marks struggled. He started the season in Las Vegas where he crashed ending up in a 34th place. Marks was in the car for Phoenix, Richmond, and Talladega, where he finished within the top-15 in each of the events. At Dover, Marks was involved in an accident that resulted in a 40th place finish. He returned to competition at Michigan and was in the car for five consecutive weeks where his best finish was 12th at Kentucky and his worst finish was 37th at Daytona. At Loudon and Iowa, Marks scored top-20 finishes. His first and only win of the 2016 season came at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course where Marks won in a rain plagued event. After his win, Marks struggled at Road America and Richmond where he had finishes outside of the top-20. In his remaining three races of the season, he had 15th place finishes at Kentucky and Phoenix, but a 31st place finish at Dover.
In his 17 starts, Marks competed in 2537 of 2887 laps while leading 43 laps. He had one top-five, one top-10, an average start of 17.6, an average finish of 20.9, and four DNF’s in 2016.
The 2016 season was a step in the right direction for Chip Ganassi’s Xfinity Series program. 2017 will be a stronger year for the team. With the return of Poole in the 48 and the new duo of Larson and Tyler Reddick in the 42, CGR will be a force to be reckoned with. It will be interesting to see if Poole will be able to make a second appearance in the Chase. Since names are made in the Xfinity Series, it will also be interesting to see what name Reddick will make for himself and how Poole will add on to his legacy within the series. For Marks, the verdict is still out on where we will end up, if anywhere, in Xfinity competition.
After a dominating performance by Kyle Larson, it was Joey Logano who was able to take the victory in the rain-delayed Drive for the Cure 300. This is Logano’s second victory of 2016
“I knew my only shot was on the restart. I knew the car was good on the short run. I knew this was my one shot,” said Logano in a post race victory lane interview.
“I really wanted to win this race. Anytime i get to run this pink car it is very sentimental to me and my family. All I could think about those last seven laps is that the door would be left open for me to win the race. It shows how hard my team works,” said second-place finisher, Elliott Sadler.
The first half went green until Ray Black Jr. spun at the time of the completion caution. Larson dominated the first 50 laps, but was passed for the lead by Erick Jones, but Larson quickly regained the lead as they battled through lap traffic. After a long green flag run, the caution flag flew for debris. However, Larson continued to show off his dominance. At the halfway point it was Larson, E. Jones, Logano, Poole, and Harvick.
In the second half of the race, the field stayed green and underwent green flag pit stops. Brennan Poole was struggling with electrical issues, but the car kept backfiring on him after the pit stop. E. Jones was having trouble finding grip. Justin Allgaier continued to struggle with his transmission issues. After nearly lapping the whole field, Larson remained the leader as E. Jones made his way to pit road and had an uncontrolled tire with 25 laps to go to bring out the caution. As the race restarted from that caution, Larson was able to gain the lead, but the caution flew shortly after from a spin by Dakota Armstrong. On the restart, Logano was able to pass Larson to take the lead to win the race. Sadler finished second, Daniel Suarez finished third, Larson finished fourth, and E. Jones rounded out the top-five.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series closes out the ‘Round of 12’ with Suarez and Sadler holding victories going into the ‘Round of 8’. Also advancing include Allgaier, E. Jones, Brendan Gaughan, Ryan Reed, Darrell Wallace Jr., and Blake Koch.
Larson led the most laps at 165 followed by E. Jones with 21, Logano with 12, and Allgaier and Sieg both led one lap. There were 12 lead changes among these five drivers. Ty Dillon missed advancing by one point, Poole missed by five points, Sieg missed the cutoff by six points, and Brandon Jones missed the cut by 21 points.
The race saw an average speed of 143.560 mph. The time of race was 2 hours, 5 minutes, and 23 seconds. The margin of victory was 0.462 seconds. The caution flew four times for 19 laps.
Next up for the NASCAR Xfinity Series is the Kansas Lottery 300 from Kansas Speedway. Motor Racing Network and NBC will have the coverage.
After a fifth-place finish at Indianapolis last weekend, Kyle Larson moved on to the Chase grid for the first time since Atlanta, the second race of the season. With six races to go before the Chase begins, he holds the coveted cutoff position with a 10 point advantage on Kasey Kahne.
In his third full-time season in the Cup Series, Larson is still looking for that alluded first victory. Though statistically this isn’t his best season, he is in the best position of his career to make the Chase.
In 2016, Larson has six top-10 finishes in 20 starts, including a best finish of second at Dover in May, a track that the No. 42 car led 85 laps. But as the Chase nears, the 24-year-old is heading to some of his best race tracks.
“We started off really slow, but the last couple months we’ve had a lot of speed and had some solid runs,” Larson told Speedway Digest his 2016 season. “We had some good luck there a couple months ago and then I had some bad luck prior to Indy, but were quick. We just have to stay on top of it.”
At Pocono, Larson has two career top 10s with a best finish of fifth in his first race at the Tricky Triangle in 2014. Heading into next week at Watkins Glen, the No. 42 car finished fourth at the road course two years ago.
