Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: Who Didn’t Return to NASCAR in 2019?

In what’s become an annual segment on NASCAR 101 (wait, this is year five? Time is a flat circle), this week takes a look at the drivers who didn’t return to NASCAR in 2019.

Now, that phrase sounds a bit more absolute than it actually ends up being. Each year, we discuss the drivers from NASCAR’s national series (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Gander Outdoors Truck Series) in 2018 that didn’t attempt at least one race in one of those three series in 2019. That neither includes competitors who didn’t return to one of NASCAR’s regional series nor excludes racers who raced in the national series in 2018 but moved to a regional series in 2018 (such as Logan Seavey on the ARCA level).

Some of the below drivers were already announced as retiring after 2018, such as Danica Patrick and Kasey Kahne. For others, there were rumblings of a return that never materialized (Spencer Gallagher) or what seems like a straight-up move away from racing in any form. Still more, like Derrike Cope, remain in the sport in non-racing roles.

Here’s the rundown of everyone from 2018, with some updates here and there.

Trevor Bayne: After multiple full- and part-time seasons across NASCAR’s top two national series since 2009, Bayne did not return to Roush Fenway Racing after 2018 and has not appeared on the NASCAR level at all since. He’s currently operating a coffee company, Mahalo Coffee Roasters, in Knoxville, Tenn.

Wendell Chavous

Trevor Collins: The family-owned truck Collins piloted at Eldora Speedway in 2018 returned to the same track in 2019, this time with Darwin Peters Jr. behind the wheel. Collins continues to race modifieds at tracks in the Northeast and beyond.

Chris Cook

Derrike Cope: For the first time since 1983, Cope didn’t attempt a single NASCAR national series race. He’s still in the sport, however, as the team manager for StarCom Racing.

Cody Coughlin: Most recently appeared at the Winchester 400 at Indiana’s Winchester Speedway, finishing third in a car sponsored by the family company, JEGS.

Tim Cowen: This year marked the first time since 2013 that Cowen didn’t bring a car to one of the Xfinity Series road course races, generally competing at his home track of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Conor Daly: His one-race experiment in NASCAR could be it for him, but Conor Daly is still an occasional open wheel competitor. In 2019, he drove seven races in the NTT IndyCar Series, with a best finish of sixth at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

James Davison: James Davison did not return to a Joe Gibbs Racing ride at an Xfinity road course after three straight seasons of doing so. He drove the Indianapolis 500 this year, finishing 12th.

Alon Day: Sponsorship for a fourth straight season with at least one NASCAR national series start didn’t materialize for Day, who remained a full-time competitor in the Whelen Euro Elite 1 Series for the fifth year in a row. Despite winning the series championship in 2017 and 2018, Day concluded 2019 sixth in points with three wins.

Michel Disdier

Kevin Donahue

Kyle Donahue

Tomy Drissi

Chris Eggleston: No national series starts for Eggleston in 2019, let alone appearances in the K&N Pro Series West, where he’d started at least one race every year since 2014. Eggleston has remained busy, however, racing late models locally.

Bill Elliott

Tate Fogleman: Like Eggleston, Fogleman, son of former competitor Jay Fogleman, continues to race locally, and he also drove most of the 2019 CARS Super Late Model Tour schedule, earning a pole and finishing in the top five three times.

Justin Fontaine

Brad Foy

James French: After competing in one Xfinity race for JP Motorsports at Road America in 2018, James French returned to the track in 2019 at the IMSA Road Race Showcase, finishing second in his class for Performance Tech Motorsports.

Spencer Gallagher: Gallagher was originally announced to be driving the No. 8 for JR Motorsports in Xfinity competition at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. That deal fell through; however, Gallagher’s remained close to the sport as part of the managerial team at his father’s GMS Racing.

Victor Gonzalez Jr.

JR Heffner: 2019 marked the second time in seven Eldora Truck Series races that Heffner did not field a truck for the event. He remains a busy dirt track racer in the Northeast.

Brian Henderson

Brandon Hightower: Rumors had Hightower returning in some capacity in 2019, but that never came to fruition. He mostly raced dirt late models in 2019.

