CHARLOTTE – Monday’s sponsor announcement of First Data was bereft of concrete assurances that Kyle Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet will have full funding next season.
But the vibe was positive at the NASCAR Hall of Fame event hosted by Chip Ganassi Racing, which will need to fill the void left by the departure of longtime sponsor Target in 2018.
“I’m confident mainly just because Chip and (team president Steve) Lauletta, they don’t seem worried about it,” Larson said. “They’ve got a lot of great partners. I think Chip’s organization is — not that it’s easy to find sponsors — but it’s more intriguing for sponsors because he has so many different race teams in different series, so there’s a lot more opportunities for sponsors to get coverage, so I’m not too worried about it.
“We’ve got a lot more important things to worry about the rest of the year, with a championship being one of them. We’ll worry about that.”
First Data will sponsor Larson in the October playoff races at Talladega Superspeedway and Martinsville Speedway (where the race also will be sponsored by the company, whose technology helps process more than $2.2 trillion annually in transactions for 4,000 financial institutions).
First Data CEO and chairman Frank Bisignano attended the Monday announcement, which could be a good sign for increasing its investment with Larson in 2018.
“Frank wants to grow more next year,” Ganassi said.
Is the team optimistic about filling Larson’s car next season?
“Yeah, we still have work to do, but obviously winning races doesn’t hurt,” Ganassi said. “If you know anybody out there that’s interested and so inclined, give them my number.”
Ganassi already has begun its transition away from Target in the first 24 races this season, a third of which have featured other primary sponsors on Larson’s car (such as Credit One Bank).
Larson said he doesn’t know how many races remain open on the car for next year, joking his teammate “Jamie (McMurray) gets more involved in the business questions than I do. I just worry about racing.” But he is encouraged by the addition of First Data, which he learned his business team uses to sell his T-shirts.
“Obviously with Target leaving, a lot of people are looking at what we’ve got for the future, and I think this is a great step for partnership,” he said.