NASCAR: Franchittiís operation shut down
By Jenna Fryer
CHARLOTTE ó Chip Ganassi shut down Dario Franchittiís race team Tuesday because of a lack of sponsorship, putting the former IndyCar Series championís future in doubt.
Franchitti, the 2007 Indianapolis 500 winner, has struggled in his first NASCAR season driving Ganassiís No. 40 Dodge. He ranks 41st in the driver standings, failed to qualify for races in Texas and Sonoma, Calif., and missed five with a broken ankle he suffered in a Nationwide Series crash at Talladega.
The poor performance came as Ganassi has searched all season for a sponsor for his third NASCAR team. Longtime sponsor Coors Light left at the end of last season, and Ganassi was unable to secure funding despite releasing David Stremme for the more marketable Franchitti.
iIf I keep going I run the risk of dragging the other two teams down. I donít want to do that,î Ganassi told the Associated Press. iThereís no money. It makes no sense to be running this out of my pocket. I had to put a stop to it.î
Ganassiís other two Sprint Cups teams are driven by Juan Pablo Montoya, in his second NASCAR season, and Reed Sorenson, whoís in the final year of his contract. Montoya is 20th in the standings, and Sorenson is 32nd.
The entire No. 40 team was shut down, which resulted in 71 layoffs that included managing director of operations John Fernandez, Ganassi said. Steven Lane, crew chief for Franchittiís team, was not among those laid off.
Ganassi said Franchitti was disappointed but understood the decision, and the two have to discuss down the road what Franchitti will do for the rest of the season. One possibility is Franchitti could drive for Ganassi in the Nationwide Series, but promising development driver Bryan Clauson is scheduled to drive the car this weekend at Daytona.
The decision was difficult for Ganassi, who said he struggled to sleep as he agonized over what to do with his slumping race team. His IndyCar operation is soaring ó Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon have combined to win five of 10 races this season, including Dixonís Indy 500 victory, and are ranked first and third in the standings.