Silly Season scorecard: Early December update

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As NASCAR begins to move deeper into the offseason, it has seen a flurry of driver announcements from teams about the 2020 racing season.

The most recent addition to the list came Tuesday, when Corey LaJoie announced on the “Sunday Money” podcast that he will be running a second full-time season in Cup with Go Fas Racing.

Also, Stewart Friesen will return to Halmar Friesen Racing for a third full-time season in the Truck Series. The team will switch from Chevrolet to Toyota Trucks in 2020, as well.

Here’s a look at all the official driver announcements made so far for next season.

 

OPEN CUP RIDES ANNOUNCED FOR 2020

No. 38: Front Row Motorsports must replace David Ragan, who stated Aug. 14 that 2019 would be his final season running a full schedule.

No. 36: Front Row Motorsports announced Nov. 13 it was parting ways with Matt Tifft so he could focus on his health following his seizure at Martinsville in March. Tifft said he could not commit to racing in 2020.

 

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2020

No. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing announced on Nov. 1 a multi-year extension with Kurt Busch.

No. 6: Roush Fenway Racing announced Oct. 30 that Ryan Newman would return to the car as part of the news that Oscar Mayer would sponsor the No. 6 through 2021.

No. 8: Richard Childress Racing made it official Oct. 2 that Tyler Reddick will move to Cup in 2020 and drive the No. 8 car.

No. 10: Aric Almirola confirmed Oct. 11 he signed an extension to race for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon posted a video Sept. 6 on Instagram refuting rumors that he would retire after this season. He has a contract with Germain Racing through 2020.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer was announced Oct. 17 as returning to Stewart-Haas Racing for a fourth season.

No. 17: Chris Buescher will take over the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 ride in 2020 after the team announced Sept. 25 that it would part ways with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after this season.

No. 20: Joe Gibbs Racing announced Sept. 6 that it had signed Erik Jones to an extension. It is a one-year extension for the 2020 season.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto replaces Paul Menard at Wood Brothers Racing (announcement made Sept. 10). DiBenedetto’s deal is for 2020 only.

No. 32: Corey LaJoie will return for a second straight full season with Go Fas Racing and the No. 32 Ford. The team announced on Nov. 1 it would enter a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing next year.

No. 37: Ryan Preece moves over from the No. 47 to the No. 37. He will have a new crew chief, Trent Owens, who has been crew chief on the No. 37 for the past three seasons.

No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing announced Nov. 15 Cole Custer will replace Daniel Suarez.

No. 47: JTG Daugherty Racing announced Oct. 16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will join Ryan Preece at the two-car team, essentially swapping seats with Chris Buescher. On Dec. 2, the team announced Stenhouse will drive the No. 47, with Brian Pattie serving as his crew chief.

No. 95: Christopher Bell moves to Cup in 2020 and will drive for Leavine Family Racing (announcement made Sept. 24).

Rick Ware Racing: JJ Yeley will drive one of the team’s three full-time rides.

 

AMONG THOSE YET TO ANNOUNCE DEALS FOR 2020

Daniel Suarez — The driver revealed Nov. 14  he would not return to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2020 after one season driving the No. 41.

 

ANNOUNCED PLANS IN OTHER NASCAR SERIES

Xfinity Series 

Ross Chastain – Kaulig Racing announced Oct. 15 he would compete full-time for the team in 2020 driving the No. 10 Chevrolet, joining Justin Haley.

Joe Gibbs Racing — Announced Oct. 17 Harrison Burton will drive its No. 20 Toyota full-time in 2020. Announced Oct. 31 Brandon Jones would return for a third year in the No. 19. Revealed Nov. 5 it would field a third full-time entry with Riley Herbst in the No. 18.

JR MotorsportsJustin Allgaier will return to the team for a fifth year in the No. 7 Chevrolet. The No. 8 car will be driven by Daniel Hemric for 21 races, Jeb Burton 11 races and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for one race. Noah Gragson will also return for a second season in the No. 9 car, while Michael Annett returns for a fourth year with the team in the No. 1 car.

Richard Childress Racing — Has not announced its driver plans for 2020, but Richard Childress said after Tyler Reddick claimed the Xfinity title that it would field a full-time entry.

