Last week the NASCAR Silly Season picture grew clearer. This week, it’s as clear as it’s ever been. Aric Almirola is back with Stewart-Haas Racing for another one year contract but this one will be his last. Smithfield will remain as his sponsor on his No. 10 Ford but Almirola will step away at seasons end.
His most possible replacement?
Before we get to Preece, Almirola and how this piece fits into a much larger puzzle, lets first look at how this puzzle started off in the Silly Season box.
Plenty of charters have exchanged hands. Both GMS and Kaulig Racing wanted into the Cup Series as full-time teams. Kaulig wanted two cars, GMS with one. Trackhouse wanted not only one charter, but two as they eyed expansion for 2022. Then, you get 23XI Racing wanting to expand to a second full-time car.
That’s five charters being sought.
Spire got the ball rolling by selling two charters to Kaulig Racing. See, Trackhouse leased one of Spire’s three charters for 2021 but Spire sold it out from under them for 2022. Justin Haley will drive the No. 31 Chevrolet while AJ Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson will share the No. 16 Chevrolet.
That left Trackhouse now needing at least one charter but preferably two. They thought outside the box and offered Chip Ganassi a deal he couldn’t refuse. So, Trackhouse bought out Ganassi which included their shop and both charters. Daniel Suarez will return to the No. 99 Chevrolet while Ross Chastain stays technically in the same building going from a Ganassi driver to Trackhouse and will pilot the No. 1 Chevrolet.
Kurt Busch was the odd man out but that’s okay. He joined 23XI Racing in the No. 45 Toyota. Without a charter, they were hoping Front Row Motorsports would sell one of theirs. Instead, FRM kept both and keeps Michael McDowell in the No. 34 Ford but replaces Anthony Alfredo with Todd Gilliland in the No. 38 Ford.
23XI Racing then offered StarCom a substantial amount of money to buy them out and off StarCom goes with Ganassi and in comes a second charter for 23XI Racing.
GMS was still after a charter and that comes in a buyout of Richard Petty Motorsports. They’ll keep RPM around but in the 43 car under a GMS umbrella. The initial slate of the No. 94 Chevrolet and Ty Dillon being the driver now swaps to the No. 42 Chevrolet with a merged deal with RPM. They gained a charter for that ride in the sale.
That charter came from the split one between Petty and Rick Ware Racing. See, RWR didn’t want four charters. Their ideal scenario was two.
This deal left them with three. Spire which sold two of their three was after one more. They got it from RWR and will run the No. 77 Chevrolet full-time with Josh Bilicki in most races for them with the exception of the Daytona 500 and a few others.
RWR now has two charters.
JTG Daugherty Racing also announced they’ll not run an open car anymore leaving Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as their lone full time car. The 37 Chevrolet goes away.
That put Ryan Preece on a free agent list that included Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Newman.
SHR elected to remain status quo and brought Almirola and Smithfield back but only for one year. They also signed Preece to a developmental deal which all signs pointing to Preece replacing Almirola in 2023.
Keselowski wanted an ownership stake but Penske isn’t structured for that to happen. He left to buy into Roush Fenway Racing and take over the No. 6 Ford. Austin Cindric who was supposed to drive the No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers shifts over as Keselowski’s replacement. Harrison Burton then replaces Cindric in the No. 21 ride.
Head spinning yet?
DiBenedetto found a Truck Series ride. Alfredo moves down to the Xfinity Series with Our Motorsports. Newman, is really the only major full time driver from 2021 left without a ride. The music in this high speed game of musical chairs is dimming and slowing down. Newman, is left standing and the full time seats are all folded up and placed back in storage.
His only options really are Spire or RWR now on a part-time basis.
The 2021 charter list.
Hendrick Motorsports (No. 5, No. 9, No. 24, No. 48)
Stewart-Haas Racing (No. 4, No. 10, No. 14, No. 41)
Joe Gibbs Racing (No. 11, No. 18, No. 19, No. 20)
Rick Ware Racing (No. 52, No. 53, No. 15)
Team Penske (No. 2, No. 12, No. 22)
Richard Childress Racing (No. 3, No. 8)
Roush Fenway Racing (No. 6, No. 17)
Chip Ganassi Racing (No. 1, No. 42)
Front Row Motorsports (No. 34, No. 38)
JTG Daugherty Racing (No. 47)
23XI Racing (No. 23)
Wood Brothers (No. 21)
Spire Sports (No. 7, No. 77)
Spire Sports (No. 99) *leased to Trackhouse Racing
Richard Petty Motorsports (No. 43)
Live Fast Motorsports (No. 78)
StarCom Racing (No. 00)
Petty Ware Racing (No. 51)
For 2022, the list remains somewhat similar
Hendrick Motorsports (No. 5, No. 9, No. 24, No. 48) *no changes
Joe Gibbs Racing (No. 11, No. 18, No. 19, No. 20) *no changes
Stewart-Haas Racing (No. 4, No. 10, No. 14, No. 41) *no changes
Team Penske (No. 2, No. 12, No. 22) *Cindric replaces Keselowski in the No. 2
Roush Fenway Racing (No. 6, No. 17) *Keselowski replaces Ryan Newman in the No. 6
Richard Childress Racing (No. 3, No. 8) *no changes
Trackhouse Racing (No. 1, No. 99) *team bought out Chip Ganassi Racing, Chastain takes over the No. 1, Suarez back in the No. 99.
Front Row Motorsports (No. 34, No. 38) *McDowell is back in the 34, Todd Gilliland is in the 38
23XI Racing (2 charters, No. 23, No. 45) *Bubba Wallace will be back in 2022, Kurt Busch is in the 2nd car with this charter coming from StarCom.
Kaulig Racing (2 charters, No. 16, No. 31) – Justin Haley full-time in the No. 16, AJ Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson to share the No. 31. Charters purchased from Spire.
Petty GMS Racing (2 charters, No. 42, No. 43) Erik Jones will be in the 43 with Ty Dillon in the 42. The 43 charter is came from last year, 42 charter from the RWR/Petty deal.
Spire Sports (2 charters, No, 7, No. 77) *Corey LaJoie back in the No. 7, Josh Bilicki and a few others in the No. 77 Chevrolet. They sold other 2 charters for Kaulig but likely now gets another back but this one from RWR.
Wood Brothers (No. 21) *Harrison Burton replaces Matt DiBenedetto for 2022
JTG Daugherty Racing (No. 47) *Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is back. The 37 car which was an open ride from last year is gone.
Live Fast Motorsports (No. 78) *Team not selling a charter, looking for drivers for 2022.
Rick Ware Racing (Numbers TBA) – 1 of their 4 charters sold in the Petty/GMS dealing. Initially, it was a split charter between RWR and Petty. Now, Petty sold that to GMS. A second charter appears to be heading towards Spire’s way (No. 77 Chevrolet) meaning they’re down to two charters. That’s what they were after all along. They’ve also started a technical alliance with SHR meaning that Ryan Preece will likely be in one of their cars in a couple of races.
Spire – No. 77 Chevrolet is open for Daytona 500 and a few other races.
Rick Ware Racing – 2 seats open but Ryan Preece likely in car May 1 Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway and May 29 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Live Fast – part time seat in the No. 78 with BJ McLeod.