On Wednesday morning, Elliott Sadler announced his retirement from NASCAR as the 2018 XFINITY Series season will be his 21st and final one in the sport. While his retirement is a bit of shock, him not being in the No. 1 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports next year really isn’t. While Sadler has finished runner-up in each of the last two seasons in the final points standings in this car and is in the hunt to be in the Championship 4 again this year, his sponsor, One Main Financial, is leaving at seasons end. It would be difficult for the Virginia native to find the funding that it would take to continue on with the team for next year.
There were rumors on who could fill the seat next year already as I know it’s early, but here are few of the best options for replace Sadler next season.
He’s in a contract year with Roush/Fenway Racing and all signs are pointing to him not returning to his seat in the No. 6 Ford. With RFR bringing in Matt Kenseth to share a ride with Bayne for much of the second half of the season, that left Bayne upset. It appears that after four seasons with the team, they’re going to go their separate ways.
But, Bayne brings funding via AdvoCare which would be more than enough to fill the ride with JRM. Plus, there’s not really a lot of top rides available on the Cup level, so why not go back down to the XFINITY Series and show everyone that he still has it with one of the top teams in that series and move his way back up to a better ride in the future.
At 27 years old, he’s still young enough to make this gamble and make it pay off.
The Tennessee native has made 152 career starts in the XFINITY Series and has reached victory lane twice. He’s a big option for the team.
The Las Vegas native is also rumored to have an interest from JRM. While Gragson is a Kyle Busch Motorsports driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, his options with Toyota are getting more and more limited. Toyota is getting full up at the top as they have Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez already in the Cup level. Christopher Bell is showing he’s ready to move up in the next year or two, so there’s not many more options for Gragson.
He could get moved up to a full time ride with Joe Gibbs Racing in the XFINITY Series next year but all signs point to Bell returning for a second full time season. It sounds as if Brandon Jones is already signed for a full slate in 2019 too, so would JGR really run three full time cars in the XFINITY Series next year and bring a fourth out for Busch, Hamlin, Jones, Suarez and maybe a few others?
This wouldn’t be the first time that JRM and Chevrolet snagged a Toyota driver. William Byron was with KBM a few years ago before JRM snagged him to run the full XFINITY Series season last year. He won the championship and now is in the Cup Series.
Gragson, is ready to move up to the XFINITY Series as he’s made 39 career Truck Series starts and has won twice. He made three XFINITY Series starts with JGR this year and finished second, fourth and seventh respectively in them.
He’s ready but can Toyota keep him?
Like Gragson, he’s another Toyota name being brought up. While he’s under contract, can he get bought out? Preece, is the same age as Bayne so he’s still in his prime. He’s thrived since moving to a limited schedule with JGR the last two years as he’s made 10 starts with them and has one win, eight top five finishes and nine top 10’s. He’s deserving of a full-time ride and JRM would be a good one.
He’d be another great option. Again, another Toyota driver with limited spots to go. He made a name for himself in a fill in role with Michael Waltrip Racing in 2014 when filling in for Brian Vickers. He finished eighth in his first Cup Series start at Atlanta. But, when Vickers came back, he was left without a ride. He drove for some under budget teams after but like Preece, took a step back to prove himself.
He went back to the Truck Series with Hattori Racing Enterprises this year and is showing he’s as talented as ever. Moffitt, is looking like a legitimate championship contender as he’s won four times already this season. Again, Toyota doesn’t have a lot of places to house him in the XFINITY or Cup Series, so could JRM and Chevrolet make a move to bring him over. He’s only 26 years old so he has a lot of good years left too.
He’s a Ford driver but he has no where to go right now either. Brad Keselowski Racing shut the doors to the Truck Series operation after last season which left Briscoe looking for a ride. Ford signed him up but has only placed him in limited races with Roush/Fenway Racing in the XFINITY Series this year. He did make one Truck Series start at Eldora and won it. He also won the season finale Truck Series race last year in Homestead.
I’m not sure what RFR’s plans are past this season but JRM could have an interest if they can get him out of his Ford contract. He’s only 23 years old and has a similar USAC background as some of the other stars.
JRM already signed a former BKR driver in Tyler Reddick, so why not the other.