The pace of the dominoes falling in silly season has started to pick up with news from multiple teams this week.
Daniel Suarez has found a new home in Trackhouse Racing Team, while Alex Bowman will have a new number by slotting into the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for Jimmie Johnson. Bowman will also remain paired with crew chief Greg Ives, but have no fear, Cliff Daniels, the current No. 48 crew chief, will still be a NASCAR Cup Series crew chief at Hendrick Motorsports next season.
The team Daniels leads is to be determined, though. William Byron needs a crew chief with Chad Knaus set to take on a managerial role next season. There is also the matter of what for right now is the No. 88 team needing a driver.
Indications are that Kyle Larson is going to be named its driver. While Larson has still not asked NASCAR for reinstatement from his indefinite suspension, he is looking to come back to the sport. His name is routinely connected to Rick Hendrick’s organization.
Chase Briscoe is likely the next man up at Stewart-Haas Racing after Clint Bowyer announced late Thursday night he was headed into broadcasting. Briscoe has more than proven his worth in the Xfinity Series for SHR and has a contract with Ford for next season. Barring any last-minute hiccups, it should be a matter of when the announcement comes.
There is plenty more to sort through.
Corey LaJoie: Earlier this year, LaJoie stole a few headlines when it was revealed that he had given Rick Hendrick a handwritten letter throwing his hat in the ring for a ride at the championship organization. LaJoie knew he was a longshot for the No. 48 Chevrolet or any seat at Hendrick, but figured it didn’t hurt to put himself out there. The good news is that LaJoie’s next destination could be known soon, and it might not be in just one car. LaJoie said earlier this week on his “Sunday Money” podcast he has a few things in the works and should sign something this week.
“Ultimately, it ends up how much money you have and how much can come to fruition,” said LaJoie. “Something on the Cup side looks pretty good, and then something on the Xfinity side looks really good. Do a little bit of a mix of both. That could be exciting; I need a little bit of a confidence boost, to be honest with you, because it’s been a while since I’ve been in anything competitive.”
Go Fas Racing: The team LaJoie leaves has been pretty quiet about its ’21 plans, but there had been some serious movement recently. Word is, team owner Archie St. Hilaire was hoping to have things for next season buttoned up by Oct. 1 before things got complicated again. Kaz Grala was one name connected to the No. 32 Ford, but Grala apparently came up short on the necessary funding, and the search for a new driver continues.
Spire Motorsports: The team remains committed to running two cars next year, expanding from the one Spire has now. Justin Haley is one name mentioned as a possible driver.
Gaunt Brothers Racing: With the departure of Daniel Suarez, the No. 96 Toyota needs a new driver. Gaunt Brothers is building for the long term after jumping into competing full-time in the Cup Series for the first time this season. One would think the goal here is for Gaunt to lock up a driver for the foreseeable future that will also be part of the Next Gen process.
Richard Petty Motorsports: There are many unanswered questions around what is going to happen with the famed Petty team. All indications are that the No. 43 will be on track next season, but what will it look like? Suarez was a potential candidate, but signed with Justin Marks instead.
Other drivers are still available like Erik Jones, LaJoie, Ty Dillon, or any driver from another series looking to make the jump into Cup. Darrell Wallace Jr. leaving the team did little to help clear up the picture, and rumors continue about a possible change in manufacturer and alliances. It is unclear how serious those possibilities are.
Petty has likely been a place that Ty Dillon has visited, as Dillon is talking to anyone and everyone. Dillon recently acknowledged he doesn’t bring enough money to start a third team at Richard Childress Racing, which his grandfather owns. But perhaps Childress could help Dillon land somewhere else. And Dillon isn’t opposed to going to another series to find a ride.
It’s a bit surprising that Erik Jones has nothing announced yet and missed out on a top ride at places like Hendrick and Chip Ganassi. As such, his name has been connected to JTG Daugherty Racing, and that is because the driver of the No. 37 for JTG, Ryan Preece, is also waiting to hear what his ’21 plans are.
And lastly, one of the most exciting silly season moves was Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan making it official that they will field a team next year. Darrell Wallace Jr. is the driver, but nothing else is known.
Team personnel still need to be organized and revealed, and we also await where the race shop will be located, car number and even the team name. A sponsor rollout is still to come, too. While it’s not been announced and no one is willing to talk about it just yet, it’s a safe assumption that the team will run Toyotas and likely be connected to Joe Gibbs Racing somehow.