Nick Hoffman: Also continues to race on dirt at various tracks in the U.S.

Kasey Kahne: Kahne was one of the more high-profile retirements after 2018, and the 39-year-old didn’t opt to make any sort of one-off appearance in a national series like, say, Dale Earnhardt Jr. did. He’s continued to field World of Outlaws entries via Kasey Kahne Racing in 2019.

Brian Kaltreider: A Christmas 2018 shop fire devastated what plans Kaltreider may have had to return in 2019. This year marked the first time since 2002 in which he didn’t enter a single ARCA Menards Series race.

Matt Kenseth: A part-time return such as what happened in 2018 wasn’t in the cards for Kenseth this year, making 2019 the first time since beginning his national series career in 1996 that he didn’t appear in a single race in NASCAR. Though he’s not racing much these days, Kenseth showed he still has it when he went out and won the SuperSeal Slinger Nationals in July.

Justin Kunz: Germany’s Kunz returned to the Whelen Euro Elite 2 Series in 2019, with a best finish of fourth at Autodroma di Franciacorta in Italy.

Andy Lally: After five straight years as a road course ringer in the Xfinity Series, Andy Lally turned his focus away from NASCAR for the entirety of 2019. He competed in all but one of the races in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, driving the No. 44 for Magnus Racing and scoring a runner-up result at Sebring International Raceway.

Cody Lane

Katherine Legge: Like Lally, Katherine Legge focused on WeatherTech in the sports car realm for all but one of the season’s races, her team’s best finish a fourth at Watkins Glen International.

Bo LeMastus: LeMastus remains in the sport, despite not driving in 2019, as the co-owner of DGR-Crosley alongside David Gilliland.

Justin Marks: Justin Marks retired from NASCAR competition after 2018, and he competed on the WeatherTech circuit in four races in 2019, winning in his class at Watkins Glen with a team that also included Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman.

Max McLaughlin: Mike’s son Max McLaughlin was a full-time competitor in the K&N Pro Series East in 2019, winning at Watkins Glen and finishing fifth in points for Hattori Racing Enterprises.

Braden Mitchell

Jamie Mosley

Dylan Murcott

Akinori Ogata: For the first time since 2013, Ogata did not compete in any Truck Series events.

RJ Otto

Danica Patrick: In addition to dating the NFL’s Aaron Rodgers, Patrick was an analyst on NBC’s Indianapolis 500 broadcast this year.

John Provenzano

Chase Purdy

Tommy Regan: Regan did not attempt a Truck Series race for the first time since 2013.

Harrison Rhodes: 2019 was the first season since 2012 that Rhodes did not compete on the national level in NASCAR.

Casey Roderick: Roderick continues to race locally as well as on the CARS circuit.

Cole Rouse

Dalton Sargeant

Logan Seavey: Viewers of the ARCA dirt races this season saw Seavey in a Venturini Motorsports car at those events, finishing fourth and second.

Mike Senica: Despite announcing a ride for 2019 before the season began, Senica was nowhere to be seen this year. According to a Facebook post by Senica, he finished 14th in points at Mahoning Valley Speedway’s late model division in Pennsylvania.

Peter Shepherd: The Canadian drove three races in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, finishing no worse than sixth.

Mike Skeen: Mike Skeen drove one WeatherTech race at Watkins Glen this year, finishing 12th for Starworks Motorsport.

Mark Thompson: After one last hurrah in the 2018 Daytona 500, Thompson retired from competition.

Tanner Thorson: Thorson was injured in a car accident in March but was able to get back into a car and drive multiple dirt races in 2019.

Tim Viens

Cole Whitt: Whitt retired from NASCAR after the 2018 season.

Chris Windom: Windom has continued to race on dirt throughout the U.S. and also drove in an Indy Lights Series event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, finishing 10th after a lap 1 crash.

Tyler Young: Young stepped away from driving fully in 2019, instead focusing on the operations of his family-owned Young’s Motorsports. His team won its first Truck Series race in October with Spencer Boyd at Talladega.

Jeff Zillweger

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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A LOT of fans!

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Sara Alejandra Gutierrez

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