Now that the biggest question for the next NASCAR season has been answered, we take a look at every other move that might go down in its wake.
Furniture Row Racing is down to its final 11 races as a NASCAR Cup Series organization. That much we know after the team, home to defending series champion Martin Truex Jr. announced Tuesday it is shutting down after Homestead.
We think we know where Truex and his crew chief Cole Pearn are headed next. Those were the two most crucial pieces of information to start to figure out the NASCAR Silly Season jigsaw puzzle. Still, there are a lot of moving parts to the way the garage will look come 2019.
Let’s run them all down, shall we? This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, since seats sometimes do become vacant unexpectedly, but these are the cars that are attracting most of the rumors so far. For the sake of organization, we’ll go through them in numerical order.
No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Names attached: Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch
About a month ago, Busch to CGR really was a hot rumor, but it has since cooled down a bit since nothing has been announced. Busch has since revealed he has two contract offers he is considering, and this is most likely one of them. Unless it isn’t. Jamie Mac got off to a dreadful start to 2018 but has shown some signs of life over the summer, so it’s not impossible to see him back in this car either.
No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Names attached: Matt Kenseth, then ?
It’s pretty clear at this point that a reunion between Roush Fenway and Trevor Bayne would be awkward after the team essentially gave him a vote of confidence by bringing in Kenseth to split time in the car. Early on, it sounded like Kenseth returning for the full 2019 season was very much a thing that could happen, but the rumor pendulum has swung the other way since. The team has a developmental driver in Ryan Reed, but he hasn’t exactly torn it up in the XFINITY Series. Roush Fenway has given unproven talents a shot in the past, so could this be a potential break for a Ross Chastain or Landon Cassill?
No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Names attached: Martin Truex Jr.
As noted above, this is allegedly a done deal, with Truex, Pearn and sponsor Bass Pro Shops all coming aboard for 2019. That means the team would bid adieu to Daniel Suarez after just two seasons, which seems a bit harsh, but it’s also hard to not add the champ when you have a shot at him. There is a related rumor that involves a soft landing for Suarez, and if that doesn’t pan out, you have to figure he’d be a candidate for nearly any other seat on this list.
No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Names attached: Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Daniel Hemric
Despite being one of the Cup Series elder statesmen, Newman doesn’t seem ready to call it a career just yet. His deal is up at the end of 2018, though, and depending on whether or not his own team counts as one of the two offers he is considering, there is some thought that Busch might have talked to RCR. The team also ran Hemric in a few races this year in the No. 8 and might just decide to go the youth movement route.
No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Names attached: Kurt Busch,
Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth
Because SHR and Busch did this dance just last year, you can’t rule out driver and team working things out again for 2019. He’s still running toward the front and winning the occasional race, and that’s not bad. Truex was likely always a pipe dream if Toyota wanted to keep him in the fold, and Kenseth’s name is the most recent to pop up here. Cole Custer is in the XFINITY Series too, waiting to see if he gets a shot. This is hands down the most interesting potential vacancy left simply because the person who gets the nod is in a very competitive ride right off the bat.
No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota (probably, at least)
Names attached: Daniel Suarez
The thinking here goes like this: LFR was pondering a manufacturer change anyway, and now with Furniture Row Racing no longer in the mix, Toyota can offer strong support that can make it a much more formidable team than it was this year as a Kasey Kahne-driven Chevy. The rumor is that a “technical alliance” with Joe Gibbs Racing would allow Suarez to land here and function as a semi-teammate of the group that just gave him the bum’s rush. It makes sense, at least as much as anything in Silly Season does.