Silly season was in full swing in 2013 as multiple driver and team contracts came to a close while some even ended early. New numbers will be joining the big league of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and even an old favorite will be making its long-awaited return. With expansions and even some downsizing happening within NASCAR’s top teams, there will be some new names and faces behind the wheel of a few famous rides.
Let’s recap the changes for 2014:
STEWART-HAAS RACING: All eyes will be on SHR in 2014 as they bring in two new drivers and welcome back co-owner Tony Stewart. One of the most notable driver changes will be the long-awaited move of Kevin Harvick. Harvick, who took over the No. 29 (formerly the No. 3), after the tragic passing of Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing, will pack up and move on over to SHR driving the No. 4.
Harvick will join long-time friend Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch, who will also be a new face at the organization. Leaving the single car team of Furniture Row Racing, Busch will be making a jump to SHR into the No. 41. Mark Martin will also be joining SHR in 2014 as a driving coach and mentor to Danica Patrick and the rest of the team. SHR will be full force with a four-car lineup and four of the biggest personalities in the sport under the same roof.
MICHAEL WALTRIP RACING: A controversial blowout before the Chase left MWR scrambling to pick up the pieces of its organization. Losing the contract to one of its major sponsors, NAPA, MWR had to cut back to a two-car team and said goodbye to Martin Truex Jr. With Mark Martin hanging up the firesuit, Brian Vickers will be taking over the No. 55 after a long-awaited return to the track full-time. Jeff Burton will be joining the MWR team part-time sharing driving duties with Michael Waltrip in the new No. 66.
RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING: Filling the vacant seat left by Harvick’s departure from RCR, the 2013 Nationwide Series Champion Austin Dillon will be making the jump up to the Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2014. Dillon will be bringing the famed No. 3 back into NASCAR’s highest series, something that hasn’t been done since Earnhardt’s death in 2001.
Dillon, who also won the 2011 Camping World Truck Series championship, will be running for the 2014 Rookie of the Year award. Also joining RCR in 2014 will be Ryan Newman as he takes over the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet.
FURNITURE ROW RACING: After the Richmond debacle ultimately cost Martin Truex Jr. his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing, Furniture Row Racing saw the perfect opportunity to pick up another talented racer to pilot their No. 78. Truex is on a multi-year contract with the team after an impressive 2013 for the No. 78 shop. In an alliance with RCR, Furniture Row Racing has all of the qualities to be a championship contending race team once again in 2014.
PHOENIX RACING: After multiple seasons in the Nationwide Series, Justin Allgaier is rumored to finally getting his chance in the NSCS with Phoenix Racing. Piloting the No. 51, Allgaier will team up with crew chief Steve Addington as he runs for Rookie of the Year.
Also joining Phoenix Racing in 2014, veteran Bobby Labonte. Although a car number, Crew Chief or sponsor have yet to be named, Labonte will run the Daytona 500 and an undisclosed number of additional races for the organization.
JTG DAUGHERTY RACING: Making his return to the NSCS full-time after being suspended in 2012 for drug use, AJ Allmendinger will pilot the No. 47 in 2014, replacing Bobby Labonte. Having an alliance with RCR, this team will be in good hands with Allmendinger behind the wheel, this partnership could lead to a few race wins for this team in the coming years.
EARNHARDT-GANASSI RACING: With just one season in the Nationwide Series, Kyle Larson will be making the early jump to the NSCS in 2014. Replacing Juan Pablo Montoya behind the wheel of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet, Larson will be running for Rookie of the Year against Dillon and Allgaier.
TOMMY BALDWIN RACING: Michael Annett will be driving the No. 7 Chevrolet for TBR in 2014 and although this team isn’t expected to contend for wins, the full-time sponsorship Annett brings with him will do wonders for this small team. Given that they stay together for a few seasons, having Annett behind the wheel could be a great move for this organization. The organization has not announced whether J.J. Yeley will be returning to the No. 36 Chevrolet or if another fresh face will be joining their stable.
SWAN RACING: Cole Whitt and Parker Kligerman will join Swan Racing in 2014 piloting the No. 30 and an unannounced number when the organization starts its expansion to a two-car team. Both drivers are young with a lot of potential and could contend for top-15 finishes during the season.
BK RACING: After being arrested late in 2013, Travis Kvapil will likely be left a free agent in 2014. Although nothing for this organization has been announced yet, Alex Bowman tested for the team a few weeks ago in Charlotte and could be in their sights as a possible driver for the No. 93. David Reutimann’s status with the team is still up in the air after a mediocre 2012 and 2013 season but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back behind the wheel of the No. 93.
PHIL PARSONS RACING: Another small organization looking to make a dent in the NSCS has hired Josh Wise to pilot the No. 98 in 2014. Although this team is largely a start-and-park organization, it may be possible that they run a few full races with Wise behind the wheel.
LEAVINE-FAMILY RACING: Funding might be the biggest problem for this organization as they welcome Michael McDowell to the team as the full-time driver of the No. 95. McDowell has the talent and the equipment to run inside the top-25 each week and if he can accomplish that, he might be on his way to some important sponsorship deals.