Rumors and whispers are picking up steam in the NASCAR garages as “silly season” kicks into high gear.
Last week the focus of attention was on the future of 2004 Cup Series champ Kurt Busch and the Stewart-Haas Racing/Chip Ganassi Racing organizations. Busch used the word “hearsay” about reports he’s taking the No. 1 Chevrolet from Jamie McMurray, while SHR co-owner Gene Haas says Busch could return. Just like last year when things went into the offseason, there is no telling when Busch’s plans could be announced.
So, what do we know?
Alex Bowman and Nationwide got an extension with Hendrick Motorsports, who is full-steam ahead with its line-up. Darrell Wallace Jr. is also sticking with Richard Petty Motorsports, as announced before the June Pocono weekend.
Team Penske seems set with its three drivers, and it’s not expected there will be any changes at Wood Brothers Racing with Paul Menard. Drivers who also look to be making the same plans for next year include Kyle Larson at Ganassi, Kevin Harvick and two of his SHR teammates. Denny Hamlin will still be at Joe Gibbs Racing, as will Kyle Busch and Erik Jones.
The question mark around Kurt Busch is just one of many still to be answered before 2019. Here are some of the things to watch:
• Reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. needs a contract for 2019 and beyond, his deal with Furniture Row Racing being in its final year. Compounding things at FRR is that the organization is also in need of some additional sponsorship for the No. 78 as 5-hour ENERGY is leaving. The story to watch, however, is that FRR does not have deals in place with Toyota or Joe Gibbs Racing for next season.
• Seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports still have not announced the next sponsor of the No. 48 Chevrolet. Team owner Rick Hendrick said at Pocono there are “two or three” companies the team has been talking to and he isn’t worried about having something done before next season.
• What does the future hold for Brian France within the NASCAR organization? Does he come back from his “indefinite leave” following his arrest for aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance? And what about that stake in the sport that has been rumored – and not officially shot down – to be sold?
• Brad Daugherty, the co-owner of JTG-Daugherty Racing with Chris Buescher and AJ Allmendinger, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday night that the organization is evaluating everything from top to bottom as they still seek the results they are looking for.
• Joe Gibbs made it known at Pocono that Stanley/Craftsman would be partnered with Erik Jones and the No. 20 team next season. How will that affect the No. 19 team of Daniel Suarez who currently has sponsorship support from Stanley Tools?
• The assumption is that Matt Kenseth will end up full-time in the No. 6 for Roush Fenway Racing next season, although RFR has not yet made an announcement. In any case Trevor Bayne’s future with the team looks uncertain.
• Leavine Family Racing is the most recent team to pop up in the rumor mill when it comes to making a manufacturer change, going from Chevrolet to Toyota. Here, too, nothing has been confirmed although team owner Bob Leavine did recently tell Frontstretch.com that his organization “won’t be back” with alliance partner Richard Childress Racing next season. The team also has a driver decision to make since Kasey Kahne originally signed a one-year deal.
• BK Racing is set to be sold soon with a deal likely to be completed before the Cup Series race at Darlington. Mike Beam, the president of GMS Racing, has placed the minimum bid for the team. Earlier this week in a court hearing Ron Devine – who still wants to keep the team – also placed a bid as the 51 percent owner of a newly formed company.
• Charter watch: Richard Childress will get back a charter at season’s end (from Starcom Racing), as will Front Row Motorsports (from TriStar Motorsports) and Richard Petty Motorsports (from Rick Ware Racing).
• Elliott Sadler confirmed this morning he will indeed vacate the No. 1 Chevrolet at JR Motorsports, opening up a championship-contending ride in the Xfinity Series.