Well, we knew Trackhouse was looking for charters, but nobody saw this coming. The acquisition of Chip Ganassi Racing was not expected and Chip himself said his team was not for sale. Justin Marks and Pitbull essentially Godfathered him and made an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Getting over the shock, my initial thoughts are that this could be a really good thing overall. Chip Ganassi gets to focus primarily on his IndyCar team, which has always been his more successful motorsport team, but also his first love. CGR has only ever had realistic shot at contending for a championship in 2001 with Sterling Marlin and 2019 with Kyle Larson, but overall their equipment has never been consistent enough in quality to contend for championships. Trackhouse has outperformed what is expected out of a new team racing with Richard Childress Racing equipment and is highly dedicated to not only being champions but evolving the sport on the entertainment side.
There are a few gears that turn with this news. Trackhouse now owns two charters. This season they are currently leasing a Spire owned charter that they will no longer need in 2022. That means Daniel Suarez has a locked-down ride, but now Justin Marks and Ty Norris must decide between Ross Chastain or Kurt Busch for that second charter.
There is a chance that they could decide to keep all three drivers and just have one car race without a charter or lease the Spire charter again. Considering they’ve publicly said that they’re only trying to expand to a two-car team within the two-month period they’ve had discussions about buying CGR, I don’t expect three cars to be on their mind. So, this means either Chastain or Busch is out of their ride.
Kurt Busch could make the decision easy for them if he elects to go to 23XI Racing. There’s no real sign as to which one he’d prefer, but going to Trackhouse probably became a lot more appealing.
Both Chastain and Busch have been putting up equal numbers, despite Busch currently has a commanding points lead sitting in 14th while Chastain sits 22nd. This large difference is mainly due to Busch gaining more stage points. Honestly, each of them in terms of ability would probably bring the same level.
One of the biggest motivations for Trackhouse to covet Busch is his experience and helping to grow this team. I think that reasoning gets leveled out with this news because Trackhouse is about to take ownership of a lot of equipment and gain a lot of workers with NASCAR experience.
If you can forgo the experience, and look at Chastain and Busch just based on their on-track performance, I would rather keep Chastain. Reason being, the upside, and longevity that Chastain brings. If I was Trackhouse, I wouldn’t want to let Chastain go onto the open market. He has performed his expectations and flirted with wins this season.
If Trackhouse does elect to keep Busch, I have no doubt Chastain will become a quick candidate for 23XI, GMS Racing, and potentially Team Penske/Wood Brothers and replace Matt DiBenedetto. Getting a young and aggressive driver who is at the least meeting his expectations in CGR equipment is worth taking a look into if you’re a team looking for a driver or a driver upgrade.
Expect the #42 car that has been a main fixture in the sport for so long to be gone in 2022, as it would make sense for Trackhouse to retain the #1. Not only is it cool to own the #1, but it works with them already owning #99; they’d own the lowest and highest number. Perhaps now Richard Petty can purchase his fathers number?