Reed Sorenson isn't waiting for Chip Ganassi Racing to figure out the Car of Tomorrow.
The 22-year-old driver signed a multiyear contract to join Gillett Evernham Motorsports next season, where he'll join Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler.
Sorenson said his decision to leave Ganassi, where he began his NASCAR career as a precocious 18-year-old, was difficult but necessary.
"I'm going over here to try to make myself a better racecar driver," Sorenson said during a conference call Tuesday shortly after the announcement. "I wanted to be more competitive and I wanted to have some more opportunities to win races and things like that."
Sorenson made a splash in the Nationwide Series, finishing fourth in 2005. He moved full-time to the Sprint Cup the next season, but his team has struggled to compete. He has never finished better than 22nd in the season points race and enters this weekend's stop in California 31st in the standings.
"It seems like this year it has been (the) worst year out of the three, so I guess you could say that probably factored in on things like that," said Sorenson, who plans to finish out the season with Ganassi.
Sorenson has 97 Sprint Cup starts with five top-five finishes, but just one this year. He's still searching for his first Sprint Cup win and has been unable to duplicate his Nationwide success, where he's won three times and has 20 top-five finishes in 95 career starts.
"I felt like I've done everything I can with the situation I'm in now," he said. "Like I said, it just seems like this last year, it got a little bit worse as far as not being able to find some speed at some of these places."
Speed hasn't been much of a problem for GEM this season. Kahne has picked up two wins and remains in contention for NASCAR's postseason, ranking 14th with two races to go before the cutoff to the chase. Sadler is 20th in the points standings, but has six top-10s to his credit.
"It seems like they are definitely on an uphill climb towards the top," Sorenson said. "They have definitely made progress. ... It's a team that I think will be here for a long time and seems to be heading in the right direction to win races."
GEM has 15 victories and 27 poles since it began racing full-time in the Cup in 2001.
"Reed is a highly talented driver with a wealth of experience and accomplishments for a 22-year-old," said Mark McArdle, the team's vice president and managing director of competition. "We believe he has a great future ahead of him here at Gillett Evernham Motorsports. He will be a great fit with our drivers, sponsors and employees."
It's a show of confidence Sorenson concedes he needed after a bumpy ride this season.
"I think they believe in me as a driver, and that means a lot, and I believe in them as a team," he said.
The details of a title sponsor are still being worked out, and Sorenson said there are no plans for Target, his main sponsor on the No. 41 car at Ganassi, to follow him over to GEM.
Sorenson said he initially began negotiating an extension with Ganassi a few weeks ago before GEM entered the picture, but added there have been no hard feelings between him and co-owners Ganassi or Felix Sabates, who intimated last year that Sorenson had already peaked as a driver.
"You know, any type of breakup like that is not the easiest thing in the world to do for either side," he said. "But I feel like it (went) fairly well. I'm not too sure how good those types of things can go, but I think it's OK."
Ganassi said in a statement that Sorenson moving on "was the right decision for all of us."
Sorenson remains optimistic he can finish the year strong, and credited his current team members for doing everything within their power to figure the car out.
"I think everybody kind of tried to pull together and tried to make sure that nobody was pointing fingers or anything like that," Sorenson said.
Sorenson's departure leaves Ganassi with just one driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, on board for next year. There's a chance, however, that Dario Franchitti could take Sorenson's spot in the No. 41 in 2009. Ganassi shuttered the former Indy 500 champion's Sprint Cup Series team earlier this year because of lack of funding.
Either way, Sorenson will be starting all over at GEM. There's a chance he'll head to Daytona in February having to earn his way into the field for the Daytona 500. It's not the ideal way to begin the next part of his racing career, but Sorenson knows he's got to start somewhere.
"It's obviously not a fun process to go through, that's for sure, having the extra pressure on you," Sorenson said. "But at the same time, long-term wise, I feel like this is where I want to be."