For those who thought that Silly Season 2020 was over – think again.
Now that the 2020 season has officially ended and teams and drivers alike can enjoy some down time, it’s also time for the focus to shift towards the 2021 NASCAR season.
Many players in Silly Season 2020 such as Bubba Wallace, Clint Bowyer, Chase Briscoe, and Erik Jones have all found new rides, there is still a pool of drivers and teams that have not fully confirmed their plans for next season as of this article.
Let’s try and piece together who is remaining, and where those drivers could end up going.
After hand-delivering a written letter to Rick Hendrick offering his services to drive the No. 48 in 2021 didn’t pan out, you can’t knock a driver for taking an often forgotten way of communication to make his case.
The 30-year-old Cup Series driver has spent the last four seasons in the Cup Series, and the last two years in a full-time ride with Go Fas Racing.
With Go Fas Racing shifting towards a part-time operation in 2021, LaJoie is still seeking a seat in a NASCAR Cup Series ride. He confirmed back in August that he would not return to GFR, long before the decision was made public about the team’s schedule for next season.
Statistically speaking, LaJoie had a relatively similar season to last, scoring one top-10 (instead of two in 2019), leading 13 laps, and finishing on the lead lap 11 times. In addition, LaJoie saw an improvement in his average start and finish this season, even if most of the starts were determined via random draw, or NASCAR’s performance algorithm.
So where could the Concord, North Carolina driver end up in 2021? LaJoie has been rumored to potential talks with Spire Motorsports, which eyes two full-time rides in 2021 after acquiring the second charter and assets from Leavine Family Racing.
Depending on Spire’s plans for an alliance, this could be a downgrade in terms of performance. However, it could showcase LaJoie’s ability to out-perform the equipment he is given. Should Spire go all-in with the Hendrick alliance rumor, the picture changes completely.
What sets LaJoie apart from the rest, is that he is expected to bring multiple sponsors from this past season with from Go Fas Racing, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. To a potential hire, this can make LaJoie’s signature on paper more attractive especially during the pandemic, when companies are being a bit more careful with their spending.
Should no Cup Series option be available, LaJoie has said that he is open to a potential top-tier Xfinity Series ride – which could give sponsors a better bang for their buck when it comes to spending on primary sponsorship deals. LaJoie spent four years in the Xfinity Series, netting two top-10 finishes across 22 starts during the duration of his career in the series.
Should he wish to stay in the Ford camp, Stewart-Haas Racing still needs a driver for 2021, but a source close to TobyChristie.com has said that Riley Herbst visited the Stewart-Haas Racing shop earlier this month.
Germain Racing is one of two full-time teams in the Cup Series completely shutting down their operations following the 2020 season, along with Leavine Family Racing.
LFR’s driver Christopher Bell has already found a new home with Joe Gibbs Racing, piloting the No. 20 Camry after Erik Jones moved to Richard Petty Motorsports and the famed No. 43.
The Lewisville, North Carolina driver has spent the last four seasons full-time in the Cup Series, nearly full funded by long-time Germain Racing partner GEICO Insurance. The company and team confirmed the news in early September that the team was put up for sale after GEICO told the team that they would not return to the team in 2021.
With GEICO leaving after sponsoring all 36 races in 2020, it left a monstrous gap to fill for Germain. After all, GEICO has sponsored nearly every single race on the No. 13 car since 2009. After all, money is going to play a major factor in terms of where he may land.
While his 2021 statistics have not been anything to brag about, the youngest of the two Dillon brothers keeps his car clean nearly every weekend – and has been logging a consistent amount of laps during his career. Quiet on track yes, but consistency is key when eyeing a new deal.
Dillon said back in 2018 that he wanted to step out of the RCR shadow, and become his own person – to showcase his talents and to have people ‘see me for me’ as he said during the Media Tour.
However, Dillon may need to swallow that pride if he wishes to stay afloat in NASCAR. As the Cup Series ride opportunities are beginning to dwindle, Ty could find himself back in the Xfinity Series with at Richard Childress Racing. With the team yet to confirm their plans for 2021, Dillon could get the nod to keep him racing against his older brother Austin.
The only Cup option that could play out is Ty heading to the second Spire Motorsports entry, but that would likely be with the rumored Hendrick Motorsports alliance that was mentioned earlier. Should Spire not go that route, that is a harder sell for Dillon.
Ty was rumored to head to RPM thanks to the RCR alliance, however that ride has been given to Erik Jones. Should Ty take a serious look at Xfinity, Kaulig Racing is another spot after a banner year for the organization, landing Justin Haley in the Championship 4 and bringing home multiple wins across the organization as a whole.
RCR also has yet to confirm their plans for the Xfinity Series for 2021 – with the No. 21 being the only entry that ran all season between Kaz Grala, and Anthony Alfredo. He would be back in the RCR fold for the first time since 2017.
With Josh Berry and Sam Mayer heading to JR Motorsports in 2021, Daniel Hemric is being placed in an odd spot.
