Team owner Chip Ganassi has a well-founded reputation for making driver changes when he thinks he can improve his lineup. Nothing personal, ever. Just business. That's likely why Jamie McMurray's return to Ganassi's employ -- now as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing -- was so seamless. The break in 2006, when McMurray left Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates for the No. 26 Ford at Roush Fenway, was also nothing personal, the driver says.
"When I left there he told me, 'You have to do what's best for your career, and what's best for your career right now was leaving'," McMurray recalled. "He didn't have any grudge against me and we both just did what was right. Coming back, that's what makes the most sense for me now."
Like many of Ganassi's former employees, McMurray said he "became better friends with Chip when I didn't drive for him because we had a different relationship."
McMurray won his Sprint Cup car's second race with Ganassi -- substituting for Sterling Marlin in the No. 40 Dodge at Lowe's Motor Speedway in 2002 -- but didn't win again for Ganassi or finish better than 11th in points. He won two races with Roush, including the Talladega fall race, but has never qualified for the Chase and had his program phased out as Roush Fenway complied with NASCAR's four-car limit.
McMurray said the stress of joining his new/old team vanished on his first visit to the EGR shop. Apparently, Ganassi's methodology has been heavily utilized after the merger with Dale Earnhardt Inc.
"Every organization puts their radiator ductwork in a certain way, their this or that," McMurray said. "I looked (in a car) and I was like, "I remember all of this." It felt very comfortable."
Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines executive Richie Gilmore said Richard Childress Racing's malaise in 2009 was partly attributable to the team struggling with a new chassis as his shop perfected a new engine package. "Real encouraging results" at the end of the season have Gilmore hopeful of a fast start this season.
"I know Richard and the group up there got to a new chassis around Indy and we got to a new engine package around Indy," he said. "They focused on making their cars lighter and we worked on an engine package to build bottom end into the package. So it was definitely a group effort and I think you're going to see a big improvement there."
It seems that Chad Knaus might not be the cold automaton his reputation suggests. Jimmie Johnson's impending fatherhood in July -- smack in the middle of summer Chase position-jockeying -- would seemingly be a variable the meticulous Knaus cannot control, manipulate or test in the dyno. But he seems genuinely excited about becoming Uncle Chad. He's even bought a onesy for Johnson's presently-under-construction tyke, admitting that he didn't know what a onesy was until recently.
"I can't wait," Knaus said. "I can't wait to play with [the kid]. And Jimmie, he'll he just fine. He's a professional."