As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are heating up, so are the silly season rumors. Just this week alone, another driver was made available via free agency as Front Row Motorsports announced that Landon Cassill won’t be back for the team in 2018. But, a possible destination for a free agent was taken away too, as Furniture Row Racing announced that they were shutting down the No. 77 Toyota entry due to a lack of funding.
So, what’s left? Who’s rumored to go where?
Here’s what we’re hearing.
Notable Free Agents
Bubba Wallace Jr.
No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing
No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing
No. 27 Richard Childress Racing
No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports
No. 34 Front Row Motorsports
The next domino starts with Stewart-Haas Racing. We know Smithfield is joining them, but to what capacity and on what car? It was initially rumored that Aric Almirola was coming over with the sponsor and likely replacing Danica Patrick in the No. 10 Ford. But, there appears to be some sort of snag, since Smithfield is over there, but nothing set in stone yet on Almirola.
So, who takes over the 10?
Kurt Busch and SHR both have expressed interest in signing a new deal and I think that gets done keeping him in the No. 41 Ford. If you look around on what rides are left, Busch’s best shot at winning races and even a championship remain in taking less money and staying put. Look for that to get done.
So, that leaves SHR with likely one open seat and Almirola, Kenseth or Wallace as the likely suitors. Smithfield will control this whole situation on if they fund a car full-time, then a driver doesn’t have to bring funding. That opens the door for Kenseth and/or Wallace. If Monster is back too, then that opens up two funded rides. SHR could hire anyone they want at that point and in turn, that helps Almirola and Busch.
The next domino would be RCR’s third entry. It was rumored to be going to Danica, but Brennan Poole’s name has recently been brought up. Both have some sort of funding, but is it enough to land a full-time seat? Felix Sabates said on NASCAR Radio on Thursday that Poole is remain with Ganassi for 2018 though, so that opens the possibility back up of Danica landing there.
Then, there’s the RPM deal. It’s not a secret that the only driver they’re interested in is Wallace. They need funding though. That’s where NASCAR comes in. It’s also not a secret that they’re trying to lure deals together for Bubba and Danica. With losing Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a span of two years, they can’t afford to lose out on their lone African-American and female driver too. If they help out in some capacity, then Danica will be in the No. 27 Chevrolet and Bubba in the No. 43 Ford.
So, many are then wondering what about Kenseth? It appears this is the end of the line for him. Unless he has funding lined up, which he doesn’t, then RPM, RCR and SHR would all be options. Unfortunately for him, they’re not. He needs to bring sponsorship and that’s something as we sit in October, he doesn’t have. If he did, don’t you think he’d be at Furniture Row? Don’t you think he’d have a ride by now?
You may also be asking that if Smithfield is a paid ride at SHR, why not have Kenseth in it? Well, Smithfield like Almirola an awful lot and doesn’t want to turn their back on him. The only thing that would keep Smithfield off Almirola’s car is contracts. If they’re put elsewhere and Busch wants to come back, then he gets that ride.
The musical chairs and fading and the music is getting quiet.