NASCAR’s regular season is complete and the playoffs are underway. So too is the traditional “Silly Season.” Even as some drivers and teams battle for a championship, others are trying to figure out who will be where for the 2019 season.
While some key drivers (Martin Truex, Jr. and Ryan Newman) have their rides set for next year, others (from Daytona 500 winners Trevor Bayne and Kurt Busch) to Daniel Suarez and Matt Dibenedetto are wondering where they will be when the green flag falls at Daytona next year.
There are a few rides out there worth talking about (the #41 at Stewart-Haas, the #1 at Chip Ganassi Racing and the #31 at Richard Childress Racing) as well as a few mid-card teams like the $95 from Leavine Family Racing (which could be upgraded due to an impending alliance with JGR), the #23 Front Row Racing and #32 Go Fas Racing.
During last year’s Silly Season, I did a similar article trying to predict which drivers went to which teams. Despite my decree that if I was wrong, you’d never hear about it again, I can be upfront enough to admit, I was O for the entire article. Let’s see if I can do a better job this time.
First of all, a couple of sure-things:
- Martin Truex, Jr. to the Joe Gibbs Racing #19.
- Ryan Newman to the Roush-Fenway Racing #6.
- Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray all retire (or at the very least run a part-time schedule.)
Christopher Bell to the Leavine Family Racing #95: The scuttlebutt is that Leavine Family Racing is leaving its RCR Alliance behind (BOO!) and forming an alliance with JGR (BOO!) Initially, it was expected Daniel Suarez would fill the seat as Martin Truex, Jr. takes over his #19 ride. However, Suarez looks like he’s soured on JGR saying he didn’t have anything good to say, so he wasn’t saying anything. Initially, I considered Matt Dibenedetto who has become a social media favourite and could become 2019’s Cup answer to Ross Chastain, as someone who could prove his worth in better equipment, but JGR doesn’t seem the type to take a shot on someone like Dibenedetto. So they’ll use the #95 as a satellite team the same way they used Furniture Row’s #77 in 2017. Bell (who’s shot at an XFINITY title looks less likely with Justin Allgaier’s current surge) will come up to Cup, prove what he can do in essentially a Triple-A version of JGR and see if he can unseat Erik Jones for the #20 in 2020 or 2021.
Kurt Busch to the Richard Childress Racing #31: I made this prediction the last time and I’ll run it out here again for 2019. There was a time when I hated Kurt Busch because he was, quite frankly, a complete jerk, lashing out at anybody within earshot anytime the race wasn’t going his way. However, he’s mellowed a little bit and I’ve come to respect the guy. At the very least, he’s my favourite Busch brother. Having said all that, he still comes across as a tough-as-nails competitor who is passionate about wanting to win. That’s why I think he’d be a great fit at RCR, the same team that another tough-as-nails competitor (HELLO? Dale Earnhardt!!!!) drove for.
Daniel Suarez to the Stewart-Haas Racing #41: With Busch heading to RCR, someone needs to fill in the seat he’s leaving behind and who better than Daniel Suarez. While Suarez had driven a Toyota for most of his NASCAR career (he did drive a Dodge in the K&N Series and Dodges and Fords in the NASCAR Toyota series), much like most of Stewart-Haas were able to make a pretty successful jump from Chevy’s to Fords. I’m guessing Suarez could master the learning curve in short order. Plus, he’d have the added incentive of wanting to succeed so he could stick it to his former team.
Justin Allgaier to the Chip Ganassi Racing #1: Whether or not Allgaier wins the XFINITY Championship, odds are he should be in line for another run in the Cup series. Allgaier has stated an interest in returning to the Cup level and no less an expert than his boss, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has stated he deserves another shot.With Jamie McMurray stepping away from the #1 CGR Chevrolet, Allgaier would make a great replacement and give him an opportunity what he can do with a solid ride.
An alternate possibility: If Richard Childress Racing were to bring Ty Dillon over to the #31 from the Germain Racing #13, then let’s move Kurt Busch to the CGR #1. Besides Ty Dillon being under contract to Germain for who knows how long, the other issue I have is there are rumours Jamie McMurray would drive the #1 in the Daytona 500 and then retire. I can’t see where Busch would sit out the biggest race of the year and have any chance of him running for a championship eliminated even before he gets behind the wheel for the first time. Allgaier might be realistic enough to know the odds of him making the playoffs the first year in might be a long shot and be okay with giving McMurray a suitable send off.
Matt Dibenedetto to the Front Row Racing #23/ Landon Cassill to the Go Fas Racing #32: Both of these guys are great to be fans of. They work well with social and traditional media. They seem to really love the sport. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t matter what number is on the side of the car or what the name of the team is, save maybe a restrictor plate Top 10, they’re both battling for a Top 25-30 spot and stay on the lead lap within 20 laps of starting the race.
Trevor Bayne and Daniel Hemric to JR Motorsports in the XFINITY Series: Bayne is out of the #6 car at Roush Fenway and Hemric has made noise he’s unsure of his future at RCR. Why not have JR Motorsports sign them both to fill the vacancies of the retiring Elliott Sadler and the possibly-departing Justin Allgaier (see above)? Bayne has had success in the XFINITY series and could fill the veteran role that Sadler held for so long and so well. While I would hate to see Hemric leave RCR, his hometown of Kannapolis, N.C. would make him a fitting addition to JR Motorsports.
That would, of course, leave the question of who drives the #21 at RCR? How about whichever half of the Jeffrey Earnhardt/D.J. Kennington duo doesn’t drive the Gaunt Brothers Racing #96 at the Cup level drives the #21 in XFINITY for Richard Childress. Quite honestly, whatever driver gets the seat, I’d be excited for.