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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

TRACKING THE CHANGES: Cup Series Silly Season

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From one season to the next, NASCAR is never short of changes as there are always drivers in new rides entering another year of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition.

The 2019 campaign will be no different, so let’s review where things stand as of January 7, 2019.

NKP

After spending the past five seasons at Richard Childress Racing (RCR), Ryan Newman will have a new home in 2019 as he joins Roush Fenway Racing. It will mark the fourth different organization that he has driven for following Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing, and RCR. He scored just nine top-10’s last year en route to not making the post-season.

He moves into the No. 6 entry, previously piloted by Matt Kenseth and Trevor Bayne. The pair combined to deliver Jack Roush just two top-10’s in 2018. Neither has announced plans for this coming year.

The No. 6 team will have a new crew chief, though, as Scott Graves will make the jump over after working with Daniel Suarez at Joe Gibbs Racing last year. 

JOHN HARRELSON | NKP

Kurt Busch leaves Stewart-Haas Racing following a win and 22 top-10’s last year en route to placing seventh in the year-end standings.  The 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion will drive for Chip Ganassi Racing, as a teammate to Kyle Larson.

Jamie McMurray previously drove the No. 1 Chevrolet, scoring just two top-five’s this past year. The past Daytona 500 winner has been offered a one-race deal (the Daytona 50o) and a management role with Ganassi, but no formal announcement has been made.

Stewart-Haas Racing has yet to announce Busch’s replacement, however it is expected to be Daniel Suarez.

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Suarez was replaced at Joe Gibbs Racing by Martin Truex Jr., who brings along crew chief Cole Pearn to the organization with him. This shift came after Furniture Row Racing announced they were shutting their doors due to a lack of sponsorship, despite winning the Cup Series Championship in 2017. 

Matthew T. Thacker NKP

Following seven top-five’s in 15 NASCAR XFINITY Series starts last year including a win at Bristol Motor Speedway, Ryan Preece will make the jump up to the Cup Series with JTG Daughtry Racing. 

The modified stand-out replaces A.J. Allmendinger, who picked up just five top-10’s in 2018. The road course ace is expected to focus on sports car racing this year. 

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Following Kasey Kahne‘s announcement that he was retiring from full-time Cup Series competition, he will be replaced by Matt DiBenedetto at Leavine Family Racing. DiBenedetto posted a season-best seventh at Daytona in July last year while driving for Go Fas Racing.

Go Fas Racing revealed at the NASCAR Hall of Fame last month that Corey LaJoie will drive for them in 2019. LaJoie scored a season-best 16th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last year for TriStar Motorsports.

The crew chief dynamics here will see some change as well, with DiBenedetto working with Mike Wheeler at Leavine Family Racing. Wheeler has spent the past couple years with Denny Hamlin at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Chris Gabehart will serve as crew chief for Hamlin in 2019 after spending the past three seasons as a crew chief in JGR’s Xfinity Series program, capturing a total of nine wins over that time. 

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

After making the Championship 4 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series last season, Daniel Hemric will move up to the Cup Series full-time with Richard Childress Racing. He will have Luke Lambert on the pit box, after Lambert spent the past couple seasons with Newman. 

MATTHEW T. THACKER | NKP

Although Hendrick Motorsports will have the same four drivers, they will be shuffling their crew chiefs around in 2019.

Jimmie Johnson will be led by Kevin Meendering, who crew chiefed for Elliott Sadler in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at JR Motorsports. The pair were able to challenge for the championship in Sadler’s last full-time campaign, ultimately coming up short. Meendering is not new to Hendrick Motorsports, having spent 16 years there beginning with a high-school internship in the chassis department.

Chad Knaus, meanwhile, will be partnered with William Byron for his sophomore campaign in the No. 24 Chevrolet. Knaus has a history with the No. 24, as he was part of the original Rainbow Warriors team from 1993 to 1998 under the direction of Ray Evernham. 

Johnson will also see a new sponsor, with long-time partner Lowe’s walking away from the sport. He will instead adorn the Ally colors for 2019. 

BARRY CANTRELL | NKP

After placing sixth in the year-end XFINITY Series standings with Richard Childress Racing, Matt Tifft announced that he would drive a third entry for Front Row Motorsports in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2019.

“It’s definitely a dream come true to be running in the Cup Series; that’s something that I’m looking forward to since we’ve made the announcement,” he told POPULAR SPEED in December. “I look forward to being able to jump in the seat and be apart of the series and make the next step. it’s certainly a huge opportunity and it was a great 2018 season that led into this next chapter. I know I’ll have some great veteran teammates in David Ragan and Michael McDowell so really looking forward to it.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.