The news just keeps coming in NASCAR. A season that has been full of headlines and change is still cranking out surprises, and this week they are courtesy John Hunter Nemechek and Joe Gibbs Racing.
The latter shuffled around a handful of crew chiefs in its program, most notably splitting up Kyle Busch and Adam Stevens. The duo won 28 races and two championships in six seasons while making five appearances in the Championship 4. But now youngster Christopher Bell gets to work and lean on Stevens, which figures to lead only to good things.
And as Nemechek showed, silly season is far from over.
Nemechek informed Front Row Motorsports he is moving on, and his new destination has not been announced. However, rumbling since their joint announcement has linked Nemechek to a possible ride back in the Camping World Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports.
It would not be that farfetched considering the landscape at KBM already appears to be changing. Hendrick Motorsports surprised many earlier this month by hiring Rudy Fugle, the crew chief for Christian Eckes on Busch’s No. 18 truck. Time will tell how much more change comes to Busch’s program.
Speaking of programs, there are still quite a few from who we are waiting to hear about official driver line-ups: Front Row, Spire Motorsports, Gaunt Brothers Racing, JTG Daugherty, and the BJ McLeod-Matt Tifft team.
Front Row now needs to fill the seat vacated by Nemechek in addition to confirming its overall NASCAR plans. Team owner Bob Jenkins usually does that during the winter and this year will be no different, and remember the organization has both a Cup Series program with two cars and Truck Series team. There have been no indications that Michael McDowell will not be back in the No. 34 car or that Todd Gilliland won’t run again in the truck, but confirmation awaits.
As mentioned in a NASCAR silly season update last month, Spire Motorsports previously announced plans to run two cars next season and has two charters. Justin Haley ended up sticking with Kaulig Racing, which still means the seats are up for grabs, and Spire used a plethora of drivers this season. Another name that has popped up in the conversation is Corey LaJoie.
LaJoie split from Go Fas Racing, who is going back part-time next season. LaJoie repeatedly said on the ‘Sunday Monday’ podcast that his new deal, whatever it may be, is going to be signed soon.
The waiting game to hear about the next driver of the No. 96 also continues concerning Gaunt Brothers. A Toyota team, perhaps Nemechek double dips with a Truck Series ride and here in Cup?
When it comes to having questions, there is plenty for JTG Daugherty and the new McLeod-Tifft partnership. Start with JTG, which as mentioned last month, still needs to confirm its line-up as rumors swirl particularly around the future of Ryan Preece. One day people are kicking him out of the No. 37 Chevrolet, and the next, he’s staying.
Wednesday afternoon, Preece indicated he would be back with the team. Preece told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio he was “definitely excited to be back and continue on” after a rough 2020 season.
One interesting piece here is that Spire says they have acquired a third charter (but to be clear, it is only running two cars as they’ve leased one of their charters to Justin Marks for his Trackhouse team). However, there has been no confirmation where the additional Spire charter came from, but JTG has been the only team mentioned.
Moving over to the McLeod-Tifft team, which purchased the portion of the No. 32 charter from Archie St. Hilaire, what we do know is that Tifft will not be driving the car as he continues to recover and focus on his health after suffering two seizures late last year.
We don’t know the car number and team name, as well as who else will be behind the wheel. The wait should be ending with the expectation of an official announcement for many of the details coming very soon.
And, hey, what is going to happen with Ty Dillon? Seats are being taken and doors closing, and no word from Dillon on his future, other than his repeated statements that he still wants to race.
Major puzzle pieces have fallen into place for 2021, but there is still news to anticipate as the offseason goes on. The Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series fields are also taking shape, although another significant shoe yet to drop is the ’21 schedule for the Truck Series.