Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: The Cup Silly Season Dominoes Still to Fall

Been quite a week, eh? With Christopher Bell‘s thoroughly non-shocking move to Leavine Family Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for 2020, followed by the actually surprising loss of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 17 at the expense of Chris Buescher, Silly Season is very much in full swing for 2020.

That’s, of course, following a week that saw Daniel Hemric booted from the No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing next year, his replacement to be announced.

Despite, however, the abundance of moves in recent memory, coupled with the slew of competitors already booed up for 2020 by way of multi-year contracts, don’t take that to mean that the 2020 Cup roster is wrapped up with a bow just in time for Christmas directions to start appearing on the shelves of your local superstore.

As it stands, at least 15 of the 36 chartered teams in the Cup Series could still have a change coming for 2020. That’s not to say they will and that you should brace yourselves for 15 different news stories on the illustrious auto racing website Frontstretch about said changes, mind you. Hell, in nearly each case, the same guy for 2019 could come back for 2020, rendering speculation absolutely meaningless in the long run.

But chances are there are more changes coming, and if Stenhouse/Buescher is any indication, they could be quite unexpected. They may not even be via teams listed below.

Here’s what we could be looking at.

No. 1, Chip Ganassi Racing

There are certainly indications that Kurt Busch will be back in the No. 1 seat for CGR; after all, it’s already been reported that the two sides are talking about an extension. But until the ink is dried, don’t count out a change, despite Busch’s stellar inaugural season for the team.

No. 8, Richard Childress Racing

Daniel Hemric’s out of the picture, but the driver of the No. 8 has not yet been announced. However, all indications are that it’ll be Tyler Reddick in the seat.

No. 14, Stewart-Haas Racing

Cole Custer‘s ready for Cup. Problem is, SHR doesn’t exactly have a ton of open seats, with Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola back for sure and Daniel Suarez’s contract reportedly being through 2020. Will Clint Bowyer‘s tenure at SHR last just two years, though? Especially after a pair of wins in 2018 and a playoff berth in 2019? If Custer needs an SHR seat, it may not matter how decent Bowyer’s been.

No. 15, Premium Motorsports

Hand it to Premium: unlike the early days of Jay Robinson’s Xfinity Series team, it’s definitely become more accustomed to keeping either the same driver or a small crop of drivers in its stable for a year rather than the name above the door changing each week. If Ross Chastain is still rideless from an elite Cup ride standpoint next year, his employment with Premium probably won’t change. Otherwise, the car could definitely have a new driver.

No. 32, Go FAS Racing

Despite Corey LaJoie just joining the team for the 2019 season, there are rumors that he might not be back for 2020, especially if the No. 32 ends up utilizing an alliance with a larger organization and slotting one of said organization’s young drivers into the car instead. The prevailing opinion is that if that were to happen, it’d be Custer as part of an SHR alliance in the car. Or, you know, LaJoie could be back. Kinda up in the air.

No. 34, Front Row Motorsports

Michael McDowell could absolutely be the driver of the No. 34 again for 2020, but FRR has yet to announce its lineup in any capacity for 2020.

No. 36, Front Row Motorsports

Same as above, really — though perhaps just slightly less so since Matt Tifft‘s rookie season hasn’t been too strong. We’ll put it this way: there haven’t really been any major rumors surrounding the Nos. 34 and 36, which is probably a good sign for their drivers.

No. 37, JTG Daugherty Racing

Suddenly, an open seat! With Buescher’s departure to Roush still fresh, the rumor wheel hasn’t really gotten to full capacity yet with regards to the No. 37. Hell, maybe Stenhouse’ll just trade rides with Buescher and jump ship there.

No. 38, Front Row Motorsports

More talk here than the other FRR cars since the current driver, David Ragan, definitely won’t be back next year in the seat. Hemric has been mentioned as a possibility, as has LaJoie if his employment with Go FAS ends.

No. 41, Stewart-Haas Racing

While chances are Suarez will return given his multi-year deal signed before 2019, it’s important to note that his contract reportedly has a clause that could end the partnership after this season. So this one isn’t a done deal just yet.

No. 47, JTG Daugherty Racing

All indications are that Ryan Preece will be back, but then, the same was reported about Buescher and the team, and look what happened.

No. 51, Rick Ware Racing

In what would be a first for RWR on the Cup level, it’s been rumored that Garrett Smithley could be its full-time driver, rather than relying on a host of folks throughout the year.

No. 52, Rick Ware Racing

The same about the No. 51 cannot be said currently about the No. 52, which one assumes will be back in 2020 given its current charter ownership, but a driver hasn’t been announced. One can probably assume the roster will involve Cody Ware, plus some of the team’s other mainstays, such as Bayley Currey, BJ McLeod and Josh Bilicki.

No. 77, Spire Motorsports

Some seem to want Justin Haley in this car full time after his Daytona International Speedway win, but that appears unlikely. Part time? Oh, sure, maybe. There’s been little announced about this team at all for next year, so anything’s possible at this point.

No. 00, StarCom Racing

Landon Cassill‘s in the midst of his first full-time season for StarCom’s No. 00, and while the result hasn’t been exceptional, Cassill and the new team have gelled quite well — a wonder what happens when you have one driver instead of a half dozen throughout the year.

But will he be back? Cassill’s name is often floated around as a possibility for any number of smaller, less-funded teams, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him move on. But it also wouldn’t be shocking to see him stay, either, and chances are we won’t know either way for a few months still.

About the author

Rutherford is the managing editor of Frontstretch, a position he gained in 2015 after serving on the editing staff for two years. At his day job, he's a journalist covering music and rock charts at Billboard. He lives in New York City, but his heart is in Ohio -- you know, like that Hawthorne Heights song.

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