NASCAR Silly Season is living up to its billing. It’s truly silly so far and we’ve just gotten started. There were always rumors that Trackhouse Racing wanted to expand to a second car. Same for 23XI Racing. Kaulig Racing was interested in joining the sports premiere series. All were after charters.
Brad Keselowski was rumored to be leaving Team Penske and to be joining Roush Fenway Racing as a driver/owner. All this was just the surface. A couple of weeks into it, all and more have already come true.
Kaulig Racing did come up to the NASCAR Cup Series. They’ll do so as a two car team with Justin Haley as the full time driver in one car and AJ Allmendinger sharing the other car. They acquired two charters from Spire who sold each for a reported $10 million each.
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That took Trackhouse’s charter away as they were leasing a charter from Spire. Since the charter couldn’t be leased two years in-a-row, Trackhouse was interested in buying it. Since it was gone, they went bold and shook the NASCAR world.
They bought Chip Ganassi Racing instead. Yes, beginning in 2022, CGR is going to become Trackhouse Racing. CGR wasn’t even for sale but Justin Marks and Ty Norris had a brilliant business pitch and with Pitbull’s funding they talked Ganassi into an early NASCAR retirement and acquired two charters the hard way.
Daniel Suarez will drive one of the two cars with the other seat open.
Keselowski’s move is all but done. The only thing missing is the formal announcement. 23XI now has to decide if they want to buy a charter from someone even though Rick Ware Racing and Live Fast have each said that they’re not for sale and neither are their charters.
With 31 of the 36 charters accounted for, barring JTG Daugherty Racing selling, the only other path for 23XI of acquiring a charter is to buy it from StarCom who’s also made no mention of wanting to sell.
Which leads us to where we are now.
Keselowski’s the first domino and Kurt Busch is really the next. There’s two separate paths to each. With Keselowski leaving, that opens up a seat at Team Penske. Here’s the kicker, Austin Cindric is eventually going to end up there as his dad is Tim Cindric. He’s a Penske driver too. Since Keselowski owning a team and leaving was a shock to most, Penske was hoping that Brad would be back and they’d house Cindric at Wood Brothers in the same way that they did Ryan Blaney a few years ago.
So, the deal was done. Cindric was already scheduled to drive the No. 21 Ford for 2022. Matt DiBenedetto was given enough time to look elsewhere. But, with Keselowski now gone and a ride open, wouldn’t it just make sense to move Cindric over to the No. 2 Ford now?
Plus, with Todd Gordon retiring at seasons end, wouldn’t it even more make sense to move Jeremy Bullins and the entire crew to Blaney’s car for 2022 and allow Cindric or whomever else comes over to bring a new team with them?
In turn, that could leave the Wood Brothers with an open seat. Do they just go back to DiBenedetto and try to retain him for a third straight season then? Did he find somewhere else to go? Does he even want to come back?
Penske doesn’t have any more younger drivers coming up through the ranks now so the Wood Brothers seat could be someone’s for the foreseeable future without constantly looking over their shoulders at a future Penske driver like Blaney and Cindric coming up.
DiBenedetto could be interested in Trackhouse or even 23XI if they truly have an opening and really do expand for 2022. What about Stewart-Haas Racing? That’s another Ford team and one that could have an opening if they don’t retain Aric Almirola.
See, Almirola is off to a terrible start to the season and change may be needed. Money talks though and as long as Smithfield continues on with Almirola, I think they work it out with SHR. IF they don’t, then maybe that seat opens up.
Was about JTG? Both drivers are free agents and one car is non chartered. They’re after a charter for it. Do they just sell the other for big money and ride it out as a one car non chartered team? Do they keep it status quo with two cars, one with a charter, one without? Do they find a way to be a buyer and get a second charter? Do they keep one or both of their current drivers or bring in two more?
I think Busch ends up with 23XI Racing and teams up with his brother. He’s won in a Dodge, Ford and Chevrolet but not a Toyota. He’s the veteran voice that 23XI is searching for and he’s tested the Next Gen car to give them the feedback that they’ve needed. He can race a year or two and give way to one of the younger Toyota drivers in Harrison Burton or John Hunter Nemechek.
That leaves Trackhouse who can bring back Ross Chastain but I wonder how much true interest is there. Chastain could be best served in going to Kaulig in the part time car and running full time in NXS for them again before maybe making that second part time Cup car full time and being his ride.
If Almirola leaves, I have to think either JTG driver now would be a primary candidate. I don’t think Riley Herbst is ready and both Ryan Preece and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are represented by Kevin Harvick’s team. Stenhouse and Tony Stewart have a lot of connections to one another and NOS Energy Drink teaming with SHR could help in NASCAR and sprint cars. I think the move for both.
Preece, can then move up to the 47 car leaving room in the 37 if it runs. Trackhouse can then focus on a veteran like Ryan Newman or Almirola although I feel like with RFR’s alliance with Front Row Motorsports, maybe Newman’s best landing spot is to race the No. 38 Ford for a year with maybe even closer support to RFR with Keselowski’s new deal with them too.
That’s my early indications. Notice I didn’t really bring up guys like Brett Moffitt, Daniel Hemric, Ty Dillon, Noah Gragson, etc. I don’t know if they would have room to move up to these open rides nor would they want to just settle again.