With some recent movement in the NASCAR Silly Season department, where do we sit? We know that Bubba Wallace will drive for the newly formed Denny Hamlin/Michael Jordan endeavor. That will be a Toyota team with the number and name unknown at this time. We also know that this new organization will take over all of Germain Racing’s assets including their charter too as Germain will close up shop at seasons end but still be a part of this new entity though.
On Wednesday, another new team was unveiled. Trackhouse Entertainment Group which is being led by former driver Justin Marks has brought on Daniel Suarez as their driver of their No. 99 Chevrolet. They’ll take over one of the Spire charters with a guaranteed spot into the field in 2021.
Two teams gone – Leavine Family Racing and Germain Racing and two teams added.
So, where does everything else sit?
Ross Chastain will drive the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. Alex Bowman will replace the retiring Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Chevrolet with Hendrick Motorsports with his now No. 88 Chevrolet seat open.
What else is available?
The Wood Brothers is the next domino to fall. Matt DiBenedetto has a contract in place with them for 2021, 2022 and 2023. The problem is, it’s all one year increments with the team deciding to re up each season. He said the deadline for him to know was at the end of September and he has had no discussions with the Wood Brothers yet on if he’ll be back in 2021 or not. I don’t see the Wood Brothers wanting to move away from him either. It’s just that the Wood Brothers are a Penske alliance team and Penske may be calling the shots. All three drivers are back for them next year and unless they expand to a fourth car, which they aren’t, what do they do with Austin Cindric? He’s like Chase Brisoce in that he’s won five times in 2020 and I don’t think he needs another year in NXS. The Wood Brothers would be a good spot to stash him for a year or two like they did with Ryan Blaney until a seat opens up at Penske. Plus, Cindric is a road racing ace and we have six of them on the 2021 schedule now. It’s all adding up that Cindric may get that seat.
After that, it’s to the Stewart-Haas Racing scenario. They’ve recently said that they expect all four drivers back. Aric Almirola just signed a one-year extension. Clint Bowyer hasn’t worked a new deal out, but if he does, I expect another single year extension for him too. Where this gets interesting is, what do they do with Briscoe?
Briscoe, has won seven times this year and I don’t think a third year in the Xfinity Series is needed. He’s their future. He’s a Ford development driver and wants to remain that way. There was also a rumor that Hendrick Motorsports could buy him out. There’s another situation to where he takes over the 14 too. I mean, he’s just like Tony Stewart in terms of their racing background. I don’t see SHR losing him. So, do they store him at Go Fas for a year? I’ve heard recently that Go Fas isn’t necessarily an option for Briscoe plus he’d be better served to go back to one more year in NXS over there.
At this point, it’s between Bowyer and Briscoe for the 14 seat.
Then, it all falls to the Hendrick Motorsports open seat. Kyle Larson is the new rumor on the block that he will be taking over the 88 car. But, can HMS lure enough sponsorship for that? Bowman shifted over to the car that’s fully funded. Do any of Bowman’s sponsors on the 88 want Larson? Can they bridge the gap to get him there?
Where HMS can sit and wait is, they can watch how the Wood Brothers and SHR deals play out. They can have their pick for the taking in Briscoe, Bowyer, DiBenedetto, etc. That’s why despite this arguably being the top ride available, they can wait to see how other seats align.
The 3 at Richard Childress Racing is open but I don’t see any way Austin Dillon leaves. With Germain closing, I don’t think Richard Childress is going to let his other grandson in Ty Dillon leave either. Is Dillon a candidate for the HMS seat? If not, I can see a scenario where Richard Petty Motorsports gets more resources from RCR and they house Ty Dillon there.
I mean, RPM is under the RCR roof already. They’re an alliance team. With Germain closing up shop, RCR can take all of those assets and move them across the building to RPM and put everything into that.
JTG would be the next domino with Ryan Preece’s ride open. I think the team would be open to bringing Preece back depending on how everything else in silly season plays out. The other factor is, are they keeping their charter? Spire acquired LFR’s charter along with their own but says they have a third charter. It had to come from somewhere and one rumor is it came from JTG.
I do think Brett Moffitt, Justin Haley and Daniel Hemric should get looks for RPM’s and JTG’s seats.
That then leaves Erik Jones. He doesn’t have anything to bring but himself. He doesn’t have the funding, but has the talent. He could be a story like Joey Logano who was let go by JGR only to go onto a Hall of Fame type of career with Penske.
Any of these open rides would certainly take a look at him as HMS or SHR should strongly consider him.
Hendrick Motorsports – No. 88 Chevrolet
Stewart Haas Racing – No. 14 Ford
Richard Childress Racing – No. 3 Chevrolet
Wood Brothers – No. 21 Ford
JTG Daugherty Racing – No. 37 Chevrolet
Richard Petty Motorsports – No. 43 Chevrolet
Go Fas Racing – No. 32 Ford
Spire – No. 77 Chevrolet
Spire – No. 95 Chevrolet (number not necessarily “95” just was the number for LFR in which they purchased.
Premium Motorsports – No. 15 Chevrolet
Free Agents (Notable Drivers From Feeder Series’)
Hendrick Motorsports (4) – Chase Elliott is back through the 2022 season. William Byron and Alex Bowman each reached new deals with Byron through 2022 and Bowman through next season.
Chip Ganassi Racing (2) – Kurt Busch is back in part of his multi-year deal with a new teammate in Ross Chastain.
JTG Daugherty Racing (2) – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be back in the 47 but the 37 remains open.
Richard Childress Racing (2) – Tyler Reddick has already indicated that he’ll be back in 2021. The other car is open but I don’t see Austin Dillon leaving a ride that he’s currently making a deep playoff run in nor do I see his grandfather kicking him to the curb.
Spire (2) – The 77 will be back but they also purchased the assets to Leavine Family Racing too.
Richard Petty Motorsports (1) – Ride is open.
Trackhouse Entertainment Group (1) – Daniel Suarez. Signed a deal on Wednesday.
StarCom Racing (1) – Quin Houff signed a two-year deal and will be back in 2021.
Premium Motorsports (1) – Ride is open.
Stewart-Haas Racing (4) – Three of their four drivers are back. Kevin Harvick has a deal through 2023, Aric Almirola has a one year extension while Cole Custer is back and I don’t see him leaving soon with who his dad is and his role with that team.
Team Penske (3) – All three drivers are back in 2021. Logano and Blaney have multi year deals with Keselowski reportedly working on a one year extension.
Roush Fenway Racing (2) – Both Ryan Newman and Chris Buescher are expected back.
Front Row Motorsports (2) – Both Michael McDowell and John Hunter Nemechek are expected to be back.
Wood Brothers (1) – That ride is open as of now.
Go Fas Racing (1) – This ride is open
Joe Gibbs Racing (4) – Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are all back for 2021. Christopher Bell slides in to replace Erik Jones in the No. 20 Toyota.
Gaunt Brothers (1) – Ride is open
Leavine Family Racing