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Commentary

Grading the 2018 Silly Season Moves So Far

It’s that time of the year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series — Silly Season time. Already, a number of top teams have made moves for the 2018 season, with many more changes still to come.

Here’s how we break down the grades for the deals announced so far.

Richard Childress Racing,  C

Paul Menard is leaving to join the Wood Brothers next year, which means a pretty big financial hit for RCR. On one hand, the team could be forced to downsize to two cars; on the other hand, if sponsorship is found, it could open the door for Ty Dillon to move to his grandfather’s team.

Furniture Row Racing, C

It will be one-and-done for rookie Erik Jones in the No. 77 Furniture Row Toyota, as next year he’ll move to Joe Gibbs Racing. Furniture Row owner Barney Visser has said he doesn’t know if the team will be able to find sponsorship for the No. 77 next year. If the team has to return to running a single car, it will be a step backwards.

Wood Brothers Racing, B-

Next year, Paul Menard will replace Ryan Blaney in the iconic No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. Certainly, Blaney has more upside as a driver than Menard does. On the other hand, Menard brings solid sponsorship with him and the Wood Brothers will still have a technical alliance with Team Penske, so they should be OK. 

Joe Gibbs Racing, B

Next year, Erik Jones will take over the No. 20 JGR Toyota for Matt Kenseth, while the 2003 champion becomes a free agent. Short term, this could be a slight step back for the team as even at age 45, Kenseth is still fully capable of winning races. Long-term, though, this ought to prove a solid move.

Hendrick Motorsports, B+

Replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. with Alex Bowman for 2018 and beyond was a wise decision. Bowman showed well in the No. 88 last year when Earnhardt was out recovering from a concussion. He can step into the seat and be up to speed from Day 1, which is a plus. This grade could change depending on what Hendrick decides to do with Kasey Kahne.

Team Penske, A+

Joey Logano and his crew chief Todd Gordon re-signed? Check. Brad Keselowski and his crew chief Paul Wolfe re-signed? Check. Rising star Ryan Blaney and crew chief Jeremy Bullins signed for a third Team Penske Ford? Check. Add the moves up and it’s clear no one has helped themselves more for 2018 than Team Penske has.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Blaney Ready for First Double-Duty Weekend of 2017

AVONDALE, Ariz. — For the first time in 2017, Ryan Blaney will run double-duty between the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway.

Blaney, 23, will drive the Team Penske No. 22 in the 200-mile XFINITY race on Saturday and continue into Sunday’s Camping World 500 with his full-time role in the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford.

He currently sits sixth in the Cup points standings after opening the season with finishes of second at Daytona, 18th in Atlanta and seventh at Las Vegas.

Having practiced in both the XFINITY and Cup car on Friday, Blaney said the track is “slick” in the 90-degree desert weather and that “it’s only going to get worse” as the weekend progresses.

“This race track has aged very well, and the heat is definitely speeding up that process, which is nice,” he said. “It’s been a difficult task to try and get your car to where you need it. And tomorrow for race practice in the Cup car, it is going to be pretty tough to get your car dialed in for where you need it for Sunday.”

He enjoys competing in both series, though. His last double-duty stint was the championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November 2016.

“It’s been nice to kind of bounce back-and-forth between garages,” Blaney said. “That’s something I haven’t done for a long time — since last year. That’s nice to try and get repetition on race tracks. We learned things on the Cup car that we tried over [in the XFINITY car] that they’re working on.

“It’s just nice to have them try it and try different lines on the race track.”

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Wood Bros, GoFas Will Have 2017 Charters; NASCAR’s System Causing Odd Moves in Silly Season

On Thursday, GoFAS Racing announced Matt DiBenedetto would be its full-time driver in the No. 32 in 2017 and that Wood Brothers Racing is leasing its Charter for the No. 21 with Ryan Blaney.

However, GoFAS will not enter the upcoming season without a Charter; the single-car team is leasing one from Richard Petty Motorsports.

Since RPM’s Brian Scott announced his retirement from NASCAR racing, plans for the No. 44 have not been made.

It appears RPM will shrink to a single-car effort next year with Aric Almirola returning in the No. 43. If the organization wants to run a second car, that entry will have to qualify for points races based on speed.

The ongoing NASCAR Silly Season has been a busy one, and with the influence of the 10-month-old Charter system, business has taken a few strange twists.

HScott Motorsports is leaving NASCAR’s top division. The team had two Charters in 2016 — one of which was leased and returned to Premium Motorsports and then sold to Furniture Row Racing for its new No. 77, which rookie Erik Jones will drive. The other was purchased by Premium for 2017.

The two drivers that raced for HSM in 2016 are not without a ride for 2017, though. Clint Bowyer is taking over Tony Stewart‘s No. 14 at Stewart-Haas Racing and Michael Annett will pilot the No. 5 for JR Motorsports in the XFINITY Series.

Roush Fenway Racing leased its No. 16 Charter to JTG Daugherty Racing for a second full-time entry. Greg Biffle announced he would not return to RFR for 2017 and Chris Buescher, who is under contract with RFR, will leave the Ford team Front Row Motorsports and pilot the No. 37 Chevrolet — a second JTG car.

Both Biffle and FRM’s No. 34, which Buescher drove to victory in a rain-shortened Pocono race and made the Chase, have an unknown status right now regarding 2017.

Leavine Family Racing leased Circle Sport Racing’s Charter for the No. 95 in 2016 and it has been since returned to CSR. Supposedly, CSR will run the No. 33 again full-time, but there has been nothing announced. There’s been speculation Casey Mears could take over the ride after Germain Racing announced he would not return despite him and sponsor Geico signing a contract extension through 2018. The No. 13 will be run by rookie Ty Dillon, and Geico will return next year.

LFR bought Tommy Baldwin Racing’s Charter before the Homestead-Miami Speedway race in November and the No. 95 will use it to guarantee a spot in every race next year. TBR will not run a full-time schedule in 2017 and Regan Smith, who drove the team’s No. 7 in 2016, has not announced plans for the upcoming season.

When the Charter system was created in February, it was awarded to 36 teams that attempted every race since the start of 2013. The Wood Brothers team didn’t qualify for a Charter as it ran a part-time schedule from 2009-2015 and it sparked a bit of outrage among fans since it is NASCAR’s oldest and one of the most winningest teams.

Now, the famed No. 21 will be guaranteed into all 36 points events with Blaney embarking on his sophomore season in the car. And DiBenedetto will have the same security as his new team leased RPM’s No. 44 Charter.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.