NASCAR: Chip Ganassi Racing Fantasy Preview

2006 Team Performance
The re-making of Ganassi went about as well as could be expected, which is kind of like saying the Arizona Cardinals are close to greatness. Reed Sorenson was a pretty cool surprise in the No. 41, posting a top-5 and five top-10 finishes, while contending in races at New Hampshire and Dover. Sorenson's fellow rookie, David Stremme, looked a bit more lost, perhaps because he drove around with a steakhouse on his car for much of the season. (If Wonder Bread had backed out of Ricky Bobby's sponsorship in "Talladega Nights," I've a feeling Lone Star Steakhouse would've stepped up to the plate.) The veteran of this triumvirate, Casey Mears, was supposed to step in for the departed Jamie McMurray and produce results, but Mears was mediocre at best, failing to win a race and actually registering fewer top-10s in '06 (eight) than he did in a disappointing '05 (nine). Considering this team has gone from McMurray, Sterling Marlin and Mears to two sophomores and a heralded rookie in the span of just two seasons, the Ganassi program is practically in expansion-team territory. They've blown it all up and started over.

2007 Team Outlook
The team is certainly betting on Sorenson and Stremme improving as the yellow strip comes off their back bumpers, but most of the Ganassi eggs are in the basket of Juan Pablo Montoya, the much-ballyhooed Formula One (and CART) driver who's made the leap from Europe's top automotive series to America's. The 31-year-old Colombian certainly isn't your standard Nextel Cup rookie; from 2001 to 2005, Montoya started 95 races on the F-1 circuit, posted seven wins, 30 podium finishes and won 12 poles. In 2002 and 2003, he finished third in the final points standings, and in 2005, he finished fourth. Not to mention his victory at the 2000 Indianapolis 500 in his first start at that race. Clearly, he's no slouch. Of course, driving the high-tech rocket ships with on-board computers that do everything but brush one's teeth is a bit different than the beating and banging of NASCAR. His list of achievements earned him the adoration of a fan base that spans the globe and a big-money contract with Ganassi. Needless to say, Montoya will be thrown into the deep end of the pool right away. It seems unlikely that Montoya or either of his teammates will be Chase-bound in 2007, but Montoya has eventually been successful in everything he's ever driven, so don't write him off.

40 - David Stremme
Wins: 0
Best Finish: 11th (twice)
Poles, Top-fives, top-10s, DNFs: 0, 0, 0, 4