Sirius Speedway has learned that DEI-Ganassi Racing is making a serious push to add another sponsor to its lineup, in an effort to avoid the possible loss of driver Martin Truex, Jr., and sponsor, Bass Pro Shops. Language in the contracts of both Truex and Bass Pro Shops reportedly requires DEI to field at least two fulltime teammates for Truex next season, and with only Aric Almirola’s unsponsored #8 car likely to return, sources say DEI had little choice but to merge with Ganassi, in an effort to retain their only funded driver.
The merged DEI-Ganassi stable now includes Truex’s Bass Pro Shops-sponsored #1, Juan Pablo Montoya’s #42 with partial sponsorship from Wrigley’s, the #41 car with Target sponsorship, and Almirola’s unsponsored #8. Sources say the team made a major push recently to upgrade Fastenal’s NASCAR Nationwide Series sponsorship to a Sprint Cup deal, but were left high and dry when Fastenal declined the offer in order to begin discussions with another major NASCAR team.
Where might Truex and Bass Pro Shops land, if they were to opt-out of their current deal with DEI-Ganassi? Speculation centers on Stewart-Haas Racing, with Truex teaming with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. Stewart said weeks ago that his team is not looking to field a third car next season, and team spokesman Mike Arning echoed those thoughts today.
“We would obviously have to take a good, hard look at a situation like that, but I think we would be hard-pressed to make it happen,” said Arning. “We have a lot to prove to people next year; specifically that we can compete right out of the box as a two-car team. Adding a third car at this late date would be extremely difficult, and while it’s obviously not my call, my guess is that it might be too much to take on.”
However, fully funded drivers are few and far between these days. Particularly drivers with the talent of Martin Truex, Jr.
Adding another layer of intrigue to the story are unconfirmed reports that Bobby Labonte may be negotiating to jump to DEI-Ganassi Racing, driving the #41 Target car. The deal would be contingent on Labonte's ability to negotiate an exit from Petty Enterprises, where he is signed through the 2012 season. A spokesman for DEI-Ganassi Racing said today that while he has heard Labonte’s name as one of many rumored to be in the running for the #41 car, he has no knowledge of any ongoing negotiations.
A number of cards obviously remain to be dealt at this point. But at present, the most likely scenario appears to be for Labonte to negotiate his departure from Petty Enterprises, allowing him to move to DEI-Ganassi Racing with sponsorship from Target. That would keep Truex and his Bass Pro Shops sponsorship in-house, opening the door for AJ Allmendinger to drive the #43 Dodge next season for the newly merged Gillett-Evernham/Petty Enterprises tandem.