With just three races left in the NASCAR racing season to determine championships, the Silly Season of who drives where next year appears ready to go longer.
With several announcements the past few days, a few driver/team deals were cleared up. This leaves others knocking on doors to take them their talents. It also leaves a few teams knocking on drivers’ doors.
Oh, the fun of Silly Season is in full force right now as people peer into their crystal ball.
None of the announcements were shockers as keeping a secret in NASCAR is like trying to hide Halloween candy from kids. It just doesn’t happen.
What’s up in Cup
At the Cup level, it was officially announced on Oct. 20 the No. 14 Ford of Stewart-Haas Racing will be driven by Chase Briscoe next year. Briscoe, who has earned a record nine wins in Xfinity Series action this year for SHR, was the leading candidate after Clint Bowyer announced his retirement from racing and to join FOX Sports in the booth for 2021.
Even after winning the NXS race at Kansas Speedway last Saturday, Briscoe maintained he wasn’t sure about his future. However, that was solidified by SHR.
Team co-owner Tony Stewart said the possibility of making Briscoe a permanent part of its future started in 2019.
“In the final three races last season, we saw a confidence in Chase that we hadn’t seen before,” Stewart said. “There was a transformation, and I think those three races last year were a preview of what we were going to see this year.
“He’s delivered time and time again this season and he’s definitely ready for the NASCAR Cup Series.”
Pretty good endorsement from a multi-time and sport champion, who is also a Hall of Famer. Briscoe is bringing current sponsor High Point with him and credit was given to them for believing in their driver enough to jump to Cup, as well as Ford Motor Company.
“Growing up in Indiana and racing sprint cars, the guy I always looked up to was Tony Stewart,’ Briscoe said. “To be able to drive for him is a dream come true. Tony and Gene (Haas) have built something really special in Stewart-Haas Racing.
“Being a part of it in the Xfinity Series and now, the NASCAR Cup Series, has always been my goal. HighPoint and Ford created this opportunity, and my parents, my wife, and Briggs and Beth Cunningham, helped position me for this opportunity.”
Okay, so that clears that seat up. Still in the Silly Season discussion of “who goes where” are a few variables.
Months ago, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Erik Jones would not be returning to the team in 2021. Early speculation had him going to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48, but that was taken care of when HMS announced Alex Bowman would slide from the No. 88 to the No. 48 replacing the retiring Jimmie Johnson.
So, who goes to the No. 48 now? On Monday, Oct. 19 NASCAR announced Kyle Larson has done enough of its sensitivity training to be reinstated on Jan 1, 2021.
Strong talk has Larson going to HMS as they shelve the No. 88 and bring back the No. 5 with him behind the wheel. New team, new number and new look are great steps to starting one’s career over.
Back to Jones. Sources within the media and sport have him going to Richard Petty Motorsports to drive the famous No. 43 Chevrolet. Expect that announcement to be made very soon.
Still on the outside looking in is Corey LaJoie, or his he? Talk is he will be going to Spire Motorpsports, which leaves the No. 32 seat he’s departing open at Go Fas Racing. An announcement is expected this week.
Guant Bros Racing is also looking for a wheelman with Daniel Suarez departing for the newly-formed Trackhouse Racing team. With the closing of Germain Racing, and their charter being purchased by Spire, Ty Dillon and LaJoie could become teammates. That is, unless Dillon has his sights set on some open-wheel racing outside of NASCAR.
It’s getting tough to keep up with Cup.
XFINITY and Truck deals getting done
Kaulig Racing announced Justin Haley is returning to their No. 11 Chevrolet next year. With SHR moving Briscoe up to Cup, that leaves the No. 98 Ford seat open.
Stewart has expressed a commitment to keep the team’s NXS deal going. Talk is Tyler Herbst will take that opportunity upon leaving Joe Gibbs Racing.
JGR already announced Brandon Jones will return to their No. 19 Toyota next year, so that takes care of that team.
On the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series side, Johnny Sauter’s future with Thor Sport racing may be uncertain. The 2016 Truck champion failed to make the Playoffs and is winless this year.
As far as a solid ride for next year, not too many people were surprised what came out of DGR-Crosley last week. After competing in the ARCA Series for them this year, Hailie Deegan is jumping to the Trucks next season.
Already a favorite for her outgoing personality, there have been high hopes placed on the teenager. However, her approach is pretty level headed regarding the move.
“Its going to be a struggle at first,” she said in Kansas Speedway this past weekend. “I’m not going to go out there and set the world on fire and win my first race. People have to understand that.
“It’s going to take a lot of learning. I think, eventually, we’ll obviously get better with time.”