Stewart-Haas Racing – The team has not announced plans for the No. 00 Ford with Cole Custer moving to Cup or whether Chase Briscoe will return to the No. 98.

JD MotorsportsJesse Little will compete full-time for the team.

 

Truck Series

GMS RacingDriver lineup will include Brett Moffitt, Sam Mayer, Sheldon Creed and Tyler Ankrum

Kyle Busch MotorsportsRaphael Lessard will drive the No. 4 full-time while Christian Eckes will drive the No. 18 full-time.

Halmar Friesen Racing — Stewart Friesen will return for a third full-time season in the No. 52 Truck. The team will also switch from Chevrolet to Toyota Trucks in 2020.

Hattori Racing EnterprisesAustin Hill will return to the No. 16 Toyota for a second year.

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Power Rankings: How drivers fared during the season

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While the 2019 NASCAR season is over, we at NASCAR Talk will continue our popular Power Rankings feature periodically through the offseason.

We’ll dive deep into the statistics and overall team performances over the next couple of months, starting with today’s evaluation of how Power Rankings evolved over the 2019 season, as voted upon by NBC Sports’ NASCAR writers.

While it’s not surprising that the Championship 4 drivers were all voted into the rankings the most number of weeks, there were definitely a few surprises:

1. Kyle Busch: Not only was the driver of the No. 18 Toyota the series champion and regular-season champion, he also was the king of NBC Sports’ Power Rankings. Busch was the only driver to be ranked in the top 10 for all 38 weeks. He either was ranked or tied for No. 1 in the rankings 17 times – including 10 weeks in a row at one point – more than any other driver.  He was in the top five for 32 weeks. But there were a few close calls: In three of the weeks, he was last in the rankings, almost falling out of the top 10.

2. Kevin Harvick: Appeared in the Power Rankings 34 times, second-most of all drivers. He led or was tied for the No. 1 spot four times. Next to Busch, Harvick was one of the most consistent selections by NBC Sports’ writers, making the top five in 23 weeks.

(tie) 3. Denny Hamlin: Even though he fell short in the championship race, Hamlin had nothing to be ashamed of, particularly in the Power Rankings. The Virginia native spent 33 weeks in the rankings. He was ranked or tied for No. 1 in nine of those weeks, including five weeks in a row. He was ranked in the top five for 22 weeks.

(tie) 3. Martin Truex Jr.: Like Hamlin, Truex was also ranked for 33 weeks. Started slow but really picked up the pace. He was either selected No. 1 or tied for the top spot five times. He was chosen for the top five a total of 20 times.

5. Joey Logano: The 2018 NASCAR Cup champ fell short of successfully defending his title this past season but still had a strong campaign. He was in the rankings for 32 weeks, including being No. 1 or tied for it three weeks. He was selected in the top five for 21 weeks.

6. Brad Keselowski: It was an up-and-down season for the 2012 Cup champion. He made it into the rankings 24 times but soared to the top spot just once and was in the top five for 12 weeks.

7. Kyle Larson: Much like Keselowski, Larson had an inconsistent season when it came to being recognized in the rankings. He was selected for 22 weeks but reached the top spot just once. He also was in the top five for eight weeks.

8. Ryan Blaney: He was voted into the rankings 19 weeks, coming on particularly strong in the second half of the season. His highest spot in any given week was second in the rankings, which he achieved just once. He was in the top five for eight weeks.

9. Chase Elliott: Inconsistency on the track translated to inconsistency in the Power Rankings. Even though he earned three wins during the season, Elliott made the rankings just 19 times – and was ranked No. 1 twice – as well as being ranked in the top five 13 times.

10. Kurt Busch: The older brother of the 2019 champ had a decent first season with Chip Ganassi Racing, including a win at Kentucky. Busch made the Power Rankings 17 times this season, including eight times being voted in the top five.

Others who received votes: Here’s the rest of those who were voted in and how many weeks they appeared in the rankings: Clint Bowyer (13), William Byron (11), Erik Jones (11), Jimmie Johnson (10), Ryan Newman (9), Alex Bowman (9), Matt DiBenedetto (7), Aric Almirola (7), Christopher Bell (5), Daniel Suarez (5), Chris Buescher (4), Ross Chastain (4), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (3), Tyler Reddick (3), Bubba Wallace (2), Austin Cindric (2), Paul Menard (1), Ryan Preece (1), Greg Biffle (1), Justin Haley (1), Cole Custer (1), Chase Briscoe (1), Justin Allgaier (1) and Matt Crafton (1).

