NASCAR was able to complete all three seasons on the national ranks. Now, the focus is onto 2021 with Speedweeks at Daytona coming in February. During this time of year, we the term “Silly Season” is usually on the forefront. But, with the Cup Series having most of their rides filled, the lower two levels are seeing some shuffling over the last week. More to that in a bit.
This was another busy week on the forefront of 2021 with a few more dominos either falling or standing back up. Here’s what we know so far.
Plenty of rides swapped hands now. The top domino was what Hendrick Motorsports was going to do with the No. 48 Chevrolet. Now, we know.
Jimmie Johnson’s replacement is essentially Alex Bowman as he will shift from the 88 to the 48 and Bowman’s replacement now is Kyle Larson as they will change the 88 back to the 5.
Larson’s replacement at Chip Ganassi Racing is Ross Chastain. Chastain, joins Kurt Busch with that team. Christopher Bell leaves the closing Leavine Family Racing to unseat Erik Jones in the No. 20 Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing. Jones, moves to the seat left vacant by Bubba Wallace with Richard Petty Motorsports and will drive the famed No. 43 Chevrolet. Wallace, moves to the new team started up by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan and will drive a No. 23 entry for them – likely a Toyota.
Clint Bowyer joins Johnson on the sidelines as he’s retiring too while Chase Briscoe moves up as his replacement.
Daniel Suarez leaves the Gaunt Brothers to join Trackhouse Entertainment Group with an alliance from Richard Petty Motorsports.
Matt DiBenedetto knows he’s back with the Wood Brothers but only for a year because Austin Cindric will drive the No. 21 Ford in 2022. Brad Keselowski is back with Team Penske but also only for 2021 so far. It’s likely either he or DiBenedetto for the No. 2 Ford in 2022.
That pretty well takes care of the big teams. So, what’s left?
JTG Daugherty Racing looks to be sticking with Ryan Preece. Ty Dillon is still looking for work but everything else appears to be drying up.
John Hunter Nemechek announced that he’d leaving Front Row Motorsports and has already secured something else. That leaves the No. 38 Ford open.
On Friday, Go Fas Racing’s charter was purchased and turned into Live Fast Racing. BJ McLeod will drive the newly branded No. 78 Ford.
The only thing left other than that are the two seats at Spire and what Premium Motorsports/Rick Ware Racing does.
We did see three teams close up shop in Germain Racing, Leavine Family Racing and Go Fas Racing but new teams added in Trackhouse Racing team taking over for Germain essentially with taking their RCR alliance, 23XI taking over LFR’s Toyota alliane and now Live Fast Racing taking Go Fas’ SHR alliance.
Front Row Motorsports – No. 38 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. Kyle Larson becomes the fourth driver.
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) – Both drivers (Ricky Stenhouse Jr./Ryan Preece) are back in 2021.
Richard Childress Racing (2) – Tyler Reddick has already indicated that he’ll be back in 2021 with Austin Dillon as the teammate. There’s no reason to expand to a third car with their alliance with Trackhouse Entertainment Group and RPM still.
Spire (2) – The 77 will be back but they also purchased the assets to Leavine Family Racing too. Rumor is Corey LaJoie could be taking one of these seats as the team may be getting an alliance together with Hendrick Motorsports.
Richard Petty Motorsports (1) – Erik Jones will drive this car in a new multi year deal.
Trackhouse Entertainment Group (1) – Daniel Suarez is the driver of the No. 99 Chevrolet.
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. Briscoe was announced as their driver in the 14.
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) – Michael McDowell is back with John Hunter Nemechek shockingly announcing that he’s leaving the team.
Wood Brothers (1) – Matt DiBenedetto is back for 2021 before moving way to Austin Cindric for 2022.
Live Fast Motorsports (1) – BJ McLeod will drive the car for this new team. They’ll keep the alliance with SHR that Go Fas Racing did.
