2021 NASCAR SILLY SEASON RUNDOWN: VOLUME THREE – AUGUST 20th, 2020
Note: The following are all RUMORS, either reported by reliable news sources (credit given when required), or reported directly to TobyChristie.com on the condition of anonymity. Nothing is official until a contract has been signed and a deal announced.
SMITH, HOCEVAR, DEEGAN AMONGST CANDIDATES FOR SEEMINGLY STACKED 2021 NGROTS ROTY BATTLE
The ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series are home to an immense amount of talented young drivers, all looking for a chance to compete full-time in one of NASCAR’s National Series, which ensures each season’s NGROTS ROTY battle is entertaining.
Chandler Smith, Carson Hocevar and Hailie Deegan are three talented drivers that could find themselves in the hunt for the 2021 ROTY designation in the NGROTS, but where exactly will the newest crop of young drivers fit into the equation?
Given his current part-time status at Kyle Busch Motorsports, Chandler Smith’s destination for next season seems like a no-brainer.
However, if KBM chooses to keep Christian Eckes and Raphael Lessard – the team’s full-time drivers this season — for a full-time campaign in 2021, look for Chandler Smith to move to a third full-time truck at Kyle Busch Motorsports, or find a home at one of TRD’s affiliates.
17-year old Carson Hocevar is looking to follow in the foot steps of Niece Motorsports teammate Ty Majeski, who signed with Niece Motorsports for a full-time schedule, after driving the team’s No. 44 at Phoenix Raceway last November.
The Portage, Michigan-native will run a partial schedule for Niece Motorsports this season, in hopes to turn the heads of his competitors, as well as potential sponsors.
Over the last few seasons, Hocevar has accumulated some much deserved stock, carrying start-up team KBR Development to six top-fives and 12 top-tens in 15 ARCA Menards Series starts.
With his eight-race schedule this season – which kicked off at Daytona International Speedway’s Road Course in August — it isn’t out of the question that Hocevar could find himself driving for Niece Motorsports on a full-time basis in 2021.
DGR-Crosley’s Hailie Deegan is easily the most polarizing figure in the ARCA Menards Series this year, driving the No. 4 Monster Energy Ford Fusion.
The 19-year old has posted some extremely solid results this season, only finishing outside the top-ten twice, after an accident at Kentucky and a mechanical issue at Iowa Speedway, but the question being posed by many, including Deegan herself has been:
“Am I ready to take the next step?”
Her performance certainly warrants having the discussion, as Deegan continues to be locked in an incredible Rookie of The Year battle with Venturini Motorsports’ Drew Dollar, but would there be anywhere for her to go?
DGR-Crosley Racing – the team Deegan drives for in the ARCA Menards Series — currently fields the No. 15 for Tanner Gray, as well as a part-time effort for David Ragan – who has been unable to compete in any races thus far due to the team not having enough points. In addition to their own trucks, the team also provides support for Front Row Motorsports’ No. 38.
In the end, if Deegan feels as though she is ready and the funding is there for her to run a full-time NGROTS campaign, then we could be looking at an intense three-way battle for ROTY honors next season.
WHO FINDS A HOME AT TRACKHOUSE IN 2021?
Justin Marks has made his intentions be known that he plans on starting a NASCAR Cup Series team called Trackhouse as early as 2021.
But who will Marks tap as his driver?
Marks has some obvious ties with a couple of names that are looking at getting back into the NASCAR Cup Series.
Kyle Larson. Marks was a teammate with Larson at Chip Ganassi Racing on their NASCAR Xfinity Series program a few years ago. The fact that Larson has inquired about the steps needed to be reinstated in NASCAR coupled with Larson’s long-time crew chief Chad Johnston being out of a job, makes this an interesting possibility.
Larson also would be a liability from a sponsorship standpoint, but Marks is planning on relying less on sponsorship and more on his family’s foundation to fund the team in an effort to bring attention to STEM initiatives.
So an outfit like Trackhouse would make sense for a driver trying to repair their image.
Another potential prospect would have to be Ross Chastain.
Chastain, much like Larson, comes from the Chip Ganassi Racing family and its no secret that Chastain has been trying to move himself up the ladder.
He stepped in as a fill-in driver for Ryan Newman after Newman was injured in a last-lap crash of the 2020 Daytona 500. However, when Larson was fired from Chip Ganassi Racing in April, it was Matt Kenseth, not Chastain, who got the nod to drive the No. 42. While Chastain could still be in CGR’s plans for the future, as Ganassi has indicated all along, the hiring of Kenseth almost felt like a snub to Chastain.
If Ganassi passes on bringing Chastain to the No. 42 car next season, as they have reportedly offered the ride to Bubba Wallace, then perhaps Trackhouse would give Chastain and opportunity to drive in Cup.
