With all that has happened in the last few weeks regarding the adjective summary firing of Chip Ganassi Racing’s hot shoe, Kyle Larson, the NASCAR Silly Season and the associated rising stars have been shuffled!
At one point the single hottest driver on the free agency market was “Young Money”, aka Kyle Larson. And with one senseless inadvertent slip of the tongue, Larson was dropped like a hot potato, is in the unemployment line, is going to NASCAR’s mandated “sensitivity training” classes, and is desperately trying to restore his extremely tarnished reputation.
Prior to Larson’s “slip of the tongue racial slur” he was regarded as the top prospect on the 2021 free agency market, and arguably the heir apparent to a few opening seats, primarily the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 team, with Mr. Seven-Time, Jimmie Johnson, hanging up his helmet at season’s end. Likewise, there was garage rumblings that Larson could possibly slip into the Team Penske No. 2 ride with “Blazingly Bad” Brad Keselowski’s contract up at the end of this season. Additionally, the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 ride with Eric Jones behind the wheel is rumored to possibly be open for 2021.
In light of the above problem, Larson is no longer at the top of the list of most top team owners in Cup! However, Larson is still very young and easily has a very good chance to rehabilitate his tarnished reputation.
Now, the only team among those three that might take a look at him is SHR, Stewart-Haas Racing, if co-owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas can convince Ford that he won’t hurt its reputation and if their companies (or their close friends who own companies) would be willing to take that chance in hopes of winning races and championships. And even then, the sponsors of their other cars might need some convincing.
SHR has just one driver, Kevin Harvick, under contract after this season. Rookie Cole Custer would likely return, he has familial connections, but Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola are veterans whose deals end after this year. It is conceivable that both return – Bowyer is 41 years old; Almirola is 37 – or neither returns.
Joe Gibbs Racing has one driver, 24-year-old Erik Jones, who isn’t yet set for next year. Hendrick has two – Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson. Johnson already has announced he would scale back from full-time racing, and Bowman, with his win at California, should be back at Hendrick if sponsorship materializes.
One other driver of notice to keep you eye on is Matt DiBenedetto. His contract with the Wood Brothers is just a one year contract. Since Wood Brothers is an extension of Team Penske, it would not be a big reach to see Mattie D slip on over to Team Penske, a la Ryan Blaney, and fill the seat that could vacate if Keselowski moves on to another team.
Once the NASCAR season resumes it will be very interesting to see which of the early season garage rumbling gathers steam and moves forward!
Likewise, I surly hope that Larson has not damaged himself beyond repair with corporate America! Everyone deserves a second chance!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!