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
There’s been a lot of movement here lately. Ryan Sieg will be back in the No. 39 Chevrolet. Same for family teams of Jeremy Clements (No. 51 Chevrolet) and Brandon Brown (No. 68 Chevrolet). Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett and Noah Gragson have all signed extensions to remain with JR Motorsports full time. The No. 8 Chevrolet, the “all star car” will have Sam Mayer for 18 races, Josh Berry for 12 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for one. That leaves two races available for the taking.
Daniel Hemric shifts from JRM to the No. 18 Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing. He will replace Riley Herbst who by all accounts appears to be heading to Stewart-Haas Racing to replace Chase Briscoe. Harrison Burton and Brandon Jones will be back with JGR for a three car full time line up.
SHR will stay with one car for Herbst.
Austin Cindric is back with Team Penske on this level for one more year. Brett Moffitt will move up to Our Motorsports’ No. 02 Chevrolet full time.
Kaulig Racing announced that Justin Haley will be back in the No. 11 Chevrolet while Jeb Burton will replace Chastain in the No. 10 Chevrolet. AJ Allmendinger should be back in a part time role again in the No. 16 Chevrolet filling out their driver lineup.
The only other big full time ride that could be open is what Richard Childress Racing does with their program. Does Anthony Alfredo move up full time? What about Myatt Snider or Kaz Grala? Does Ty Dillon move back down to give himself a ride full time?
There’s plenty of other smaller teams like JD Motorsports and others still working out their 2021 plans.
Hattori Racing Enterprises is expecting to be back with Austin Hill in limited capacities in their No. 61 Toyota.
Notable Full Time Teams
Team Penske – Austin Cindric (No. 22 Chevrolet)
Stewart-Haas Racing – Riley Herbst (No. 98 Ford)
Joe Gibbs Racing – Daniel Hemric (No. 18 Toyota), Brandon Jones (No. 19 Toyota), Harrison Burton (No. 20 Toyota)
JR Motorsports – Michael Annett (No. 1 Chevrolet), Justin Allgaier No. 7 Chevrolet), Noah Gragson (No. 9 Chevrolet)
Kaulig Racing – Jeb Burton (No. 10 Chevrolet), Justin Haley (No. 11 Chevrolet)
Our Motorsports – Brett Moffitt (No. 02 Chevrolet)
RSS – Ryan Sieg (No. 39 Chevrolet)
Brandonbilt – Brandon Brown (No. 68 Chevrolet)
Jeremy Clements Racing – Jeremy Clements (No. 51 Chevrolet)
Martins Motorsport – Tommy Joe Martins (No. 44 Chevrolet)
DGM Racing – Josh Williams (No. 92 Chevrolet)
This series has the most left to confirm. We know Hill is back with HRE for a third season. GMS will have Sheldon Creed, Tyler Ankrum and Zane Smith back with Chase Purdy moving up to replace the departing Moffitt.
DGR Crosley will see Hailie Deegan take over one of their trucks. Niece will see Carson Hocevar drive the No. 40 Chevrolet.
But, the rest remains open.
ThorSport had Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger in 2020. I can see at least 75-percent of them coming back in 2021.
DGR/Front Row would likely bring Todd Gilliland back themselves in the other truck and Tanner Gray could be a strong play to remain a Ford development driver with the second truck or him moving to ThorSport. He had a solid rookie season and I don’t see Ford giving up on him. He and Deegan are their future they feel.
Stewart Friesen should be back full time in the No. 52 Toyota but nothing has been announced. Kyle Busch Motorsports has two rides open. Does Raphael Lessard and Christian Eckes remain status quo or do they find room for Chandler Smith? I don’t see KBM expanding to three full time trucks and I don’t see Smith leaving, so Lessard or Eckes may need to look elsewhere.
Derek Kraus should be back in his No. 19 Toyota too.
ThorSport and KBM hold the keys to this domino in the Truck Series.