Noah Gragson takes over the 42 at Petty GMS Racing, where silly season now sits

Noah Gragson will move up to a full-time NASCAR Cup Series ride next season as he’ll take over as the driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet for Petty GMS Racing in 2023. Gragson replaces the departing Ty Dillon who leaves after 1 year with the organization.

Now that the deal is done, let’s take a look at where Silly Season now sits in early August..

In comparison to last year, it’s been a rather quiet silly season thus far with Martin Truex Jr. signing an extension back in June. Same for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Tyler Reddick made the bombshell move by announcing that he’ll move from RCR to 23XI Racing but not do so until 2024. That was the biggest noise of the silly season class of 2022. Despite questions on if Reddick would return to his current seat in 2023 or be bought out, Richard Childress confirmed after their Indy win together that Reddick will be back still.

So, what’s left?

Kyle Busch is the top domino as they’re not moving any closer now than they were before on reaching a new deal. He’s admitted to talking to other teams but at the moment, outside of the No. 10 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing, there’s not much available for him to hop in and be competitive. The only other rides that we know are open are the No. 16 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing, both cars at Front Row Motorsports, both are Spire, both at Rick Ware Racing and the one at Live Fast. Do either of those appeal to Busch?

I can’t see it.

The only other rumor was Hendrick Motorsports and Ally buying Alex Bowman out of his ride a year early and Busch jumping back to HMS, the place he first started in the No. 48 Chevrolet. That’s an intriguing option and one that would make some major noise in silly season.

Outside of that, not much else is expect to shift the earth here.

SHR is working out the details with Aric Almirola on whether he returns or not. Almirola initially announced that he was retiring and while that option is still on the table, word is he and Smithfield may come back for one more year in 2023. That’s why Busch’s name is mentioned here and with HMS because sponsors are in place and Busch doesn’t need to bring one.

FONTANA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 26: Cole Custer, driver of the #07 Production Alliance Group Ford, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series Production Alliance 300 at Auto Club Speedway on February 26, 2022 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Another discussion about SHR is if Cole Custer keeps his seat in the No. 41 Ford. His dad is a team executive so I find it hard to believe he’d fire his own son, but results aren’t there for this team. Custer has 1 win, 2 top 5’s and just 15 laps led in 98 races. There’s rumors that he could get demoted back to the NASCAR Xfinity Series and SHR bringing someone else in. Another option is to send him to their satellite team at Rick Ware Racing.

Ryan Preece is an obvious fit for the 10 or 41 cars and I’m hearing John Hunter Nemechek’s name being mentioned with SHR too. Zane Smith is an intriguing fit as he’s thriving with Ford in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the blue oval doesn’t want to lose him. However, Team Penske isn’t going to expand to a 4th full-time car, they have their satellite team with the Wood Brothers set with Harrison Burton too which means unless Smith goes to SHR, he would likely be slotted to stay with Front Row Motorsports and could be moved up to a Cup ride with them if they don’t keep him in the Truck Series.

SHR though is setting themselves for the future as the 2023 silly season class is to where the Cup foundations shifts.

Truex Jr. signed a one-year deal and I can see 2023 being it. Kevin Harvick is a free agent at seasons end next year. Same for Joey Logano and Kurt Busch. Same for Kyle Larson. Same for Alex Bowman. We know the No. 8 Chevrolet with RCR is open too.

That’s a lot of top rides, with from what I can foresee, 3 of the drivers retiring. Truex and Harvick seem to be ready to hang up their helmets and now does Kurt Busch. Reddick would shift into the 45 seat at 23XI, Ty Gibbs into the 19 unless he’s forced to move up to the 18 to replace Busch next season and Preece to the 4?

Penske and Logano are close to an extension but until that’s done, the No. 22 Ford is open for the taking in 2024. I also can’t see Rick Hendrick letting Larson get away either. Bowman however….

That’s why this year’s silly season is more about shaping us for 2023 and beyond. How many deals are announced early to be ahead of it. I don’t sense Harvick, Truex and Busch all announcing in the middle of next season that they’re retiring. I would think they’d like a retirement tour and honestly they’re deserving of one so maybe these get announced in the coming months if that indeed does occur.

If so, it sets the ball in motion for finding replacements which is why outside of Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola and what SHR does, the rest of the silly season talk focuses on next year’s class.

For the Xfinity Series, Sam Mayer is back with JRM but it now looks like the No. 9 Chevrolet is open with Gragson moving up. Ty Gibbs is slated to be back with JGR but if they truly don’t work out a deal to keep Kyle Busch, then Gibbs is the obvious replacement. John Hunter Nemechek could be in play for either the the JRM or JGR seats open as well as in the mix at SHR on the Cup level.

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