Cup Stuff Blog

Ruminating All Things NASCAR

Parting Ways Best For Sorensen, Ganassi

Posted by Keith Murray on August 26, 2008

Here is my column for insidethepitbox.com this week:

From the time he was 11 years old, Reed Sorensen has been winning races and championships and dominating in every series he has been in. That is, until he reached the NASCAR level. It is hard to believe that he is still only 22 years old. For this young driver, a change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered to resuscitate his fledgling career.

In 1997, at the age of 11, he won the national championship in the quarter midgets. The next year, after moving to the Legends division, he won 13 out of 25 races on his way to the southeastern championship. Not 13 top fives – thirteen WINS. For those of you that are math-challenged, that means he won more than half of the races that year. That is called ‘domination’, and he did it when he could still not legally drive a car on the highway. In 1999, he competed in 50 events – winning a whopping 30 of those. Over the next two years in the Legends division, he would rack up an astounding 84 victories. That is as many victories in two years as Jeff Gordon has in his entire, illustrious NASCAR Cup career.

In 2002, Reed moved up to the ASA division where he reeled off 7 top-ten finishes in his first 8 starts. In 2003, at the age of 17, Reed drove full-time in the ASA series and won the Rookie of the Year award that year. In 2004 he ran in the ARCA series, picking up his first win at Michigan International Speedway, and also ran five races in the Busch series for Chip Ganassi Racing finishing in the top ten three times in those 5 races including a fourth-place finish at Homestead.

That is an incredible resume for such a young driver. Yet, when Reed moved to Cup, he did not bring the success that he had in every other division leading up to that time. Of course, competition is a lot stiffer at the Cup level than any place that he had ever raced, but to put up such amazing numbers at such a young age and to have the kind of dominating success he had, one would think that would carry over to whatever level he ended up at.

Before you put the blame on Sorensen, keep in mind that in the last 6 years in Cup racing, CGR has only 1 win – that coming last year with Juan Pablo Montoya’s win at Sonoma. Chip Ganassi Racing has closed down the operations of the 40 team of Dario Franchitti indefinitely. Texaco is leaving after this year, ending one of the longest sponsorship relationships in NASCAR. These are all signs of a team operation that is in deep trouble financially.

Making this move could be the spark that both sides need to get their engines firing again. Sorensen can get a fresh start at Gilette-Evernham Racing and at the age of 22, he still has a lot of racing future ahead of him. He is a champion. He knows how to win. But talent alone does not win races. You need team chemistry – especially with your crew chief – along with many other factors to win in Cup.

For CGR, just getting a fresh face in there could push that team back to contention. I really don’t see where either side is to blame for a lack of performance on the track. We will know soon enough if Sorensen has what it takes to make it at the highest level of racing. He will definitely have some good equipment and some great minds to conspire with to see what they can accomplish. He certainly has one of the most impressive resumes of any driver to come along in quite some time. But a fresh start – for both sides – could be the ticket to a better future.

As always, remember to pray for our troops in harm’s way that are protecting our rights and our freedom.

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