It’s been a busy week in the NASCAR Cup Series paddock. It’s that time of year when drivers start swapping teams and new contracts are signed. If you’re not paying attention, it can get a little overwhelming. So, for simplicity’s sake, we’ve compiled a list of all the big moves you should be aware of as we head into the Charlotte ROVAL weekend.
It’s finally happening: Clint Bowyer is retiring from full-time Cup Series competition and is heading to the commentary booth with the FOX Sports team. Bowyer has made a name for himself in the Xfinity commentary booth, so this move doesn’t come as a surprise—he’s a personality that fans like listening to, and he’ll be able to make the most of that skill in the booth.
Bowyer has been racing with the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Team since 2017, and his departure leaves a great seat open to potential talent.
SHR hasn’t announced who will be filling that empty seat, but current speculation rests on Xfinity points leader Chase Briscoe. Briscoe’s eight wins are as close to dominant as one can get in the competitive Xfinity Series, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team opt for a fresh face.
Trackhouse Entertainment Group announced this week that it would be forming its own NASCAR Cup Series team and that it will be fielding Daniel Suarez, who announced a few weeks ago that he would be leaving his current team, Gaunt Brothers Racing.
Suarez has had a tough go of it in NASCAR. Entering the top level of competition, he seemed to be a promising rookie, one that should be competing for championships in the near future. But he just hasn’t been able to pull it all together. Suarez lost rides at both Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, two of the more competitive teams on the grid, after a series of mediocre finishes. In lesser equipment for 2020, his results have only fallen further.
While no new team is going to be perfect straightaway, Trackhouse Racing might be a good place for Suarez to regain his confidence and to build a team around his needs. The team will be partnered with Richard Childress Racing, which should hopefully provide a little boost.
2020 was Gaunt Brothers Racing's first full-time Cup Series season after three years of competing part time.
We’ve known for some time that Jimmie Johnson would be leaving the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports machine at the end of the 2020 season, but the team only recently announced the driver that will be taking his place: Alex Bowman.
Bowman has a history of inheriting legendary numbers. In 2018, he took over the No. 88 made iconic by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Now, he’s moving to the team’s other iconic number.
“I’ve worked my entire life to be in a situation like this,” Bowman said in a press release. “The opportunity to drive a legendary car like the ‘48’ with incredible support from Ally, it truly can’t get any better. I’m excited to build on my relationship with Greg, who is a championship-caliber crew chief and knows first-hand what the No. 48 is all about. The pieces are in place, and I’m grateful to Mr. Hendrick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and Ally. We’re ready to do it right. “
Hendrick has yet to announce what will be happening with the vacant No. 88, but there’s speculation that the number will be changed and the car will be inherited by Kyle Larson, who lost his ride with Chip Ganassi Racing after using the n-word in an unofficial but still public public iRacing event during the COVID-19 shutdown.
That said, there’s no hurry to make a decision. There are plenty of talented drivers on the market at the moment, and Hendrick can afford to take its time. It’s not likely that we’ll see an announcement about the No. 88 until after the NASCAR season finale in Phoenix.
Matt DiBenedetto’s future has been up in the air as he’s struggled to find consistent pace in his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing machine—but the team has announced that their current driver isn’t going anywhere. DiBenedetto will stick with the team and try to convert some of his most impressive drives into a coveted win. After all, DiBenedetto did take the team to the Playoffs this year.
Austin Cindric was the big name lined up to take DiBenedetto’s seat if the driver failed to secure a 2021 contract. He’s a Penske-affiliated driver, one who has displayed great skill in the Xfinity Series, and one who’s logical next step would be heading into Wood Brothers, much like Ryan Blaney did.
He’ll have to wait another year. Cindric will return to Xfinity with Penske in 2021.