Chip Ganassi Racing is closing down its NASCAR Xfinity Series team on the eve of the 2019 season.
The team had already signed race-winner Ross Chastain for a full-season programme that will now not go ahead. Ganassi had won six races and finished second in last year’s Xfinity owners’ championship.
The news follows a recent FBI raid on the Xfinity team’s main sponsor DC Solar.
“Due to a lack of sponsorship funding we will cease operation of the #42 Xfinity team in 2019,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement to Autosport.
“This was a difficult decision for me to make and it comes with much anguish as this is a championship calibre team and more importantly because it affects a number of good people’s livelihoods.
“Running a car without proper funding is difficult to do.”
A Ganassi spokesperson told Autosport that Chastain was free to drive for another NASCAR team but “is still tied to us”.
The team made clear that its Cup Series programmes with Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch will not be affected.
In late December, there were multiple reports that the FBI conducted twin raids on the home of DC Solar CEO Jeff Carpoff and the company’s headquarters.
Chastain had made his first start with Ganassi’s Xfinity team at Darlington last year and then dominated at Las Vegas in the next round.
Ganassi’s announcement comes just one day after fellow Cup team Roush Fenway Racing said it was calling off its Xfinity programme for 2019.
Roush has taken five drivers to championships at NASCAR’s second level, most recently Chris Buescher in 2015, and ran two full-time entries last year.
Team president Steve Newmark told SiriusXM Radio that Roush “realised we needed to allocate all of our resources” to its Cup efforts.
“We’ve decided on how we’re positioned we’ll step out of that for a year and see how that goes and just focus all the resources, all the engineering, all the windtunnel on making sure that we perform to our expectations at the Cup level,” he added.
Newmark underlined that team founder Jack Roush “has always been passionate” about the second tier so the absence could be temporary, and said there was “no doubt” sponsorship concerns had influenced the decision to pull out.