The 2014 season isn’t too far away. When I say that, a bunch of you are probably saying “what are you talking about, the 2014 season doesn’t start until February.” Well, for NASCAR teams, now is the time to figure out plans for next season.
Some organizations don’t know what their future holds. Other teams know that they’re restructuring everything possible, just like Richard Childress Racing. The only driver staying with the team as of now is Paul Menard. They have the team owner’s grandson, Austin Dillon, coming up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series probably driving the No. 3 car, which will be more than controversial.
Then the team has an open seat. Jeff Burton could return to the car, but he has to prove he’s capable of winning before that can even come close to happening. Rumors circling the garage have Ryan Newman as the leading candidate to be the third RCR driver.
However, RCR has an alliance with Furniture Row Racing, a single-car team in NASCAR’s top division. The team’s driver is a proven champion and true wheel-man, Kurt Busch.
Furniture Row Racing hired Busch to replace Regan Smith late in the 2012 season and signed him for the 2013 season as well. With two eighth and one ninth-place finish to close out the 2012 season, Busch didn’t want to sign a long-term contract with the team. It could have been because he didn’t fully believe they were the real deal or it could have been because he believes he deserves to be with a larger team.
Well now Busch has some thinking to do.
Many people call the No. 78 car a fourth RCR car. They have former RCR crew chief Todd Berrier calling the shots from a top the pit box, and their alliance with RCR has made them contend at the top of the speed charts almost every week. Driving for Furniture Row Racing this year might have just been the best decision Busch has made over the past few years.
His average starting position is actually better than it was during his championship season in 2004 with what was then called Roush Racing. As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for a few wrecks, his average finish would be right where it used to be when he made the Chase for the Sprint Cup in the past. Clearly, Furniture Row Racing is getting the job done for Busch.
Now that he’s inside of the top-20 in points, if Busch can lock up a win or two, he should be able to make it into NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. So, why would Busch leave the team?
At this point, he can go to Richard Childress Racing in a fourth car, but there’s not really a point of doing that since Furniture Row Racing is basically a fourth car for them. He has had preliminary discussions with Michael Waltrip Racing, but they aren’t going to add a fourth car and Brian Vickers will probably drive the third car on a full-time basis next year.
Busch’s final opinion is to drive for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. However, with an improved performance from both Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya this year, it appears they’ll both be staying. Plus they want Kyle Larson to come up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series sooner rather than later.
The best option at this point would be for Busch to sign a multi-year deal with the team. Yet, they’re looking to expand the team to two cars. It may not be the best of ideas though.
They’re attempting to land Newman in the second car as long as he can bring sponsorship with him. Newman hasn’t done as well as he did with Penske Racing now that he’s with Stewart-Haas Racing. That’s another team that shouldn’t have expanded and they’re struggling because of it. It happens to RCR whenever they go to four cars instead of three, so why should Furniture Row Racing expand?
It would surely help the team find out more information, especially with a top quality driver. Yet, it just doesn’t seem like it will work. They would have to add a lot more people to the shop and a rivalry could occur within the team. It could help them win though, which is the key.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.