Ganassi changes name for Cup team, drops Earnhardt

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Bob Pockrass of The Sporting News has confirmed that the legendary Earnhardt name has been dropped by Chip Ganassi’s Sprint Cup operation – which has now reverted to the “Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates” name after a five-year run as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

EGR was forged going into the 2009 season after the merger of Ganassi’s team and the former Dale Earnhardt Inc. squad, two teams that were struggling at the time to find sponsorship to fund their respective groups.

The combined team has primarily carried on as a two-car operation in Sprint Cup, and will maintain that this year with veteran Jamie McMurray and Cup rookie Kyle Larson.

“It’s been an honor to have the Earnhardt name affiliated with our team,” CGR president Steve Lauletta said Wednesday according to Pockrass. “Dale and Teresa have done a tremendous amount for the sport. She was visionary enough with us to do this partnership in the first place. We felt like it was a benefit…The goal of becoming a better race team partnered together, we think we did that.

“That’s a tribute to her wanting to do the right thing for her partners, her company and her employees. We have nothing but good things to say about the partnership.”

During the combined team’s tenure as EGR, it won the 2010 Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, both with McMurray at the wheel. However, it also endured a winless drought that lasted for three seasons until McMurray won this past fall at Talladega Superspeedway under caution.

Day-to-day operations of the No. 1 and No. 42 programs are expected to keep going along normally as Teresa Earnhardt, widow of seven-time Cup champ Dale Earnhardt Sr., has had little influence on that front. In addition, Lauletta told Pockrass that CGR would continue to maintain a business relationship with the DEI companies.

However, considering how much the Earnhardt name means to NASCAR fans, we can probably figure some of them won’t be happy with this decision – even if it shouldn’t really affect the team all that much.

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.