CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Story, audio and photo by Race Chaser Online Senior Editor Tom Baker —
Write it down on the calendar, folks.
On January 29, 2015 at approximately 1:10 p.m. Eastern time, Chip Ganassi Racing’s always entertaining co-owner Felix Sabates stood in front of a packed room at NASCAR Media Tour Presented by Technocom and guaranteed that both Jamie MacMurray and Kyle Larson would be in the Chase for the Sprint Cup this season.
Here is audio of his remarks to prove it.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he were right. With the “win and you’re in” format we use today, it would seem that the biggest obstacle the two drivers might have to overcome just may be too many winners.
If more than 16 racers win, it becomes the 16 with the highest win totals and most points. This season could well be one of the most competitive in history, making more than 16 race winners a distinct possibility.
Jamie McMurray finds a way to victory lane almost every season. Last year, he didn’t win a points race but did take home a bundle of cash for winning the All-Star Race in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He has a new crew chief to work with this year in the form of one Matt McCall, a veteran racer who moves over from Richard Childress Racing to take charge of the McDonalds/Cessna No. 1 Cheverolet.
McCall has a winning pedigree, whether he’s amassing “degrees” as a martial arts black belt or checkered flags as a driver or crew chief. Expect Matt and Jamie to work very well together this year, and to see J-Mac back in victory lane at least once during the season in a points-paying event.
Larson is going into his second year in Sprint Cup, coming off a year where he did everything it seemed but win en route to Rookie of the Year honors. He became a father in the offseason and shared the winner’s podium with teammate McMurray in the Rolex 24 at Daytona (the 6th time Chip Ganassi Racing has pulled that off — more than any other team).
You probably wouldn’t get a lot of support for the belief that Larson would not win at least one Cup race this year. It would surprise almost nobody if he won multiple times and established himself as a contender not just to be in the Chase, but to walk off with the Sprint Cup in a “turn the sophomore jinx” inside-out kind of season.
The team is just coming off of its 25th year of Sprint Cup competition and 25th with Target. If you factor in the four IndyCar teams and the IMSA team, the organization has a total of 17 overall major championships under its belt.
With the addition of the XFINITY Series effort that brings Dylan Kwasniewski officially into the landscape and the rumored recent move to add the biggest little right foot in racing (Rico Abreu) to their “farm system” (this hasn’t been officially announced, but Chip has not denied it), it would surely appear that CGRFS is on the precipice of making a serious run at NASCAR royalty.
If they can make it? Well, let’s just say that Chip might have to step back and call Felix “King” — at least for one day.