With Roush Fenway announcing the departure of 2003 Winston Cup champion Matt Kenseth, it’s crystal clear that we are in for a crazy, and unexpected silly season. Here are my projections based on nothing but my own speculation.
Kenseth– Kenseth will take over the Home Depot #20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, finally giving the home improvemen chain a driver that is close to the level of Jimmie Johnson (Lowe’s spokesperson) and former driver Tony Stewart.
Joey Logano- Do not think that Logano is going to be left hanging during this silly season madness. A month and a half ago, I was sure he was out. Nevertheless, he has enjoyed a solid month, which includes a win at Pocono. I believe that Logano will move to the fourth JGR team with a sponsorship package that includes Dollar General and Gamestop. Possible numbers include #19, #25, #28, and #80.
Ryan Newman- Call me crazy, but I think Newman could return to Penske Racing. Shell/Pennzoil is used to having a championship caliber driver after years with Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. Newman was a championship caliber driver from 2002 to 2005 under the Penske umbrella before the entire organization began a decline. For Newman and Penske, this could the completion of a full circle that began in 2000 when Penske and Ford signed the young Newman.
A.J. Allmendinger- Allmendinger was arguably the best driver available when Kurt Busch lost the #22 ride last fall. However, with drivers such as Kenseth, Newman, and Kurt Busch available, he is under an immense amount of pressure. His luck has been awful, but even without the bad luck, he has not been that impressive outside of his performances at Martinsville and Sonoma. Look for Allmendinger to land with a lower tier team with potential, such as BK Racing or even a second Furniture Row Racing team.
Kurt Busch- This is difficult to project because Busch is difficult to project. One week he is blowing up at reporters, the next he is in near tears following a third place finish, not to mention, his post-race interviews were actually pleasant to listen to. However, it will be difficult for an owner to land a sponsor that is willing to risk another embarrassing outburst. Fellow media-basher Tony Stewart could be his saving grace. I believe Stewart and Gene Haas will pony up a little extra money to put another champion in the No. 39 (could be a different # without Newman) ride. Look for Busch to driver the Haas Automation Chevrolet.
Brian Vickers- Vickers will not be able to completely move into the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine. anytime soon due to Mark Martin’s continued desire to compete part-time. However, he could land at JTG Daugherty Racing, another Toyota outfit that recently shared a shop with MWR. JTG-Daugherty Racing could be a solid landing place for Vickers.
Bobby Labonte- As much as I admire Labonte, I believe that his days of contending for wins is long past. He will likely move to a team that is in need of that champion’s provisional. He could land with FAS Lane Racing or Tommy Baldwin Racing. Or perhaps, he could share the No. 55 ride with Martin and Waltrip. Personally, I’d rather see Labonte run solid five or six times a year as opposed to painfully watching him mired back in the 20’s and 30’s for 36 races.
David Reutimann- Reutimann has been a doormat his entire career, despite the fact he is a genuinely nice and talented driver. He does not receive as much credit as he should for helping improve the performance MWR. I think the guys at Phoenix Racing liked Reutimann, and he would be a solid replacement for Kurt Busch.
Trevor Bayne- With Stenhouse moving to Kenseth’s ride in 2013, I would assume that Jack Roush will place Bayne in Stenhouse’s full-time Nationwide Series ride. Bayne will continue his partial Cup schedule with the Wood Brothers.