Spencer loses Chip Ganassi drive

Chip Ganassi Racing has announced that it has released Jimmy Spencer from its NASCAR Winston Cup team, despite team manager Andy Graves giving the driver a cautious vote of confidence last week

Spencer loses Chip Ganassi drive

The 45-year-old, who is known as 'Mr Excitement', is expected to run in the final two races of the season, but has failed to shine in his first year with the squad and will not continue in 2003.

Team boss Chip Ganassi said: "When we first made this deal, Jimmy and I agreed about what would happen if the results were not what either of us were happy with.

"Obviously, both of us are not happy with the results. I feel bad we weren't able to get the most out of our relationship, but I'm sure I'll remain friends with Jimmy."

Spencer switched to Ganassi after seven years with Travis Carter's team. But he has been overshadowed by team-mate Sterling Marlin, who led the Winston Cup points for much of the season. Then rookie Jamie McMurray came into the team as a substitute for the injured Marlin and won only his second Winston Cup race.

Ganassi made no comment on who will replace Spencer, whose options in the Winston Cup look limited for next year. He will continue to race in the secondary Busch series with the team that he owns.








After six weeks of rumors and despite a tentative vote of confidence from team manager Andy Graves last week, Chip Ganassi Racing has released driver Jimmy Spencer from his contract, effective end of the year.

"When we first made this deal, Jimmy and I agreed about what would happen if the results were not what either of us were happy with," Ganassi
said in a statement released late Tuesday.

"Obviously, both of us are not happy with the results. I feel bad we weren't able to get the most out of our relationship, but I'm sure I'll remain friends with Jimmy."

Spencer is expected to run the final two races with Ganassi. He joined the team this season after seven years with Travis Carter, and his move looked brilliant when Carter's sponsor, Kmart, declared bankruptcy in February. Spencer then adopted the colors of Kmart rival Target, which has a deep relationship with Ganasssi via four CART championships and in the IRL.

However, the coupling has not performed. Spencer's No. 41 failed to qualify for the Daytona 500, shoving the season off on an extremely bad note. He has hovered around 30th in points (for whatever reasons) most of the year, and in his one chance to shine, at Bristol in April, he got spun out by eventual winner Kurt Busch.

Whether the poor season is a function of driver or team can not be known.

Spencer also suffered in comparison with teammate Sterling Marlin, who led the championship standings most of the year before being injured at Richmond and Kansas City in September, and with plucked gem Jamie McMurray, hired by Ganassi in September -- which was about when the Spencer-out rumors started.

McMurray, due to drive a Ganassi car with Chevron/Havoline sponsorship in Winston Cup next year, took over in Ganassi's No. 40 as sub for injured Marlin and won his second time out. He since has won two Busch races, so he is the hot property.

It was not specified in September exactly what car McMurray would drive. The original thought was that he would drive a third car under the Havoline flag, but McMurray and Havoline now could end up in the No. 41, with Target apparently a marque Chip can employ as needed.

Spencer, 45, appears to have limited opportunities this late in the season. Fall-back jobs with Carter and Andy Petree seem limited by inability of both owners to find serious sponsorship. A.J. Foyt has not yet committed to a driver for 2003.

The move appears to drop Spencer into the Todd Bodine/Mike Wallace category -- drivers with a paycheck in Busch (Spencer owns his Busch team) but with no secure grip in Winston Cup.

What are Ganassi's plans? As usual, Chip is keeping it all to himself. Who's available? Veterans John Andretti, Dave Blaney and Joe Nemechek have played a waiting game this fall, with all three either signed or all-but-signed by their present teams. Maybe this is why they waited.

Then again, would any of them do Ganassi any good? Or, on the other hand, would Ganassi's Connie Mack instincts on the sandlots do him any good either, with McMurray on the rise and Marlin solid?

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