Bristol and Michigan are two of Larson’s better race tracks. In the spring, the Chip Ganassi Racing team finished third at NASCAR’s fastest track and in 2015 led 90 laps at Bristol, the most laps that the California native has ever led in a single event in the Cup Series.
Not only is Larson on the Chase bubble, but so is his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray. The No. 1 Chevrolet sits 34 points ahead of the cutoff with two top-10 finishes in the last three races.
“Jamie and I both communicate well with each other,” Larson said. “We’re not afraid to ask each other questions and compare notes. I think we work awesome together. We’re great teammates. He’s a good dude and we have similar driving styles, so our notes relate to each other.”
The two drivers are said to work extremely close with one another. The motto at Chip Ganassi Racing is “one team, one goal,” and the two drivers put a lot of emphasis on living up to that delivering for their car owner Chip Ganassi.
Larson is in his first year with Chad Johnston as crew chief. He has previously been atop the pit box for Martin Truex, Jr. and Tony Stewart, winning one career race at Sonoma in 2013.
“I really enjoy working with Chad,” Larson said of Johnston. “I think he’s really smart, really focused and an all around good crew chief. He has a good personality and works well with all the guys on the team. I enjoy it.”
Chip Ganassi Racing looked to be near its peak when the horsepower was higher. In 2015, when NASCAR reduced the horsepower package, the team, specifically Larson struggled. This season the same horsepower package applies, but the new lower downforce package has favored the team.
Admittedly so, it took the teams a longer time to adapt to the package than the drivers. Realistically, the drivers will go out and race whatever package is thrown their way. Some drives like the package, some do not.
“I would say when we had more horsepower that suited our team and myself,” Larson said. “I think you look at the Gibbs cars since they’ve gone to lesser horsepower they’ve been better. There have been more changes that just horsepower, but they’ve definitely taken advantage of the changes and done the best with it.
Due to post-race penalties, the No. 42 team has been penalized 15 points this season, which could cost the organization a Chase birth. Larson is optimistic regarding his chances of making NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. It would mark the first time that he would have a shot at the championship in the final 10 races.
With eight restarts on the afternoon, Logano controlled all but one, when he got passed by Chase Elliott. That was the only stint of the race in which the No. 22 Ford was not out front for a significant amount of laps, other than green flag pit stops.
Winning from the pole at Michigan is something that Logano has done in the past. In 2013, he started out front, finishing out front, in what was his first victory with Team Penske. The triumph came in Ford's backyard, as their headquarters are in the Detroit area and Adsel Ford II was in attendance for the victory.
"Everyone did a good job at understanding what this package was going to do and put together a great racecar for me," Logano said of his victory. "It was a lot of fun racing with Chase [Elliott] there at the end and [Kyle] Larson. They had the restarts figured out down on the bottom pushing each other. We've been knocking on the door of a victory all season, but it's nice to get that win and lock ourselves into the Chase."
This is Team Penske's 99th career victory in the Sprint Cup Series and the third victory of 2016 for the organization.
The 400-mile event was a bit unusual compared to Michigan standards. NASCAR brought a new aerodynamic package, hopeful of using this package in 2017. Most of the drivers throughout the field liked it, as like most races this season, it put the racing back in the drivers hands.
Elliott recorded a career-best second-place finish at Michigan. The No. 24 car was out front for 35 circuits, after leading 51 laps last week in Pocono.
Logano got around Elliott on a restart with around 50 laps to go. He slid out of the groove and fell back to fourth. On the resuming restart, he pulled his Chevrolet back up to second, where he would remain the rest of the race.
"You can't do dumb stuff to win these races," Elliott said post-race. "It was completely my fault. The guys gave me a fantastic car today. That one was on me."
Kyle Larson remained in the top five for the majority of the event in Michigan. Coming home third is the No. 42 team's second top-three finish in the past four races and now sits 19th in the championship standings, 23 points outside of the Chase cutoff.
"I'm not sure that there was anything I could have done there," Larson said of finishing third. "I was pretty tight there for two or three laps, sometimes for a full run. Staying out front the whole time was a big key. The Target Chevrolet was definitely a third or fourth-place car."
Brad Keselowski finished fourth at his hometown track and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five after starting in 29th.
Carl Edwards finished sixth, while Tony Stewart came home seventh, after spending much of the day inside the top five. Austin Dillon rebounded after a possible left rear tire failure passed halfway to finish eighth. Jamie McMurray was ninth and Kurt Busch completed the top 10.
Many of the big name drivers, including Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kyle Busch all faced difficulties on Sunday.
On Lap 54, the No. 18 car was on fire. On the next restart, Chris Buescher got loose and up into Earnhardt who smacked the outside wall, finishing 39th. Hamlin brought out the final caution with under 10 laps to go when he cut down a left rear tire and spun to the inside wall.
The Cup Series is off next week, but will resume in two weeks at the first road course of the season, Sonoma. The younger Busch is the defending winner at that event, which was his first of five victories in 2015.