|08/29/19||DIBENNEDETTO NASCAR'S ROCKY BALBOA|
|06/26/19||FROM JOURNEYMAN DRIVER TO HALL OF FAMER|
|06/18/19||WINNERS NOT ADDING UP|
|05/25/19||THE 600 IS STILL A CROWN JEWEL|
|05/15/19||NEXT TWO WEEKS COULD BE TOO GOOD|
|04/10/19||WALTRIP A TWO-WAY HALL OF FAMER|
MORE GOOD DRIVERS - FEWER GOOD RIDES
In the NFL, NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball if you're a talented free agent there is no shortage of teams to get into a bidding war for your services. Such is not the case in NASCAR on the Monster Energy Cup Series, where several drivers, with proven track records, are just hoping they can somehow find a winning ride with fewer choices than maybe ever before.
The biggest problem is the lack of sponsorship dollars. It's bad enough when a driver's contract comes up for renewal these days, even if the team is happy, they're going to take a pay cut. But what if the new economic climate of smaller sponsor dollars means no team to keep happy?
When one a strong organization like Stewart-Haas Racing might have to shrink from their current four teams, that's a real problem. Ford put up gigantic dollars for SHR to switch manufacturers at the end of last season and you'd think that would be enough to keep them floating for a while, but it hasn't. That's why they're still negotiating with Kurt Busch, yet they didn't pick up his option for 2018 to give themselves maximum room to maneuver to figure out how to piece everything together. It could also mean if Kurt opts to go to another team it may not open up a good car for veteran drivers like Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne, who are looking for new
Adding to the woes of SHR is the cloudy future of Danica Patrick. Once a sponsor magnet, she and the team are dialing for dollars to keep her in the #10 next season and beyond. Willing to go to another team but not for a part-time ride, Danica seems to be already coming to grips with the fact this might be the end of the road. It would certainly be helpful to the driver unemployment numbers if SHR can hold steady at four cars, but that's not guaranteed.
So, if you're Kurt, Kenseth or Kahne which rides are you keying in on? If he doesn't re-up with SHR, given his past history with Furniture Row Racing, Busch might be a natural fit to drive the #77 Eric Jones is vacating. That car has proven to be bad fast in the hands of a rookie and Busch has got to think he can turn it into a winner. Given his connection to Toyota, I'm sure FRR has reached out to Kenseth as well. Kahne will want to be
Given he'll be relieved of his duties wheeling the #5 for Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the season, Kahne is out of the picture there, but that could be the only other lateral step for Busch and Kenseth. That is if Rick Hendrick doesn't promote 19-year-old William Byron, who's proven to be a quick study and could end up being the Xfinity Series champion in his rookie season on NASCAR'S junior circuit.
After those two cars, you step down a tier. If he can find the dollars, Richard Childress has a third car with Paul Menard leaving to move to the Wood Brothers. Chip Ganassi probably has the capacity to add a third car, but with Target leaving it's more pressing to make sure Kyle Larson is fully funded. There's also this question - although Jamie McMurray has come close to winning this year, would Ganassi think Kurt, Kenseth or Kahne is an upgrade? The answer is maybe. There's also talk Ford wants to keep Kurt so bad they could help Roush Fenway or Richard Petty add another car.
The smaller teams in the tier below would love to have a proven winning driver, but it's hard to see the out of work veterans jumping into cars with little or no chance to win. Retirement would probably be more appealing than ending your career just making laps and collecting a small pay check.
We could get a surprise or two as we near the end of Silly Season, but we simply have more quality drivers than quality teams. Picture a game of musical chairs with one chair left and four players. No matter who gets the seat, there's going to be a pile of people on the ground.