Christian Eckes’ move to McAnally Hilgeman Racing solidified the rumors in the NASCAR garage that ThorSport could be moving away from Toyota power and back to Ford once again in 2023. The reason to do so? Snag Hailie Deegan. See, the 21-year old California native has Ford ties and when David Gilliland Racing rebranded to TRICON Garage and switched to Toyota power, it left Deegan looking elsewhere. However, there wasn’t many Ford seats open and with TRICON leaving for Toyota to replace Kyle Busch Motorsports who swapped Toyota’s for Chevy’s, it left a void within the blue oval camp.
ThorSport had a reason now to listen.
On Thursday, that move was formally announced with not only ThorSport going back to Ford (they raced Ford’s in 2018, 2019 and 2020), but also bringing Deegan over to replace Eckes.
She’ll drive the No. 13 Ford for the team.
Deegan has made 46 career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts with three top 10 finishes to date. Her best finish came at Talladega this past year to where he finished sixth.
Some may wonder, what’s in this for ThorSport? They inherit Ford’s help and a driver who’s the two-time defending Most Popular Driver.
Also, Matt Crafton won a championship in 1 of their 3 seasons with Ford as well.
Crafton returns to his seat in the No. 88 Ford while 2021 series champion, Ben Rhodes, is also back in the No. 99 Ford. Ty Majeski is back in his No. 66 Ford as well.
The pressure is on for Deegan though to prove that she belongs. DGR is one thing, but they’re not ThorSport. Deegan is surrounded by talent and champions. The organization boasts four Truck Series championships and 40 wins. They put two drivers in the Championship 4 just last year and all four in the playoffs.
So what else has happened outside of these Toyota deals. We know that SHR will expand back to a two car team in this series with Riley Herbst back for a third straight season and Cole Custer moving down to join him. This week, AM Racing announced that they’ll align with SHR and transition to Ford power and field a full time entry for Brett Moffitt as another full-time driver for the blue ovals.
Other announcements are Sheldon Creed’s news of him returning to RCR in 2023 that was announced in Phoenix. JR Motorsports has also confirmed their plans too with Sam Mayer (No. 1 Chevrolet), Justin Allgaier (No. 7 Chevrolet) and Josh Berry (No. 8 Chevrolet) each returning while Brandon Jones (No. 9 Chevrolet) shifts from Joe Gibbs Racing to replace the departing Noah Gragson who advances up to the Cup Series with Petty GMS Racing.
Kaulig Racing will have Landon Cassill (No. 10 Chevrolet) and 2021 series champion Daniel Hemric (No. 11 Chevrolet) back while in a similar situation to JRM, Chandler Smith (No. 16 Chevrolet) moves up to replace AJ Allmendinger as Allmendinger is moving up to the Cup seat with the organization.
Parker Kligerman was announced as the full-time driver in the No. 48 Chevrolet for Big Machine Racing in Phoenix too. A week after Phoenix, it was announced that Garrett Smithley will drive the No. 78 Chevrolet for BJ McLeod Motorsports.
Outside of that, the other announcements would be if Austin Hill returns full-time for the 21 seat at RCR. He’s expected to be doing so. The rest are for midfield teams.
There’s been a slew of announcements here over the past week or so with all three manufacturers now having already set their flagship teams. Last month it was unveiled that David Gilliland Racing will move from Ford to Toyota power and get rebranded to TRICON Garage. Tanner Gray, Taylor Gray, Corey Heim and Dean Thompson will be their four full-time drivers. Taylor Gray however will miss the first few races as he’s not old enough until next spring to race on bigger tracks. They’ll have a 5th part-time truck.
The reason for the switch was due to Kyle Busch Motorsports leaving Toyota. They announced in Phoenix their plans as they’re the new flagship team for Chevrolet and will have a two truck operation with Chase Purdy in the full-time No. 4 Chevy and Jack Wood among a cast of drivers in the No. 51 Chevy. Nick Sanchez will be in the REV Racing entry with an alliance with KBM.
This is the new Toyota flagship team.
KBM is the Chevy flagship team but will also have teams like McAnally Hilgeman Racing, who will field two full-time drivers with Christian Eckes moving over to the No. 19 and Jake Garcia in the No. 35 as part of the Chevy family.