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Active Cup wins list after 2019

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The 71st NASCAR Cup Series season is in the books.

Over the course of the 36-race season, 13 different drivers took their cars to victory lane.

Seven drivers won multiple races and three won five or more.

Of the drivers who won just a single race, two were first-time winners, Alex Bowman and Justin Haley.

Three drivers who won in 2018 did not win this season: Clint Bowyer, Austin Dillon and Aric Almirola.

There was one big shakeup from last year’s end-of-the-year wins list, as Martin Truex Jr. leaped over Joey Logano on the list and is now seventh among active drivers.

The following list is made up of drivers who started in the season finale, including Joe Nemechek, who started in seven of the last 11 races. It also includes Paul Menard and David Ragan, who made their final full-time Cup starts in Miami:

1. Jimmie Johnson – 83 wins (Winless in last 95 starts)
2. Kyle Busch – 56 wins (Five wins in 2019. Has at least five wins in four of the last five seasons.)
3. Kevin Harvick – 49 wins (Four wins in 2019)
4. Denny Hamlin – 37 wins (Six wins in 2019, his most since 2010)
5. Kurt Busch – 31 wins (One win in 2018; Has won at least once in last six seasons)
6. Brad Keselowski – 30 wins (Three wins in 2019; Has three wins in each of the last three season.)
7. Martin Truex Jr. – 26 wins (Seven wins in 2019; At least four wins in each of last four seasons)
8. Joey Logano – 23 wins (Two wins in 2019)
9. Ryan Newman – 18 wins (Winless in last 104 starts)
10. Clint Bowyer – 10 wins (Winless in last 57 races)
12. Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson – 6 wins
13. Joe Nemechek – 4 wins (None since 2004)
14. Ryan Blaney – 3 wins (One win in each of last three seasons)
19. Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., David Ragan, Erik Jones – 2 wins
23. Alex Bowman, Chris Buescher, Paul Menard, Justin Haley – 1 win

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Who will take over for Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 car in 2021?

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CONCORD, N.C. — How does one replace an icon in a sport? And with whom?

Car owner Rick Hendrick faces those questions with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson’s announcement that the 2020 season will be his last as a full-time Cup driver.

Hendrick was ready with a response during Thursday’s media session with Johnson at the Hendrick Motorsports complex.

“I’ve already picked a guy,” Hendrick said before a dramatic pause.

“Jeff Gordon is coming back.”

Everyone laughed.

But the reality remains, the No. 48 car — the most successful car in the 2000s — is open for 2021. As for Hendrick’s plans in finding a driver?

“We’ve got another year,” he said, turning the conversation to getting Johnson a record eighth championship.

The No. 48 car’s opening likely will create a frenzy among free agents and drivers with contracts that give them the chance to opt out of deals. While the car is winless in its last 95 races and Hendrick’s last title came in 2016, the organization remains among the best in the sport and such an opening is a rare opportunity for any driver.

So who could be that driver?

Hendrick has trended toward hiring younger drivers in the last 15 years. Five of his nine hires in that time featured drivers age 24 or under at the beginning of their first season with the organization.

Brian Vickers was 20 when the 2004 season began. Kyle Busch was 19 at the start of the 2005 season. Chase Elliott was 20 at the beginning of the 2016 campaign. William Byron was 20 at the start of the 2018 season, and Alex Bowman was 24 when he began that year.

One of the benefits for Hendrick is that he already has a sponsor in Ally, which recently signed an extension through the 2023 season. Unlike other teams where driver hires might be made based on how much sponsorship a driver can bring, Hendrick has time and leverage in making this selection.

“They’re really very supportive and wide open to what happens,” said Gordon, co-owner of the car, about Ally. “So ’21 definitely things are going to change. So we’ve got to evaluate and look at what type of driver is going to suit that car.”

