Silly season is in full swing and the three major NASCAR series have not been short on surprises. So, if you have been a little out of the loop these past few weeks or just need a refresher, I am here to help you out.
Here is what you need to know:
Kurt Busch to SHR: After an impressive season with Furniture Row Racing, Kurt Busch has decided not to renew his contract with the single car team and instead, jump on over to Stewart-Haas Racing. Busch will drive a fourth car for the organization joining co-owner/driver Tony Stewart, Rookie Danica Patrick, and fellow newcomer Kevin Harvick. Haas Automation will sponsor Busch’s ride, the company owned and ran by SHR co-owner Gene Haas. The deal came together rather quickly and no crew chief or car number has been named yet.
Montoya Out, Larson In: Since coming in to NASCAR, Juan Pablo Montoya has been mediocre at best and it seems like Earnhardt Ganassi Racing wanted a change. Deciding to part ways, Montoya will not be returning to EGR in 2014. Instead, Nationwide Series Rookie Kyle Larson will pilot the No.42 Target Chevrolet full time next season after just one season in NNS. Where Montoya will end up is anybody’s guess. Will he stay in NASCAR? Move to IndyCar? Lips are pretty sealed as to where he will go. Rumors of a deal with Furniture Row Racing have surfaced but nothing has been officially announced yet.
Burton out at RCR: The most recent announcement came from Richard Childress Racing when they announced on Wednesday that Jeff Burton would no longer drive the No.31 CAT Chevrolet in 2014. Burton, whose contract was set through 2014, made a deal with Childress to leave a season early after sponsorship didn’t come together. With the departure of Kevin Harvick (see above), and the addition of Childress’s grandson Austin Dillon, that leaves one veteran driver on the team, Paul Menard. Plans to fill the No.31 seat will be named at a later date but the most sought-after driver on the market is Ryan Newman.
Stewart Out in 2013: Okay, so this may be old news, but Tony Stewart is out for the remainder of the 2013 season. Stewart made his first public appearance on Tuesday, a month after breaking his leg in a Sprint Car accident in Iowa. Stewart, who has been replaced by Mark Martin in the No.14 Chevrolet, spoke about his recovery process and rehabilitation. Thankfully, no more surgery is in store for the 3-time Champion but intense rehab will start shortly. In a press conference that lasted well over an hour, Stewart answered questions about his future on dirt and on the pavement. In short, Stewart does plan on returning to Sprint Cars as soon as possible but won’t run such a vigorous schedule. Unfortunately, his doctors estimate that he won’t be back in the No.14 until early February, which means, Daytona testing is (so far) out of the question for Stewart. Martin will be on hand for the remainder of the season (ex. Talladega) to drive the No.14.
Vickers and Allmendinger Go Full Time: It was announced in 2012 that Brian Vickers would take over the No.55 Aaron’s Dream Machine for Michael Waltrip Racing full time in 2014. With Tony Stewart’s injury and Mark Martin taking over the duties of driving the No.14, Vickers is getting much needed seat time in his future ride. With one win already this season in his part-time stint , Vickers will be well prepared for his full-time ride in the Sprint Cup Series. A.J. Allmendinger, who lost his ride in the No.22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford for Penske Racing after failing a drug test, is getting a second chance. Allmendinger will be the new driver of the No.47 for JTG Daugherty Racing, replacing Bobby Labonte.
Childers and Martin to SHR: Rodney Childers, former Crew Chief for the No.55 Aaron’s Dream Machine, has left Michael Waltrip Racing and joined the team at Stewart-Haas Racing. Childers will be on top of the pit box for Kevin Harvick as Harvick moves to SHR, driving the No.4 Chevrolet. Mark Martin, who is filling in for an injured Tony Stewart, will return to SHR in 2014, but not as a driver. Martin, a veteran in the Cup Series, will be the driving coach for 2013 Rookie Danica Patrick. Patrick, who is still transitioning from IndyCar to NASCAR, will get some much needed advice and guidance in the set-up of her car. Does that mean Martin will be out of the car for good? With Martin, you never really know.
The Dillon’s are Moving Up: Austin Dillon, the 2011 Trucks Series Champion, will be moving up to the Sprint Cup Series full time in 2014. Rumored to be bringing back the famed No.3, Dillon will pilot the car for his grandfather’s team, Richard Childress Racing. With multiple starts in the Cup Series, including a stint in the No.14 for SHR, Dillon has shown a lot of promise and would bring the No.3 back into the series with pride and honor. The youngest Dillon brother will be on his way up to the Nationwide Series in 2014. Currently competing for the Camping World Truck Series Championship, Ty Dillon will take over his older brother’s vacated ride. Watch out, it won’t be long before we have two sets of brothers in the Sprint Cup Series.
Now, if you feel a bit overwhelmed after reading all of that, then you are not alone. This silly season and frankly, all of 2013, has been filled with unforeseen news and shocking announcements. Be prepared for more because the season isn’t over yet!
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