GMS Racing announced this week it won’t field a full-time Cup entry in 2018, removing a possible landing place for a driver or two for next season. As NASCAR heads to Darlington Raceway for the Southern 500, Silly Season continues.
Here’s a look at where Silly Season stands with less than three months left in the Cup season.
ANNOUNCED RIDES FOR 2018
— Erik Jones will drive the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing, replacing Matt Kenseth (announcement made July 11)
— Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. (announcement made July 20)
— Brad Keselowski agrees to contract extension to drive the No. 2 car for Team Penske (announcement made July 25)
— Ryan Blaney moves to Team Penske to drive No. 12 car and signs a multi-year contract extension (announcement made July 26)
— Paul Menard moves to Wood Brothers Racing to drive No. 21 car (announcement made July 26)
— William Byron will drive the No. 24 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Kasey Kahne (announcement made Aug. 9)
— Matt DiBenedetto will remain with Go Fas Racing in the team’s No. 32 car (announcement made Aug. 12)
— Chris Buescher signs a multi-year contract to remain at JTG Daugherty driving the No. 37 car. (announcement made Aug. 18)
OPEN/POSSIBLY OPEN RIDES
— No. 10: Sponsorship has yet to be announced for next season, and Danica Patrick could be out. Patrick told USA Today on Aug. 5 that there’s “no buyout needed. I don’t have a sponsor. It’s contingent on the sponsor.’’
— No. 27: Richard Childress Racing states it will announce its plans for a third Cup team at a later date with Paul Menard joining the Wood Brothers for next season.
— No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing declined to pick up the option on Kurt Busch’s contract for next year on Aug. 1. Even so, the team tweeted that it expected Busch back with sponsor Monster Energy for next year. Busch told reporters Aug. 5 at Watkins Glen that “there are a couple of offers already, so we’ll see how things work out.’’
— No. 77: With Erik Jones returning to JGR, team owner Barney Visser is looking to fill that seat. The first concern, though, is sponsorship. Visser told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Aug. 9: “We’ve got no sponsorship right now for the 77,” for next season. “So we’ve got to find something. We don’t want to give up that car, but if we don’t get sponsorship, we’ll have to.” Sponsor 5-Hour Energy has an option to return. The company can’t go to any other Cup team with Monster Energy as series sponsor.
Matt Kenseth: Out of the No. 20 after this season. Doesn’t have anything for next year at this point. At Bristol, Kenseth was asked about his plans for 2018. He said: “I’ll be honest with you … I’m not worried about (2018) even really one percent anymore to be honest with you. I’m just not concerned about it.’’
Kurt Busch: With Stewart-Haas Racing declining to pick up his option for next year, Busch is a free agent. Even with Stewart-Haas Racing’s action, there’s still a chance Busch could sign a new deal to remain with the organization.
Kasey Kahne: The 2017 Brickyard 400 winner is available after Hendrick Motorsports announced it had released him from the final year of his contract. Rick Hendrick said Aug. 9 that he’s working to help Kahne land a ride for next season and hinted it could through an alliance with Hendrick Motorsports.
Danica Patrick: Sponsorship uncertainty leaves her status murky for next year. She’s not looking for a ride in the Xfinity Series. “Cup only,’’ she said.
Aric Almirola: Hasn’t been announced yet as returning to Richard Petty Motorsports next season. He’s tied closely to sponsor Smithfield, which also is in its final year with the team, but Richard Petty has said he’s confident Smithfield will return.
GMS Racing/Spencer Gallagher: GMS Racing confirmed on Aug. 30 that it will not have a full-time Cup entry in 2018. The organization, which fields teams in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, had looked into moving to Cup.
Darrell Wallace Jr.: He continues to look for an opportunity after his Xfinity ride with Roush Fenway Racing went away in June because of lack of sponsorship and Aric Almirola returned from injury to the No. 43 in July after Wallace filled in for a few races. Wallace showed well in Almirola’s ride. Key is to find sponsorship. Wallace said Aug. 4 that he’s focused on finding a ride for next year with so few options left for this year.