Carson Hocevar will be back with Niece in one of their Chevy’s. GMS Racing will have Grant Enfinger back in one Truck with bowtie power and Daniel Dye as a rookie in another. But, with Jack Wood not returning, a third seat was open there. Rajah Caruth will be in that one. Rackley WAR should have Matt DiBenedetto back in his seat.
Front Row is back with Ford and Zane Smith while ThorSport’s announcement moves them from Toyota to Ford and has 3 of their 4 drivers back in Ben Rhodes, Matt Crafton and Ty Majeski while Deegan replaces Eckes in the 4th seat. Rhodes won the title for them in 2021 and made it back to the final round this past November. Majeski started to heat up towards the end of the season including a pair of wins in the Round of 8 and a Championship 4 berth. Crafton is a three-time champion for the organization.
So, what’s left?
Niece has some spots to fill while we also know that Hattori Racing Enterprises will have two seats open as well.
A few weeks ago, it was revealed that the long-awaited news that Ty Gibbs would replace Kyle Busch with Joe Gibbs Racing on the Cup level has now been confirmed. However, he’ll drive the No. 54 instead of the No. 18. A day prior, it was confirmed that Ryan Preece would replace Cole Custer in the No. 41 Ford in the Cup Series for Stewart-Haas Racing and that Custer will move down to a second seat in Xfinity Series within the team.
With that said, what’s left?
Most of the Cup Series rides are now filled. Toyota is secured with Gibbs, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Christopher Bell back with JGR and Bubba Wallace/Tyler Reddick with 23XI.
Ford is pretty much set too.
Penske signed Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano to multi-year extensions and has Austin Cindric on a rookie deal. Harrison Burton is back with the Wood Brothers while SHR has 3 of their 4 drivers back with Ryan Preece the new kid on the block replacing Cole Custer in the 41. For the first time since 2018, both Front Row Motorsports drivers return too.
For Chevy, HMS is set with their current 4 car lineup with signing Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and William Byron to extensions already. Trackhouse has both drivers back with Daniel Suarez on a one-year contract extension. Kaulig has Justin Haley back and now AJ Allmendinger full-time in the 2nd car. RCR has Reddick and Busch. JTG has Ricky Stenhouse Jr. back. Petty GMS signed Erik Jones to an extension as well as bringing Noah Gragson up to drive the 42 and now adds Jimmie Johnson to a part owner-part 3rd driver in a non chartered car.
The only other rides for 2023 open are with smaller teams like Rick Ware Racing and Live Fast Motorsports.
- Hendrick Motorsports (4) – Larson, Elliott, Byron and Bowman. Each are back in 2023.
- Trackhouse Racing (2) – Ross Chastain is back while Daniel Suarez signed a one-year extension.
- Richard Childress Racing (2) – Austin Dillon is back in the 3 while Kyle Busch moves over to replace Tyler Reddick in the 8.
- Petty GMS Racing (2) – Erik Jones is back while Noah Gragson moves up from the Xfinity Series to run the 42.
- Kaulig Racing (2) – Justin Haley is back in 2023 with AJ Allmendinger taking the 2nd car on a full time ride next season too.
- Spire Motorsports (2) – Corey LaJoie is back in the 7 while Ty Dillon drives the 77 now.
- JTG Daugherty Racing (1) – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is back for 2023
- Stewart-Haas Racing (4) – 3 of the 4 drivers from last year are back. Custer moves down to the Xfinity Series while Preece moves up.
- Team Penske (3) – All 3 drivers are back in 2023 with 2 of them signing extensions this season.
- RFK Racing (2) – Both drivers are back in 2023.
- Front Row Motorsports (2) – Both drivers are back in 2023.
- Rick Ware Racing (2) – 2 seats are open as of now for 2023.
- Live Fast Motorsports (1) – Their seat is open for now in 2023.
- Wood Brothers (1) – Harrison Burton is back in 2023.
- Joe Gibbs Racing (4) – Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr. are each back in 2023. Truex just signed a one-year extension this past June. Ty Gibbs moves up to the 4th car.
- 23XI Racing (2) – Bubba Wallace signed a new extension this past August while Tyler Reddick moves over a year early to replace Kurt Busch in the 45.
The focus is now pretty much on 2024 though which could be as wild if not more crazy that this past year’s. Suarez, Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Alex Bowman are each free agents at the end of next season. Suarez is betting on himself while Truex and Harvick could step out the door in a swan song season leaving rides with JGR and SHR open.