In an interview with Sports Business Daily’s Adam Stern, Marks indicated that he was one of many bidding for Leavine Family Racing’s charter that was eventually won by Spire Motorsports. If the team has any hopes of long term success a charter will absolutely be necessary. Expect Marks to strike a deal with a team looking to downsize or perhaps a team looking for an exit strategy as we approach the adaption of the NextGen car in 2022.
IS FORD THE ONLY OPTION FOR AUSTIN CINDRIC’S CUP SERIES HOPES?
Throughout his entire tenure in NASCAR’s National Series, Austin Cindric has been tied to Ford Performance and their network of race teams, driving for Brad Keselowski Racing in the NASCAR Truck Series, and progressing to the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Roush Fenway Racing and Team Penske.
Austin’s father, Tim, serves as Team Penske’s president, which most have provided as a concrete reason why Cindric will be staying with Team Penske, or moving to its alliance counterpart Wood Brothers Racing, who fields the No. 21 for Matt DiBenedetto in the NASCAR Cup Series.
However, comments made by Austin Cindric while addressing the media, may suggest that assumptions were made too quickly.
“It makes those conversations a lot more difficult and a lot more noncommittal,” Cindric said, “but at the same standpoint, I think I’ve always approached it this way and it’s probably the first time in my NASCAR career that I’ve really had to go outside and understand what’s out there, just because I have been fortunate to be within the Penske camp and the Ford camp.
“At the same token, I have a great deal of loyalty to Ford and Penske and if I can do anything to stay within those camps, I feel like that’s mutual. I think we’re going to do it, but you know how difficult it is to work that, especially this day and age, is the current challenge. For me, I’m not doing myself any service if I don’t go out and understand what’s out there. Squeaky wheel gets the oil, that’s the case and you’ve got to pick up the phone and not expect it to ring. Having success while you’re doing that is great. That makes those conversations easier to have and easier to convince people you’re the guy.”
While Cindric has stated he would prefer to be loyal to Team Penske and Ford Performance, the number of premium seats in the NASCAR Cup Series are already so limited, who’s to say that Cindric won’t take the bait if a better opportunity comes along with a different manufacturer.
IS A STEWART-HAAS RACING CUP RIDE IN THE CARDS FOR CHASE BRISCOE?
Chase Briscoe and Stewart-Haas Racing have proven to be a potent pairing in the NASCAR Xfinity Seires, scoring a series-high five victories this season. However, when speaking to the media in February, Briscoe was brutally honest about the expectations for this season.
“I feel like this is my make-or-break year.” said Briscoe, “If I go win eight or so race, then I feel like it shows I’m ready for Sunday. If I only win one of two races, I’m probably out the door and not racing anymore.”
2020 marks the fourth-year of Briscoe’s five-year development contract with Ford Performance, meaning that no matter which series Briscoe participates in, it will be under the network of Ford Performance teams.
In the NASCAR Cup Series this year, Ford’s network includes six organizations and thirteen cars – Stewart-Haas Racing (4, 10, 14 & 41), Roush Fenway Racing (6 & 17), Team Penske (2, 12 & 22), Front Row Motorsports (34 & 38), Wood Brothers Racing (21) and GoFas Racing (32).
Stewart-Haas Racing – Briscoe’s NASCAR Xfinity Series team — seems perfectly content to keep its lineup the same for next season, with Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Cole Custer, while also grooming Chase Briscoe to be potent on Sundays, but as long as contracts can get signed for all of SHR’s drivers, it seems as though Briscoe may have to wait another season to land at Stewart-Haas Racing’s NASCAR Cup Series team.
ICYMI: @TonyStewart addresses the future of the #14 car at @StewartHaasRcng and the potential of Kyle Larson returning to #NASCAR @DanielleTrotta | @LarryMac28 | @SiriusXMNASCAR | #SXMOnTrack pic.twitter.com/3TaQwqP2a7
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) August 19, 2020
However, GoFas Racing – who fields the No. 32 for driver Corey Lajoie — has a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing. Could SHR pull some strings and have this be the landing spot for Chase Briscoe in 2021? Only time will tell.
BUBBA WALLACE MUST BE LOVIN’ ALL THE OPTIONS HE’S GOT FOR NEXT SEASON
Over the last few months, Bubba Wallace has become one of the hottest commodities for new companies looking to sponsor at NASCAR’s top-level, signing multi-year sponsorship / endorsement deals with Beats by Dre, CashApp, Columbia Sportswear and Door Dash.
With the significant increase in Wallace’s long-term financial backing, he has also become one of the hottest topics in NASCAR’s annual silly season discussion, with his options for a potential landing spot spanning far beyond his current ride at Richard Petty Motorsports.
In fact, McDonalds, one of Wallace’s current sponsors at an associate-level, is rumored to have signed a MASSIVE multi-season agreement with Wallace, which has opened the door to an offer from Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the team’s No. 42.
Regardless of the avenue that Wallace chooses to pursue for 2021 and beyond, he certainly will be lovin’ it.