Ganassi shakes up racing crews

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Andy Graves, the first employee hired by car owner Chip Ganassi when he started his NASCAR operation, resigned as team manager Tuesday as part of a shakeup within the three-car operation.

The move comes one day after Jeff Vandermoss was replaced as crew chief on rookie David Stremme’s team.

The team was competitive in its first two seasons, winning five races and putting Sterling Marlin on top of the points standings for 25 weeks in 2002. But Graves broke his neck in an accident and missed the final seven races of the season. The team has struggled since.

Marlin is now gone, Jamie McMurray asked out of his contract so he could join Roush Racing, and Casey Mears is now teamed with two rookies.

Although Mears is currently ranked 10th in the standings and off to a terrific start, Reed Sorenson is 19th, Stremme is 37th and the team has not won a race since 2002.

“Andy Graves has been a passionate and valued member of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates for the past seven years,” Ganassi said. “I have an extremely high regard for him both professionally and personally and look forward to his continued contributions here at Chip Ganassi Racing.”

Ganassi did not indicate what Graves will now do within the company.

“It has been a privilege to work with Chip, Felix and the whole team over the last seven seasons,” said Graves. “These years with the team have been a part of my life that I will never forget and for that I am truly grateful. I am now just looking forward to the next chapter of my career here at Chip Ganassi Racing.”

Meanwhile, Stremme heads to Phoenix this weekend with a new crew chief as Ganassi tries to get the rookie in gear. Ironically, it was Graves who announced that change on Monday.

Steven Lane, who was a car chief at Ganassi, now takes over Stremme’s team. Lane has experience – he spent two years as Kyle Petty’s crew chief before joining the Ganassi organization three seasons ago.

AP-ES-04-18-06 1503EDT

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