TRACKING THE CHANGES: Cup Series Silly Season
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 2018 campaign will be no different, so let’s review where things stand as of December 6, 2017.
Darrell Wallace Jr. will finally get his chance to run a full Cup Series schedule in 2018, as he replaces Aric Almirola in the No. 43 at Richard Petty Motorsports. While Almirola was out with an injury, Wallace ran four races, with a best-finish of 11th at Kentucky Speedway.
Aric Almirola takes his Smithfield sponsorship to Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 10, replacing Danica Patrick, after spending the past six years at Richard Petty Motorsports. He placed 29th in the 2017 rankings with three top-fives.
Danica Patrick announced at Homestead-Miami Speedway that the 2017 campaign marked her final season of full-time competition. She will run the 2018 Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, before retiring from racing. She has yet to announce which team, but would like to run both for the same organization. Roger Penske has confirmed Team Penske is full on both sides, entering three entries at Daytona and four at Indianapolis already. Chip Ganassi, though, has only stated that he likes the idea, but it needs to make business sense. Patrick scored seven top-10’s in 190 Cup starts.
William Byron makes the move to the Cup Series after taking home the NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship. He replaces Kasey Kahne at Hendrick Motorsports, but will not adorn the No. 5. Instead, he will have the No. 24 – which has been Chase Elliott‘s number for the past two seasons.
Kasey Kahne heads over to Leavine Family Racing, replacing Michael McDowell in the No. 95. Kahne spent the last six years at Hendrick Motorsports, scoring a victory in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2017.
Michael McDowell has yet to announce any plans for 2018.
Chase Elliott will return to Hendrick Motorsports for a third season, but with a new car number. After running the No. 24 for the past two years, he will continue the family legacy in switching to his father Bill Elliott‘s No. 9. In his sophomore campaign, he placed fifth in the season-ending standings.
Ryan Blaney will drive a third entry at Team Penske, the No. 12, after spending the past two seasons at the Wood Brothers. He scored his first career victory at Pocono Raceway earlier this year.
Paul Menard jumps over to Wood Brothers after putting in seven seasons at Richard Childress Racing. Menard completed the 2017 campaign ranked 23rd in the standings.
Richard Childress Racing has yet to announce a replacement for Menard in the No. 27, so it appears the organization may shift from three to two entries in 2018. However, there has yet to be a confirmation yet from the team so a third driver could still be named.
Matt Kenseth announced that he was unable to find a ride to his satisfaction, resulting in him stepping away from competition. Kenseth put together an elusive career, including a Cup Series Championship in 2003.
Furniture Row Racing announced that they will not enter the No. 77 in 2018, focusing on Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 solely.
Landon Cassill stated he will not return to Front Row Motorsports on twitter. Since the announcement in October, he has yet to reveal any plans for 2018. He scored a season-best 19th at Daytona in July.
Front Row Motorsports has yet to reveal any plans with regards for the No. 34 in 2018.
Kurt Busch has yet to sign a contract for the 2018 season. After spending the past four seasons together, both Busch and Stewart-Haas Racing have openly stated they want to stick together.
Ray Black Jr. announced that he will run the full schedule for Rick Ware Racing in 2018. Black Jr. ran three Cup events in 2017, along with 21 XFINITY races; he scored an XFINITY season-best 12th-place finish at Daytona in July.
Alex Bowman‘s work behind the scenes at Hendrick Motorsports as a test driver has paid off, as he will drive the No. 88 full-time in 2018, replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. Bowman ran 10 races in 2016 while Earnhardt Jr. was on the sidelines with a concussion, scoring a best finish of sixth at Phoenix Raceway in November after sitting on the pole.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired from full-time Cup competition after 18 seasons, which were highlighted by a pair of Daytona 500 victories. He has stated that he will run three to four XFINITY Series events in 2018.
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