The driver social media already has in the No. 48 car in 2021 is Kyle Larson. He has acknowledged having a contract through the 2020 season and has professed a loyalty to Chip Ganassi Racing, his home for his entire Cup career. Larson would be 28 years entering the 2021 season. One concern for Hendrick might be Larson’s dirt track racing. Hendrick used to allow Kasey Kahne to do that and changed his mind after Kahne escaped a flip one night.

There are other drivers to consider.

Erik Jones signed a one-year extension with Joe Gibbs Racing to go through the 2020 season. Jones will be 24 by the time the 2021 season starts. That would mark the start of his fifth Cup season. He’s already made the playoffs the past two years and will be among those expected to make the playoffs in 2020. His playoff luck, though, has been awful. Accidents marred his 2018 playoffs and mechanical issues, including his car failing post-race inspection led to his early exit in this year’s playoffs.

Matt DiBenedetto also has a contract only for the 2020 season. He joins the Wood Brothers, replacing Paul Menard, for the upcoming year. DiBenedetto has earned the respect of many for how he’s climbed the ranks, often with poor equipment. He’s turned that into better rides and nearly won the Bristol night race before Denny Hamlin passed him late in the event. DiBenedetto will be 29 entering the 2021 season. That would be his seventh full-time Cup season.

Of course, if Hendrick wanted to change things up, there could be other options.

Brad Keselowski once drove for JR Motorsports and ran nine Cup races for Hendrick Motorsports early in his career. In 2009, with no room for Keselowski at Hendrick for a full-time ride, Keselowski made plans to move to Team Penske the following season. Hendrick told The Associated Press in 2009 of Keselowski: “Wherever he goes, he’ll always be close enough for me to get him and bring him back.” Whether that remains possible remains to be seen. Keselowski signed a multi-year contract extension in July 2017. The 2012 Cup champion will turn 37 shortly before the 2021 Daytona 500.

Another driver move that could be enticing would be Chase Elliott’s close friend, Ryan Blaney, joining him at Hendrick Motorsports in 2021. Blaney, who has made the playoffs each of the past three years, is settled in at Team Penske, signing a multi-year contract extension in July 27. But what does Blaney say of some hopes of some fans? He told NBC Sports: “That’s what they say, that’s not something I’ve really thought about at all.” Blaney would be 27 entering the 2021 campaign.

Other possible candidates could include Ross Chastain, Justin Haley, John Hunter Nemechek, Corey LaJoie and JR Motorsports drivers Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson, should they have a breakout season. 

Chastain will be 28 entering the 2021 season. He has proven spectacular in the Xfinity and Truck series and could be the type of racer Hendrick appreciates. Chastain’s teammate at Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series is Haley, who would be 21 at the start of the 2021 season. Haley finished third in the Truck playoffs in 2018 and placed 12th in the Xfinity playoffs this year. He also won the rain-shortened Daytona Cup race in July.

LaJoie will be 29 entering the 2021 season and has done a lot with the equipment he has. Bowman showed that someone who starts out in less-than-stellar equipment can win races for Hendrick. Could LaJoie be that type of candidate?

Nemechek will be 23 going into the 2021 season. His plans for next year have yet to be announced with GMS Racing announcing it will not return in the Xfinity Series. Nemechek showed well in the final three Cup races for Front Row Motorsports for Matt Tifft and that could be a spot for him next year. Gragson, who will be 22 entering the 2021 campaign, completed his rookie Xfinity season this year for JR Motorsports. He went winless but had nine top-five and 22 top-10 finishes. Hemric will be 29 when the 2021 season begins. The key for him is he needs to win.

Of course, many things will change before Hendrick Motorsports is ready to announce Johnson’s successor. Whenever that day is.

But, no, it won’t be Jeff Gordon.

Daniel McFadin and Nate Ryan contributed to this report

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Silly Season Scorecard: 2021 Edition

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You read the headline right, we’re talking about the 2021 Silly Season before we’ve even reached 2020.

That’s thanks to Jimmie Johnson’s news Wednesday that next year will be his last full-time season of competition in the Cup Series.

Johnson will exit the No. 48 Chevrolet after 19 seasons at the end of next year. That sets the stage for a potentially wild Silly Season, especially with the current contracts of drivers like Erik Jones at Joe Gibbs Racing coming to end after the 2020 season.