After stepping down from the Cup Series in favor of Tyler Reddick in 2020, Hemric spent 21 races in the No. 8 Camaro for JR Motorsports, splitting the time between Jeb Burton, and owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Hemric had a teeter-totter season in the No. 8 Camaro, his first time back in the series since 2018.
The Kannapolis, North Carolina driver scored seven Top-5 finishes in 21 starts, but failed to finish seven races thanks to multiple crashes, an engine failure, and the damage vehicle policy.
Josh Berry, the late-model sensation that has been in the JR Motorsports fold for a long time, will have a part-time schedule in the No. 8 next season, running the first 12 races of 2021. Immediately, this takes away either races from Jeb or Daniel should JRM keep the same lineup for 2021, which is unlikely.
The wording from the release is a key factor. The team did not confirm number or entry yet for Mayer, he will turn 18-years-old on June 26th, and then will run the rest of the Xfinity schedule with the team. His first race with JRM will likely will be either Pocono on June 27th, or Road America on July 3rd.
As for where Hemric could go, he has been strongly rumored to head to Joe Gibbs Racing in the No. 18 Supra, splitting the time with Ty Gibbs after a dominate ARCA season. The grandson of Joe Gibbs scored six wins in the ARCA Menards Series, and a win in the ARCA Menards East Series.
Hemric could move to Cup with a team such as Spire Motorsports should they be interested in his services – and that is likely one of the last options available.
Here is one not many have talked about – South Point Hotel & Casino and Hemric have been involved together for a few years. With Brendan Gaughan leaving the seat open, and should South Point continue supporting Beard Motorsports, Hemric could land a four race deal with the team running only the super speedway races. He had a strong finish at Talladega in April of 2019 when Chevrolet finished 1-2-3 with Hemric finishing fifth.
Poppy Bank followed Daniel to JR Motorsports, and it is unclear if they will follow Hemric to his next ride, stay at JRM, or leave the sport entirely.
After placing in the top-5 only four times in his Joe Gibbs Racing Supra, Herbst is rumored to be on the way out at JGR.
The Las Vegas native has been involved in over 20 incidents during the 2020 season, from racing ending accidents to spin-outs.
This past season was the first time Herbst ran a full year of competition in one series since 2018 when he last competed in the ARCA Menards Series full-time.
Since, Herbst has bounced around between Trucks, Xfinity, and ARCA before landing a full-time ride in 2020 with Joe Gibbs Racing.
While teammates Harrison Burton and Brandon Jones found victory lane multiple times, Herbst failed to get his first career win. He never won in the Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series in his career, and won once this season in the ARCA Menards Series where he finished in the top-10 four times in four starts at Michigan.
So where could Herbst end up? He has been strongly rumored to head to Stewart-Haas Racing in the vacated No. 98 Ford – a move that would see him leave the Toyota family. This would be yet another addition to the growing list of young drivers to leave Toyota in recent years including Hailie Deegan to Ford, and Erik Jones leaving for Chevrolet.
A source close to TobyChristie.com stated that Herbst was at the Stewart-Haas Racing shop earlier this month, beginning to take a look at landing spots for 2021. Should he move over to the team, Monster would likely go as well, already having a relationship with SHR from Kurt Busch’s time there. In addition, Terrible’s would likely follow since the west coast gas station chain is owned by Riley’s family.
It could be an upgrade for the young driver, after Chase Briscoe piloted the No. 98 to a whopping nine wins in the 2020 season. But Herbst will need to do a better job at keeping his car clean and drastically cutting down the number of incidents he was involved in during the 2020 season at 20+.
This one is a wild card for Silly Season 2020.
Spire Motorsports is expected to carry two full-time charters in 2021 – but the question remains who those drivers will be.
Corey LaJoie has been heavily linked to Spire in recent weeks. With LaJoie bringing sponsorship with him wherever he goes, he can be a more notable driver for a team. For argument’s sake, let’s say that Spire does in fact get the rumored Hendrick Motorsports alliance, giving them the engine package that HMS and RCR are working together for this upcoming season for LaJoie.
Who would take the second Spire seat? It’s key to remember that the “Spire” in the team name is part of Spire Sports and Entertainment – which represents multiple drivers in NASCAR. Justin Haley, Ross Chastain, Landon Cassill and Garrett Smithley just to name a few. While it is unlikely, drivers who are associated with Spire that do not have a ride for 2021 can be involved in the conversation.
It’s difficult to pinpoint who the second driver would be should Spire concretely stay with their plans for two full-time rides next season, which the team expressed positivity in after acquiring the Leavine Family Racing charter.
If Spire does in fact form the Hendrick alliance, that can make the landing spot more attractive for possibly a NASCAR Xfinity Series driver or even a current Cup driver such as Ty Dillon that is looking for a ride in 2021. Spire will likely take experience (i.e. Dillon) over a young up-and-coming driver.
For LaJoie to be in consideration for the ride, that might reveal that Spire is serious about being more competitive in 2021, simply pending an announcement to confirm those plans.