There have been many moves that rocked NASCAR’s Silly season, such as Kyle Busch going to Richard Childress Racing. However, there are three teams that still have deals to announce.
The Daytona 500 is less than 100 days away, and there are questions about four entries. The No. 18 at Joe Gibbs Racing, No. 41 at Stewart Haas, No. 34 at Front Row Motorsports and No. 38 at Front Row Motorsports all have uncertain positions. There are expected moves that have to happen, but there are also some changes that can happen.
Front Row Motorsports entries are not likely to have major changes. The Cup Series organization makes one-year deals with its drivers, always waiting until the season is over to announce any moves.
There’s no reason to expect Michael McDowell to lose his seat in the #34 Ford Mustang. He took a win at the Daytona 500 in 2021, then topped the line in the top 10 finishes and laps during the 2022 season.
For comparison, Todd Gilliland will likely return to the #38 Ford Mustang after the junior season. The three-time Truck Series winner had two top-10 finishes and a top five finish during his first season in the Cup Series, achieving an average finish of 23.2 while driving the first 11 laps of his career.
Joe Gibbs Racing has time to make announcements
Before the end of the season, Joe Gibbs indicated that there will be no announcements about the Xfinity Series or the Cup Series lineup prior to the trip to Phoenix Raceway. The organization was focusing on several qualifying drivers.
The expectation was that JGR would determine its driver lineup soon after the season ended with Ty Gibbs as the #18 Toyota Camry TRD driver. However, the situation changed dramatically on the morning of November 6. Joe Gibbs Racing has announced that Coy Gibbs, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, has passed away in his sleep at the age of 49.
The sudden loss of gypsum completely changed the conversation. Driver lineup was much less important than family and everyone else at Joe Gibbs Racing. There will still be announcements at some point in the future, but the family will take care of more important things first.
Stewart-Haas Racing faces its biggest question
While Front Row Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing both anticipated the outcome of their contract questions, Stewart-Haas Racing sits in a different position. The team has one driverless entry confirmed for 2023, and there are two potential options.
The expectation in August was that Cole Custer would return to the #41 Ford Mustang for the 2023 season. SHR’s chief competition officer, Greg Zibadelli, met with members of the media before the trip to Watkins Glen International, and said the plan was to keep Custer at 41.
The situation changed in October. Co-owner Gene Haas has told several members of the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that he wants Custer at No. 41 but Tony Stewart wants to give Ryan Price a shot at getting in.
SHR has not provided any clarification about the situation since the trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. For his part, Custer told the media at Phoenix Raceway that the decision is up to Stewart and Haas. He said he was worried about the end of the season and that he would focus on his future with the team after leaving Arizona.
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