Here’s how the current 2019-20 Silly Season has played out so far.

OPEN RIDES ANNOUNCED FOR 2020

No. 38: Front Row Motorsports must replace David Ragan, who stated Aug. 14 that 2019 would be his final season running a full schedule.

No. 36: Front Row Motorsports announced Nov. 13 it was parting ways with Matt Tifft so he could focus on his health following his seizure at Martinsville in March. Tifft said he could not commit to racing in 2020.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2020

No. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing announced on Nov. 1 a multi-year extension with Kurt Busch.

No. 6: Roush Fenway Racing announced Oct. 30 that Ryan Newman would return to the car as part of the news that Oscar Mayer would sponsor the No. 6 through 2021.

No. 8: Richard Childress Racing made it official Oct. 2 that Tyler Reddick will move to Cup in 2020 and drive the No. 8 car.

No. 10: Aric Almirola confirmed Oct. 11 he signed an extension to race for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon posted a video Sept. 6 on Instagram refuting rumors that he would retire after this season. He has a contract with Germain Racing through 2020.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer was announced Oct. 17 as returning to Stewart-Haas Racing for a fourth season.

No. 17: Chris Buescher will take over the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 ride in 2020 after the team announced Sept. 25 that it would part ways with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after this season.

No. 20: Joe Gibbs Racing announced Sept. 6 that it had signed Erik Jones to an extension. It is a one-year extension for the 2020 season.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto replaces Paul Menard at Wood Brothers Racing (announcement made Sept. 10). DiBenedetto’s deal is for 2020 only.

No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing announced Nov. 15 Cole Custer will replace Daniel Suarez.

No. 95: Christopher Bell moves to Cup in 2020 and will drive for Leavine Family Racing (announcement made Sept. 24).

JTG Daugherty Racing: It was announced Oct. 16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will join Ryan Preece at the two-car team, essentially swapping seats with Chris Buescher. The team said that an announcement on car number and sponsor would come later.

Rick Ware Racing: JJ Yeley will drive one of the team’s three full-time rides.

AMONG THOSE YET TO ANNOUNCE DEALS FOR 2020

Daniel Suarez — The driver revealed Nov. 14  he would not return to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2020 after one season driving the No. 41.

Corey LaJoie – The driver hasn’t announced his plans for 2020, but he said in October he and Go Fas Racing were “working toward” him returning to the No. 32 Ford. The team announced on Nov. 1 it would enter a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing next year and that “2020 driver negotiations are still ongoing.”

Xfinity Series 

Ross Chastain – Kaulig Racing announced Oct. 15 he would compete full-time for the team in 2020 driving the No. 10 Chevrolet, joining Justin Haley.

Joe Gibbs Racing — Announced Oct. 17 Harrison Burton will drive its No. 20 Toyota full-time in 2020. Announced Oct. 31 Brandon Jones would return for a third year in the No. 19. Revealed Nov. 5 it would field a third full-time entry with Riley Herbst in the No. 18.

JR MotorsportsJustin Allgaier will return to the team for a fifth year in the No. 7 Chevrolet. The No. 8 car will be driven by Daniel Hemric for 21 races, Jeb Burton 11 races and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for one race. Noah Gragson will also return for a second season in the No. 9 car, while Michael Annett returns for a fourth year with the team in the No. 1 car.

Richard Childress Racing — Has not revealed a replacement for Tyler Reddick, but announced Nov. 21 that Myatt Snider will race part-time for the team.

Stewart-Haas Racing – The team has not announced plans for the No. 00 Ford with Cole Custer moving to Cup or whether Chase Briscoe will return to the No. 98.

JD MotorsportsJesse Little will compete full-time for the team.

GMS RacingAnnounced Nov. 21 it will not field an entry in 2021, leaving John Hunter Nemechek without a ride.

Truck Series

GMS RacingDriver lineup will include Brett Moffitt, Zane Smith, Sheldon CreedTyler Ankrum and Sam Mayer.

Kyle Busch MotorsportsRaphael Lessard will drive the No. 4 full-time while Christian Eckes will drive the No. 18 full-time.

Hattori Racing EnterprisesAustin Hill will return to the No. 16 Toyota for a second year.

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