After two weeks without any racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series or NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, drivers and teams are ready to get back to the track and grind for the final stretch of the 2021 NASCAR season, which will carry us all the way through to November, where three champions will be crowned at Phoenix Raceway.
While some spent the two-week break twerking on the beach (Kyle Busch), others spent it attempting to solidify some of their racing plans for next season, and having further discussions about potential moves that could be made in the off-season. Since the last update at the beginning of July, Brad Keselowski has been confirmed to be a partial owner of Roush Fenway Racing in 2022, while Ross Chastain has been signed to pilot the second entry for Trackhouse Racing.
Some of the remaining puzzle pieces have been put into place, while others that have been thought to go in one place, have pivoted to another area where they may fit in. With the implementation of the Next Gen car in 2022, NASCAR Cup Series teams are looking to finalize their rosters early, in time for the sanctioning body’s organization tests this Fall, causing rides the fill up quickly.
As always, we at TobyChristie.com are here to help you stay up-to-date on all the silly season action, with our 2022 NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series Driver | Team Charts – now sponsored by Adam & Eve.
Sheldon Creed Eyeing Potential Xfinity Series Effort in 2022; Not Focused on Possibility of Cup Racing
As the Playoffs for the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season draw closer, defending series champion Sheldon Creed already knows what he’d ideally like to be doing in 2022, and it doesn’t necessarily involve a return to the series in which he’s visited victory lane six times in his last 31 starts.
“I definitely don’t want to do another year of trucks,” Creed told Davey Segal in a podcast interview last month. “I feel like there are a few guys that have done four or five years in Trucks, and they become lifers, and I don’t want to be that person.”
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) July 20, 2021
Creed further reiterated that his main goal for next season, is to be competing full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, preferably in a competitive car, a goal that the Alpine, California-native feels is realistic, based on the amount of sponsorship dollars that it will take to obtain a top-tier ride in the series. Naturally, another option comes to mind for Creed, with the recent announcement that GMS Racing will be going racing in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022.
“I would love to do drive Cup next year with the new car and everyone on the same playing field,” Creed continued. ” I think that would be really fun, but someone’s got to call you, you have to have money behind you and it’s not all about if you can win races anymore, it’s ‘How much money do you have with you?'”
The 23-year-old admitted to Segal that he hadn’t been contacted about the ride with GMS Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series and didn’t know who would be piloting the organization’s entry, but did mention that he’s heard the organization is planning to run a handful of races if they cannot find a charter, but will run full-time in 2022 if they can acquire a charter.
Looking ahead to next year, the natural first question on everybody’s minds becomes “Where does Sheldon Creed land in the NASCAR Xfinity Series?” and wile there are a number of different possibilities for the 2020 NASCAR Truck Series Champion, it would take a further narrowing of the criteria to determine a front runner. For example, if Creed is 100-percent committed to remaining with Chevrolet, than his options are likely narrowed down to JR Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, or Our Motorsports, three very different teams that likely provide three different pricepoints.
As a co-founder of the ‘Drivers Edge Development Program’, which Creed is enrolled in, JR Motorsports seems like the most realistic option. However, with anywhere from five to seven drivers fighting for the chance to pilot one of the team’s entries next season, the competition to secure the ride may be tough, and entirely funding-based. An option with a lower pricepoint, without sacrificing much quality, is Kaulig Racing, who does have a vacancy to fill in the team’s No. 11 entry after Justin Haley graduates to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022. Finally, Our Motorsports provides more of an ‘underdog’ opportunity for the 23-year-old, as the organization has undergone personnel changes in the last month, which has seen various GMS employees working on Brett Moffitt’s No. 02.
However, if Creed is willing to further explore options with different manufacturers, Team Penske is noted to have a vacancy in their championship-winning Xfinity Series program, with the graduation of Austin CIndric. Likewise, Harrison Burton’s move to the NASCAR Cup Series leaves a Toyota Supra open for next season, a potential spot that could be snatched up by Creed, if his allegiances don’t lie strictly with Chevrolet.
‘Status Quo’ for Front Row Motorsports for 2022, Alfredo’s Contract Awaiting Option Pickup Date
It’s been a season of polar opposites for Front Row Motorsports and the team’s drivers Michael McDowell and Anthony Alfredo. While McDowell and the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports team have been enjoyed the best season in the organization’s history, including a victory in February’s season-opening Daytona 500, Alfredo and the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports team have experienced very few bright spots in the first two-thirds of the year.
Granted, the learning curve isn’t an unexpected one, as it’s a general theme that drivers competing for Rookie of The Year Honors tend to have some struggles, while adjusting to the multiple overhauling changes that come with the transition from the NASCAR Xfinity Series to the NASCAR Cup Series. The struggles and poor results by Alfredo, especially when compared to teammate Michael McDowell, have led many people to believe that Alfredo’s future with the two-car operation may be in danger after this season.
