More than 70 team members found themselves on the unemployment line last week when Chip Ganassi parked Dario Franchitti’s Dodge due to lack of sponsorship. Word around the NASCAR garage is that another 30 may soon follow.
Multiple Ganassi team members spoke off the record Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, revealing that some of last week’s layoffs involved longtime employees who predated Ganassi’s purchase of the team from Felix Sabates in 2001. In addition, many of those laid off were members the Reed Sorenson and Juan Pablo Montoya teams, who saw their jobs taken by former Franchitti crewmen.
The layoffs prompted harsh words and hard feelings, and team management reportedly brought in nearly a dozen police officers to maintain order before announcing the moves. The cuts deepened what sources say was already an “us against them” mentality within the three-car operation, and has plunged morale to an all-time low.
Ganassi has offered Franchitti a full-time Nationwide Series ride for the remainder of the season, but the Scotsman has yet to sat whether he will accept that offer.
Light On The Horizon: There may be help on the way for Yates Racing. Jack Roush said this weekend that sponsorship is imminent for fellow Ford team owner Doug Yates; enough to allow him to expand his operation to three cars next season. Despite working with limited sponsorship, Yates currently has two teams in the Top-25. Travis Kvapil is 20th in championship points, and David Gilliland ranks 22nd. No word on who might drive a third Yates Ford next season.
Chevy Will Stay: General Motors Corporation’s NASCAR Program Manager said this weekend that while times are indeed tough in the automotive business, Chevrolet has no plans to pull out of NASCAR, or even reduce its funding.
Alba Colon said that contrary to at least one published report, she expects GM to level-fund its NASCAR operations in 2009, with no reductions from this year. She declined to comment on reports that GM will eliminate its track and race event sponsorships next season, and sources tell Sirius Speedway that while some cuts are possible, negotiations for next season are continuing and reports of a full-scale pullout are premature.