NASCAR Silly Season Breakdown
The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season is quickly approaching and everything is starting to fall into place. We know the plans of 90 percent of the teams now, so I thought it would be a good time to give you a breakdown of all the movers and shakers as well as the introduction of a few new faces.
Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is going to look much different in 2014. They have expanded from three cars to four and have two new drivers. Ryan Newman was replaced with Kevin Harvick and the car number has been changed from the No. 39 to the No. 4. Their fourth car is the No. 41 and will be piloted by 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, Kurt Busch.
Newman found a new home over at Richard Childress Racing (RCR), taking Jeff Burton‘s seat behind the wheel of the No. 31. With Harvick’s departure from the team, a new driver was needed for the No. 29 and Richard opted to put his grandson, Austin Dillon, in the car. The number has been changed to the iconic No. 3, which hasn’t been showcased on the door of a Cup car since Dale Earnhardt‘s tragic death in the 2001 Daytona 500.
Burton is now the odd man out, but he too found a new ride. With the SpinGate scandal and the loss of big-time sponsor NAPA, Michael Waltrip Racing was forced to cut back. Martin Truex Jr. was the driver of the NAPA sponsored No. 56 car, but the team released Martin and are turning that car into a part-time entry. That’s where Burton comes in. He will share the car with team owner Michael Waltrip and the number has been changed from the No. 56 to the No. 66.
In his search for a new team, Martin ended up in Colorado. No, he wasn’t lost. That’s just where the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing team calls home. This strong, RCR-backed single-car operation was searching for a new driver after the elder Busch left them for SHR.
NASCAR is going to enjoy a huge rookie class in 2014 with eight full-time drivers chasing ROY this season. Dillon is the favorite to win, obviously, but his biggest rival will most likely be 21-year-old racing phenom Kyle Larson. “Young Money,” as many like to call him, will drive the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi Racing, replacing Juan Pablo Montoya who will return to Indycar with Team Penske. Justin Allgaier will drive for Phoenix Racing, Michael Annett for Tommy Baldwin and there are two teams that are taking the big risk of putting rookies behind the wheel of both of their cars.
They are Swan Racing and BK Racing. Swan is expanding to a two-car operation and have employed Cole Whitt (No. 26) and Parker Kligerman (No. 30) for the 2014 season. Both already ran multiple races for the team in 2013. BK Racing has chosen Ryan Truex (No. 83) and Alex Bowman (No. 23) as their new drivers. Bowman’s number has been changed to the No. 23 for sponsor Dr. Pepper. They plan to run the No. 93 as a part-time entry with TBD drivers this year.
With all these rookies moving up, some veterans have been hung out to dry. Ex-BK Racing drivers David Reutimann and Travis Kvapil are currently ride-less and there isn’t much left out there for them. Annett’s hiring displaced Dave Blaney, but the 51-year-old will continue racing as the driver for Randy Humphrey‘s No. 77 car. 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte will join Allgaier as his teammate at Phoenix Racing in the No. 52, which is scheduled to run on a part-time basis.
Bobby has been the driver for JTG-Daugherty Racing since 2011, but is being replaced with A.J. Allmendinger. Along with changing drivers, the team is also switching manufacturers. They will run Chevys in 2014 (as opposed to Toyotas) and have formed a technical alliance with RCR. Germain Racing has also joined forces with RCR and will switch from Ford to Chevy.
Some of NASCAR’s back-markers are making changes in preparation for 2014 as well, hoping to improve their performance in the upcoming season. Phil Parsons Racing will join the Chevrolet bandwagon and with the loss of Michael McDowell, they have decided to hire Josh Wise. McDowell has since joined Leavine Family Racing who, along with their 20-race Cup schedule, plans to run some Nationwide races with McDowell too. One other news-worthy item is that FAS Lane Racing and Go Green Racing have merged to form Go Fas Racing.
Nick DeGroot is a Contributing Writer for Rant Sports NASCAR. Twitter – @ndegroot89.