We are getting close to what NASCAR calls Silly Season. July has been a month of announcement for most of the big moves inside the sport for years, and we are just days away from knowing more about the future landscape of the sport.
Next year, we will have many changes. A new car, with new specs, new rules, and new drivers to watch grow. We will also say goodbye to a few as well.
One massive change will be the cars. NASCAR has been very proactive in changing things up every 4-8 years, in an effort to evolve and stay competitive, from the 4-car juggernaut teams, to the single car shops that share a workspace with a small business, and yes, that is a thing.
There will be new teams, moving up from the Xfinity series, that bring drivers that have had success in lower divisions, that are looking to have similar success at the Cup level. Personally, some of the teams we will discuss made the move a little early, some made it a little late. But make no mistake, the time is right for new cup teams, because everyone will be starting fresh with a brand new car.
Matt Kaulig got this move right. Kaulig Racing has said it is still committed to running full-time in the Xfinity Series, but will shift their focus to the new 2-car Cup Series team. Justin Haley is confirmed to be driving one of the two rides, and rumors are swirling that Kurt Busch might drive the other. There are several younger options, but Kurt is a prior champion, and has made the Playoffs consistently throughout his career.
So who will drive the other car if not Kurt Busch? My prediction is AJ Allmendinger, on a part-time basis, with Kaz Grala filling in for certain speedway.
What do you get when you bring in a Music legend, with a bank account that shows a bunch of dots because the amount is too long to show? You get Trackhouse Racing. Pitbull is such an asset for NASCAR, his popularity around the world will bring in new fans for decades to come. At the end of the 2021 season, Trackhouse will aquire all of Chip Ganassi Racing assets, including their charters and workshops. The deal is private and a dollar amount was not specified, but to get Chip off his pitbox, I would assume the price tag was above $50 million. They have confirmed that Daniel Suarez will drive one of the 2 cars, the other is up for grabs, but I do believe Ross Chastain keeps his ride.
The biggest mover of the off-season will be Brad Keselowski. Brad will step into a minority owner role at Roush Fenway Racing, more on that later. The move has collateral damage for many teams. Someone will take his spot, which means another team will have a new vacancy as well. To replace Brad, I think The Captain will persuade Tyler Reddick to join Team Penske for next season. I also think Ryan Blaney moves over to the number 2 car, keeping sponsors happy, and putting Reddick in the 12 car. Some might see this as a bad move, with Austin Cindric waiting for a seat, and the logical move is to put Cindric in the 2 car, however, Cindric has an arranged ride with The Wood Brothers next season, and this buys Penske time to evaluate his options for adding a 4th team, and possibly keeping everyone involved.
Roush Fenway Racing
Boy, is it going to be fun predicting this one. What we know? Brad Keselowski will drive one of the cars next season. I would expect that to be in the 6 car. What about Chris Buescher? I think he stays on board too. Is there an option for a third car? Yes, and I have 2 drivers that could be front runners for the gig. Kurt Busch, former driver for RFR, and a past champion with the team. He is not a long term solution, but he has sponsor backing that will follow him just about anywhere. The other option, in my opinion, is to go after a long term fit, someone to build on, like Jeb Burton. There are family ties here, as Jeb’s uncle, Jeff Burton, was a long time driver for Jack Roush in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Jeb is not a win now driver, although it is possible, many see Jeb as a developmental driver, who in the right environment, could reap playoff appearances down the road.
There are always surprise moves, last minute changes, and teams that mutually agree to part ways with long time veterans. I don’t see too much of that this year, but think there is a good chance that before the start of the 2023 season, a decision has to be made at Joe Gibbs Racing. Coach Gibbs’ grandson, Ty, is well ahead of schedule, and will likely make a strong push for a seat by the 2023 season. The only way I see this working is if Denny Hamlin moves over and drives for his own team at 23XI Racing. But keep in mind, Gibbs has been a huge fan of the number 18.
All of these moves could get hairy, as the price of NASCAR Charters has skyrocketed. Recently, a report claimed that two charters had been sold, with each costing $10 million each. We could see new teams emerge, old teams sell, just like Chip Ganassi did. While it’s impossible to predict anything of that magnitude, a team that could make waves is JR Motorsports. If they ever decide to make the jump, they have the financial backing of not only Dale Earnhardt, Jr., but also Rick Hendrick himself. Something to think about for the future.