Now that Front Row Motorsports (No. 38 Ford) and Leavine Family Racing (No. 95 Toyota) have open rides for the 2020 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, it’s time to start the Silly Season madness.
We all know that the LFR news likely means that Erik Jones will be returning to Joe Gibbs Racing for next season and that Christopher Bell will be replacing DiBenedetto in the No. 95 entry. It would either mean that or that Jones will be replacing Bell with JGR and Jones moving to LFR though too. Either way, this domino is likely already done.
So, what’s next?
75-percent of the Stewart-Haas Racing fleet are free agents at seasons end, but word is that they’re close to a new deal with Clint Bowyer. Also, with Aric Almirola being their second best driver this season and having his stats comparable to where he was last year, I can see the team picking up his option for 2020 too. That leaves Daniel Suarez’ status beyond this season up in the air. The team holds his option and if he doesn’t make the playoffs, what do they do? Cole Custer is sitting there and is certainly deserving to move up. How does he play into this?
Also, Tyler Reddick will play a role in Silly Season too. He moved from JR Motorsports to Richard Childress Racing for 2019 despite winning the XFINITY Series title with JRM last year. The reason was because he was thinking big – a Cup ride. RCR could give that opportunity. Team owner Richard Childress said that the only way they’ll be able to keep Reddick in 2020 is to offer him a Cup seat because he’s after one and isn’t wanting to come back full time in NXS competition. The problem lies in, RCR isn’t sure if they can afford to bring back a third full time team despite holding a charter for one. They’re not getting rid of Austin Dillon or Daniel Hemric and if they want to keep Reddick it has to be in a third car.
So, if Reddick isn’t offered a full season on the Cup level with RCR, he’s going to be available. SHR would be wise to offer him as they could have Custer and Reddick for the future. Then, they have Chase Briscoe waiting in the wings and could give them three young drivers for a bright future.
Another domino is what Kurt Busch does. He can return for 2020 if he wants to but I’m not so sure he does. He’s hinted about this potentially being his final full time season. If so, the No. 1 Chevrolet with Chip Ganassi Racing would be open. Reddick, would be a nice option there but so would Ross Chastain. CGR wanted Chastain for the NXS seat if not for the sponsorship drama with DC Solar. If Busch does indeed leave, Chastain would be the likely top option as John Hunter Nemechek would be a second option too. So would Reddick. But, if one or more drivers from SHR get let go, they can look there too.
So, once the Jones domino is confirmed, the SHR domino or dominoes are up next. Then, the CGR seat would be following.
DiBenedetto, should be in the running for all the above too but FRM would be a good option for him too.
Also, the two rides at JTG Daugherty Racing are up for grabs but all signs point to both drivers being retained too.
All signs also point to Penske, Hendrick and JGR remaining status quo as well.