The 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for Chip Ganassi Racing would be considered a “normal” season for the team. This was the first full season under the ownership of Ganassi, Felix Sabates, and Rob Kauffman.
The team returned to on track competition with Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson. Both drivers made the Chase, a promise made by Sabates in 2015, but came into fruition in 2016.
McMurray’s 2016 season started off with three top-20 finishes in the first four races with his best finishes at Las Vegas and Phoenix where he finished 16th. At Auto Club Speedway, McMurray placed his first top-10 finish of the season. However at Martinsville, he finished 23rd. Despite a finish outside the top-20, McMurray was able to place two 13th place finishes at Texas and Bristol and a 16th place finish at Richmond. At Talladega, McMurray was able to finish fourth, making this his first top-five finish of the season. He went from a top-five finish to finishing outside the top-20 at Kansas and Dover. Despite those finishes, he went on a streak of four top-20 place finishes with the best finish coming at Michigan where he finished ninth. In the first road course race at Sonoma, he finished in 17th. His first DNF of the season came at Daytona in the Coke Zero 400 where he was involved in an accident. However, he was able to place two consecutive top-10 finishes at Kentucky and New Hampshire where he finished seventh and sixth respectively. Indianapolis and Pocono saw McMurray finish within the top-20. He went on a three race streak of eighth place finishes at Watkins Glen, Bristol, and Michigan. At Darlington, he finished 15th. In the final race of the regular season, McMurray finished seventh and made his way into the Chase through points. In the opening round, his best finish came at Chicago with an 11th place finish. He finished 19th in New Hampshire, but had engine issues at Dover which resulted in a 40th place finish and no hope to advance to the next round. After being knocked out of the Chase in the opening round, McMurray ended with a top-10 finish at Charlotte. The top-10 was backed by a 37th place finish at Kansas, and a 19th place finish at Talladega. At Martinsville, he scored an eighth place finish, but had two top-20 finishes at Texas and Phoenix. He ended his season with a top-five finish at Homestead.
McMurray competed in 10198 of 10523 laps in the season and led zero laps. He had two top-five finishes, 12 top-10’s, an average start of 16.6, an average finish of 15.8, and two DNF’s.
In his third full time season in Cup competition, Larson would have one of his best years of his career, so far. The season started out strong with a seventh place finish in the Daytona 500. However, Larson finished outside of the top-20 at Atlanta and Las Vegas, but was able to rebound with a 12th place finish at Phoenix International Raceway. Larson ended the west coast swing with a crash at Auto Club Speedway. He went to Martinsville and was able to rebound for a third place finish. He finished 14th at Texas, but had a dismal 35th place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway. Larson rebounded at Richmond with a 15th place finish, but quickly finished 29th at Talladega and crashed at Kansas that resulted in a 35th place finish. Larson rebounded at Dover with a second place finish and a 13th place finish at Charlotte. Larson kicked off the summer strong with four top-20 finishes. His best finish came at Michigan with a third place finish and his worst finish of those four races was Sonoma where he finished 12th. To kick off the second half of the season, Larson finished 19th at Kentucky Speedway. His next top-five came at Indianapolis where he finished fifth and finished sixth at Pocono the following week. Larson’s “luck” went south at Watkins Glen and Bristol where he finished 29th and 25th respectively. However, Larson’s first win of his Cup career came at Michigan where he beat rookie Chase Elliott. This win would lock Larson into the Chase. He followed the victory with a third and second place finish at Darlington and Richmond. In the opening round of the Chase, Larson had an 18th at Chicago, 10th at New Hampshire, and a 25th place finish at Dover. Just like his teammate, Larson did not advance any further in the chase grid. Despite not moving on in the Chase, Larson started the second round with a fifth at Charlotte, a 30th at Kansas, and a sixth place finish at Talladega. To finish out the season, Larson finished in the top 20 in the remaining four races. At Phoenix and Homestead, Larson finished third and second to finish off the season and have momentum into 2017.
Larson competed in 10271 of 10523 laps, and lead 379 laps in the 2016. Larson had one win, 10 top-fives, 15 top-10’s, an average start of 15.6, an average finish of 14.7 and 2 DNF’s.
For 2017, Larson and McMurray will be returning to Chip Ganassi Racing. For McMurray, 2017 will be another year of consistency for him. Larson has momentum going into 2017. There is a chance that he will win more races and contend for a championship barring any unforeseen circumstances that might arise during the season. The sponsorship picture for McMurray is set; However, for Larson, Target is reducing its sponsorship in NASCAR giving the team a chance to explore other sponsors. There has been no news made on that front for Larson.