However, it appears that isn’t the case, as a source within the Front Row Motorsports organization tells TobyChristie.com that things are currently ‘status quo’ with Front Row Motorsports in terms of determining who will pilot the team’s entries in 2022. According to said source, the contract between Anthony Alfredo and Front Row Motorsports runs on a year-to-year basis, with options for both Alfredo and Front Row Motorsports to renew following the season.
Furthermore, said source tells TobyChristie.com that everything they’ve heard regarding Anthony Alfredo this season has been positive, which gives reason to believe that Front Row Motorsports may be looking at Alfredo as a long-term figure within the organization. Of course, the same mindset was held last year with John Hunter Nemechek, before he declined to renew his contract with the team, to run in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
While FRM and Alfredo haven’t reached the date in which the option must either be exercised or abandoned, it seems evident that the 22-year-old will retain his position in the No. 38 Ford Mustang, unless he decides to abandon his option for 2022, or a game-changing option comes down the pipeline for Front Row Motorsports.
Brandon Jones Staying in Xfinity? Finally Graduating to NASCAR Cup Series?
It’s hard to believe that Brandon Jones has been participating in NASCAR’s top-three series in some capacity for eight seasons, initially competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, before moving to the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2016 to contest his first full-time season. Since then, Jones moved to Joe Gibbs Racing, where he’s since claimed four victories in the last two seasons.
With the Atlanta, Georgia-native’s breakout season last year, the 23-year-old has been the subject of many questions regarding a future in the NASCAR Cup Series, a deal which has never been able to fully come to fruition, despite a substantial form of financial backing in his corner. It seems as though every season, Jones is in the conversation for a ride at NASCAR’s top-level, and it appears this season is no exception to the rule.
Something important to note, is that Menards – Brandon Jones’ primary sponsor throughout his NASCAR career — has not publicly declared that they’ll renew with Team Penske in 2022, despite announcements of Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton moving into NASCAR Cup Series rides with the organization. While this could be unrelated, a potential departure of Menards from Team Penske’s NASCAR Cup Series program, could signal a potential sponsorship agreement with Jones.
With teams looking to finalize their rosters before the first organizational test for the Next Gen car this Fall, spots are beginning to close rapidly, leaving less and less opportunities for Jones to pursue, as far as a full-schedule in the NASCAR Cup Series is concerned. Richard Petty Motorsports (No. 43) and JTD-Daugherty Racing (No. 37 and No. 47) are some of the more competitive teams that have yet to officially announce their lineups for next season, but the option also remains for Jones to take on a limited schedule, something that could be available with Kaulig Racing or GMS Racing.
However, rumors of a NASCAR Cup Series effort for Brandon Jones flew around like flies at the county fair last season, before the Atlanta, Georgia-native stayed put, and decided to contest his sixth full-time season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. So, it’s not out of the question that Jones stays put, especially with the extra spot at Joe Gibbs Racing left by Harrison Burton.
Noah Gragson Hopeful to Return, But is There Room at The Inn?
The 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season has been “feast or famine” for Noah Gragson and his JR Motorsports team, with the third-year driver failing to visit victory lane after 19 events, while only recording six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. Coupled with six DNF’s and seven finishes outside the top-25, and things aren’t exactly going as planned.
As the summer months come and go, the time of year where drivers begin to seek out rides for the following season has arrived. However, as Gragson told FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass in July, those discussions haven’t begun for him yet, despite the fact that he’d like to be further along in that process.
Noah Gragson said his 2022 plans are up in the air and “I need to win some races.” pic.twitter.com/5E0x9WHNC6
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) July 14, 2021
“We have great partners right now at JR Motorsports, with Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops, TruTimber and Black Rifle Coffee,” said Gragson. “Our team is really in unison and in sync right now, so I think the goal would be to keep that going with JR Motorsports in the [NASCAR] Xfinity Series for another year, but right now it’s kind of up in the air, and I need to win some races.”
If Gragson wants to return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports in 2022, he’s going to have to hold back some impressive company, as a number of drivers are looking to slot into one of the organization’s entries next season. Sam Mayer is already confirmed to run full-time for JR Motorsports next season, while the organization has not been shy in making it known that they’re looking for the funding for Josh Berry to do the same.
Both Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett – current drivers at JR Motorsports — bring substantial funding with them to the organization each season, while 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion Sheldon Creed has also made it known that he’s looking for a ride in the NASCAR Xfinity Series next season. Throw into the equation, increasing rumblings of another full-time Xfinity Series competitor with major funding, eyeing one of the organization’s entries for next year, and we’ve got a whole host of drivers looking to find a home at JRM in 2022.
One thing playing to Gragson’s advantage, is his prior relationship with the organization, a valuable relationship that may keep him within the JR Motorsports fold for a fourth season when Speedweeks 2022 rolls around next February.