DARLINGTON, S.C. — For a few hours Sunday night, NASCAR transforms itself into the image many fans have from when they started following the sport.
For longtime fans, Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 reminds them of the car Ned Jarrett drove to his dominating 1965 Southern 500 win. For others with less gray hair, William Byron’s No. 24 brings back memories of Jeff Gordon in a rainbow-colored car, and Austin Dillon’s ride recalls the time Dale Earnhardt shocked fans by driving a silver No. 3 in the 1995 All-Star Race. For new fans, there’s Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78, which harkens back to March when he won at Auto Club Speedway, as crew chief Cole Pearn explained in a tongue-in-cheek tweet.
On a weekend that celebrates NASCAR’s past, it is the future that carries the discussion in and around the garage.
Many are guessing what is in the future for Truex, the reigning series champion, and Furniture Row Racing after 5-hour Energy announced in July it would not remain in NASCAR beyond this season. Some are convinced the team won’t race next year, others are convinced the team will be competing. Some just don’t know.
Truex said little about his future after qualifying third for tonight’s Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
“I’ve got no news,” Truex said.
What happens with the team and Truex likely will create a domino effect.
While many in the garage wait to see what happens, Kurt Busch says he’s got two offers for next season.
Those could be just the tip of a bevy of driver movements, with most of those happening with mid-tier teams or lower.
But those aren’t the only questions.
Jim France is again at the track this weekend. He’s the interim CEO and Chairman of NASCAR, but questions remain as to what NASCAR will do with its leadership and will it include Brian France.
NASCAR announced Aug. 6 that Brian France was taking a leave of absence after he was arrested by the Sag Harbor Village (New York) police and cited for aggravated driving while intoxicating and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree.
There also are questions about what next year will be like on the track. Rule discussions continue. NASCAR gave teams an outline of 2019 rules a month ago to ponder. There still seems to be an interest toward a package similar to what was run with at the All-Star Race but giving drivers greater throttle control.
Deals also are taking place in the garage as teams look to next year. Plans are being arranged for charters to switch teams after this season. Will anybody be left out in the movement or will somebody new move up to Cup and take a charter?
What will Toyota’s team lineup be next year? Yes, it will have Joe Gibbs Racing’s four Cup teams but who else? Will Leavine Family Racing join the fold as many expect? And, of course, there’s the status of Furniture Row Racing. A lot leads back to what car owner Barney Visser decides.
So enjoy tonight, the trip back to memory lane with the special paint schemes, crew uniforms and other stylish touches. The future – and answers to many of these questions – will be here soon enough.