Here we are already nearing the end of the first round of The Playoffs, the round of sixteen, and there are still some very hot commodities still on the free agent market for 2021! There are many more questions than we have answers at this point in the season. Questions about where Erik Jones will land for 2021? What new digs will Bubba Wallace have for Daytona in February? Will Clint Bowyer re-sign with Stewart-Haas Racing, or will he move on up to the FOX TV. booth? Will the Wood Brothers give DiBenedetto another year with the team, he only had a one year deal? And the biggest question of Silly Season is where will Kyle Larson land in 2021?
Contrary to what the casual fan may think, this reporter feels that the whole key to many of the those questions above will be answered when Bubba Wallace lands his deal! To many of the fans of NASCAR they are focused first and foremost on Kyle Larson and where he will be in 2021. I will explain why I think that the key to this sweeping exercise is Bubba Wallace as I go through this article.
First I will start off by discussing a few of the drivers that do not bring sizable sponsorship to the table. One of those drivers is Daniel Suarez. He does have a working relationship with CommScope, formally ARRIS, and the rumor is that he has a relationship with Carlos Slim. For those who do not know who Carlos Slim may be follow the link! Andrew Murstein, the majority owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, has been involved with NASCAR’s diversity program, as evidenced with his hiring of Bubba Wallace, and has indicated that he may be interested in giving that ride to Daniel Suarez. I am not sure if that is an improvement of rides for Suarez, or a giant step sideways!
Erik Jones is another player who poses an interesting problem to Silly Season. He does not bring much personal sponsorship to the table. Additionally, his performance at JGR has not sparked any huge fires for team owners to rush to the negotiations table! Could he be a possibility to jump into the Hendrick No. 48 team? For a while there was some talk from the garage that Jones could be the new heir apparent for that ride, but that noise has cooled down in recent days. The seat inside the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 could be a possibility? So Jones is still a big question mark for 2021
The Stewart-Haas. Racing No. 14 that currently houses Clint Bowyer may be up for negotiations. Bowyer does not have a valid contract for the 2021 season at SHR. His age is beginning to be a factor these days. Other than 2012 season, Bowyer has not consistently proved that he is a yearly championship contender. We all know that this sport is a performance driven sport, ie, “what have you done for me lately”? Well, Bowyer hasn’t done a whole lot in 2020, maybe a top ten here and there, but he has not consistently been in a position to win races. In case that you have REALLY been socially distancing yourself from the entire world, SHR has a younger guy in the NXS, Chase Briscoe, that is lighting. up that series. It could be that Briscoe moves up into the SHR No. 14 next year to replace Bowyer.
Matt DiBenedetto only signed a one year deal with the Wood Brothers, and thus doesn’t have a place for next year. He could be given the opportunity to drive for them again next year, since he did get the No. 21 to the playoffs, as short-lived as that may be. However, there is another dude in the NXS that is ready to move up to the Cup level. Since the Wood Brothers is a satellite of Team Penske, one has to look at Austin Cindric as a possibility to slide into this ride in 2021. So where MattyD ends up next season may be anybody’s guess!
Corey LaJoie will be leaving GoFas Racing and may wind up at JTG/Daughery? Ryan Preece has been totally underwhelming in his tenure there!
Since Germain Racing has strongly hinted that they may be looking at selling at the end of 2020, that would put Ty Dillon out of a job next year. That begs the question; will grandpa, Richard Childress, go back to a three car team to accommodate Ty into the RCR fold? Additionally, what will happen to the Germain assets if they do, in fact, sell out?
The above question dovetails right into the Bubba Wallace question! A few weeks ago there was talk throughout the garage that Wallace could be the new driver in the Ganassi No. 42 ride. But that has apparently fizzled out and it appears that maybe that Ganassi offer has been withdrawn. The new loud unspoken talk is that Denny Hamlin appears to be talking with Toyota to try to add a new team to that manufacturer’s stable. Further, it appeared that Hamlin was interested in purchasing RPM and converting it to a Toyota team. However, that talk has decreased to a semi-audible whisper, and the louder talk is that Hamlin may be interested in purchasing Germain (remember Germain is whispering that they may sell at seasons end) and converting it to a Toyota team. If that comes to fruition, Hamlin may have a deal for Wallace to drive that hot rod!
NASCAR’s Steve Phelps has indicated that Hamlin could drive for JGR and own his own team, if he could prove that Hamlin’s team is not just an extension of JGR, a satellite team.
So I do believe that Denny Hamlin holds the key to how the 2020 Silly Season will unfold from this point going forward.
Now for those of you who are wondering why I have not mentioned the hotest free agent in all of the country, here it comes!
Since Kyle Larson was summarily ejected form NASCAR for his totally inappropriate racial comment back in April. He has been doing a lot of things to try to mend his tattered reputation. He has been helping with many foundations that work with the people of color. I do believe that he has tried to make amends with those that who were offended, and has seen the errors of his way.
Having said all of that, he has also been kicking some major butt at many of the dirt tracks throughout the mid-west this summer! Last check. Larson has won 31 races in sprint cars, midgets, and even in dirt late models so far!
We all know that many of his former sponsors cut the strings, ran for the hills, and he became persona non-grata in NASCAR, and it would take a “dutch uncle” to try to persuade many sponsors to give Larson a second chance. But a second chance is exactly what needs to be offered to him! Larson immediately put out a video apologizing for his reckless behavior after that event, and we have to take him at his word! And I understand that Dutch Uncle, aka Rick Hendrick, has been in talks with Chevy to try to bring them back onboard with this talented young driver. If Hendrick can “silver tongue” Chevy then you may see Kyle Larson sitting in one of Hendrick’s.race cars at Daytona in February!
It will be interesting to see how much, or if any of my predictions fall into place! I could look really good or this could just be another prognostication gone bad!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!