NASCAR’s free-agent market still has some key drivers looking for a job
Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano are set for 2013 and beyond as of Tuesday. But, as of now the only driver to join them is Martin Truex Jr. whom of which signed an extension with Michael Waltrip Racing until 2015.
But, there are still plenty of key free-agents which are left searching for a ride as of now.
Let’s start with the Kurt Busch saga. The elder Busch signed with Phoenix Racing after departing from Penske Racing where they “mutually agreed to part ways.” His only top five finish this year came at a road course race in Sonoma where he could have won if it wasn’t for mechanical issues during the final laps.
Now that the season is coming to a close, Busch is starting to look for a new ride. A likely destination for the 20o4 NASCAR Sprint (was Nextel) Cup Series champion is Richard Childress Racing as a fourth car to Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard, and Jeff Burton. It would be a leap of faith for the Las Vegas native who’s currently 25th in points due to a missed race at Pocono where he was suspended by the sanctioning body. Even if Busch didn’t get suspended and competed that weekend, he would remain 25th in points either way.
But, if Busch can’t sign on with RCR, he may just end up remaining with Phoenix Racing. The team isn’t that bad. After all, they do have a whopping two top ten’s this year. He might land at Stewart-Haas Racing as well if Ryan Newman doesn’t resign with the team and Busch can find sponsorship to bring along with him.
That leads us to the next key free-agent, the “rocket man.” Ryan Newman and his No. 39 team recently lost sponsorship from the ARMY which was the primary sponsor for the bulk of the Sprint Cup Series season.
With Newman’s team losing sponsorship, as well as Tony Stewart losing his Office Depot sponsorship, it will be tough to retain the veteran driver who has been a decent fit at SHR. If they can’t find sponsorship and Newman leaves, he could end up at either Earnhardt/Ganassi Racing in a third car or even atFurniture Row Racing in a second car to Regan Smith who is more than likely to resign with the team.
David Ragan and David Reutimann are also free-agents to be come the off-season.
But, there aren’t many teams looking for driver’s with as little consistency as those two drivers have. Ragan is likely to either make the climb down to the Nationwide Series with a competitive team. Meanwhile, Reutimann may join BK Racing in a third car to Landon Cassill and Travis Kvapil.
The next free-agent class is in the Nationwide Series.
Let’s start with the biggest free-agent name the series has. Elliott Sadler will definitely leave RCR at the end of this year. According to Mike Dillon, RCR’s Vice President of Competition made it public that Sadler will also bring One Main Financial with him no matter where he goes.
Sadler is rumored to go to Joe Gibbs Racing in two possible scenarios:
- He can run a full-time Sprint Cup Series schedule in a fourth JGR car with the No. 20 car’s owner points and automatically lock in Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 car as he has a champion’s provisional to lock him into the first five races. Sadler could also have a part-time Nationwide Series schedule.
- He can run a full-time Nationwide Series schedule in the No. 18 or No. 20 car as a teammate to Brian Scott and a second car shared between the team’s Cup Series drivers. He would also have a part-time Cup Series schedule in a fourth Gibbs car.
These are probably the only two options for Sadler unless he goes to Furniture Row Racing which is looking to add a second car.
Kenny Wallace is a free-agent if one can call him that.
The 49 year old St. Louis native was originally going to run a full schedule with RAB Racing but that never came to fruition as sponsorship woes killed Wallace’s chances of gaining enough momentum to win a race for the first time since his win at 2001 at Rockingham driving for George Debidart. If Wallace decides not to retire, he will probably split the schedule with some young hot shot driver that comes with sponsorship but can’t compete near the level which Wallace can such as John Wes Townley.
Another free-agent to look out for in the Nationwide Series is the youngsters Ryan Blaney and Ryan Truex. Both drivers have driven for top tier teams, but they both haven’t found a solid ride. Blaney may end up at Penske Racing driving the No. 22 full-time while Truex may drive a full Camping World Truck Series schedule with Brad Keselowski Racing.
Now it’s time to look at a couple of Truck Series veterans that are likely free-agents this off-season.
Todd Bodine, or “the Onion,” has ran the entire season for Red Horse Racing after Germain Racing closed its doors over the winter. Bodine will probably resign with RHR if they choose to do so even though he’s had a sub-par year. If he doesn’t resign, expect
Bodine to move to a team like Eddie Sharp Racing or Joe Denette Motorsports.
The other top free-agent is Parker Kligerman.
Kligerman began the season driving for BKR, but the two sides decided to split before Michigan in early August. He quickly signed on with RHR where he’s had a great amount of success attempting to win his first career race as well as the championship.
The Connecticut native also has a development contract with Penske Racing. If he resigns with Penske, it will be for a Nationwide Series ride. But, it is unknown whether they will sign him or Blaney. Kligerman could end up staying with RHR competing for another championship next season or he can move onto another top tier Truck Series team. But, he can also get a job in the Nationwide Series for a team such as JR Motorsports who hired Cole Whitt as the driver of the No. 88 car after a successful rookie season in the CWTS.
Silly season is in its prime. Driver’s are preparing to end the season on a strong note, attempting to battle for a championship in each of the top three series. There is still to be some shocking announcements throughout the next few weeks, but they should be some exciting ones.