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Old Faces in New Places: Breaking Down Driver Migration as 2019 Approaches
Silly Season is never fun for the diehard with the “Outlaw 41” tatted to his leg or the bright orange “78” flag flying in her front yard, but it’s always intriguing to watch the shuffle play out. Now with less than three weeks until Speedweeks fire up, we finally have a clear picture of who’s going where in 2019.
Here’s a breakdown (in numerical order):
No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – Kurt Busch: One of the key dominoes of the offseason was the decision by Kurt Busch to move to Chip Ganassi Racing for his 20th season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Busch had somewhat of a career renaissance in his five years at Stewart-Haas Racing, winning six times. He topped it off with a trip to the Round of Eight in the 2018 NASCAR Playoffs. Now he joins his fifth team, and the move to Ganassi opens up a clear opportunity to get back in the Indianapolis 500, something he did in 2014.
No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford – Ryan Newman: Another 20-year vet finds a new home. This time it’s Ryan Newman leaving Richard Childress Racing after five years and climbing into a Ford for the first time at Roush Fenway Racing. For Newman, it was time for a fresh start. Things had gone sour for him in the Childress garage, as evidenced by the heated in-race conversations fans witnessed each week. Both Newman and RFR hope there are better days ahead as they’ve totaled just three wins in the past four seasons combined.
No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet – Daniel Hemric: The first Rookie of the Year candidate on our list replaces Ryan Newman at RCR. The soon-to-be 28-year-old made quick work of the NASCAR ranks once he got there, spending two years each in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, then the Xfinity Series. Despite not winning a NASCAR race so far, Hemric has back-to-back trips to the finale at Homestead. He also racked up 12 top-three finishes for RCR in the Xfinity Series last year. As a childhood friend of the Dillon family, it will be interesting to see how the Hemric and Austin Dillon team operates under the Childress banner.
No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – Martin Truex, Jr.: The 2017 NASCAR Playoffs champion’s journey has been well documented over the past six months or so. His previous team, Furniture Row Racing, shut down thanks to rising costs and loss of sponsorship. Shortly after the 2018 season ended, Truex and Crew Chief Cole Pearn found a new home at FRR technical partner Joe Gibbs Racing in the No. 19. Now we find out if putting two of the “Big Three” (Truex and Kyle Busch) on the same team will lead to further dominance or a breakdown at the top.
No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford – Corey LaJoie: This should be our best chance to truly see what LaJoie is made of with him scheduled to run a full slate of races for the first time in his NASCAR career. He came close in 2017, missing just four starts, but now he joins up with Archie St. Hillaire at Go Fas Racing. St. Hillaire got his first three top tens as an owner in the past two seasons, and LaJoie is still looking for his first.
No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford – Matt Tifft: One of the later announcements of Silly Season came with the news that FRM is adding a third team for Rookie of the Year candidate Matt Tifft. The 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs driver came just short of qualifying for the finale at Homestead but still had a career best year racking up six top-fives and 19 top-tens. The 22-year-old joins veterans Michael McDowell and David Ragan, offering him a wealth of knowledge as he tackles his Rookie year.
No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – Daniel Suarez: One of the worst kept secrets in NASCAR became one of the final driver announcements of the offseason. Daniel Suarez was a victim of Martin Truex, Jr.’s move to Joe Gibbs Racing, losing his ride in the process. Did he get the last laugh? We’ll see how it plays out, but he certainly has the chance to prove any doubters wrong, taking over the Round of Eight ride vacated by Kurt Busch at SHR. The former Xfinity Series champion doesn’t have a Cup Series win yet, but his car and his new crew chief, Billy Scott, reeled one in last year, in addition to six top-fives.
No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet – Ryan Preece: It’s been quite a ride to the top for Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Preece. After getting a cup of coffee in the Cup Series with five races in 2015, Preece does a little bit of everything since. He races a full Xfinity Series schedule with a single top-ten finish in 2016 for JD Motorsports, then won five-of-14 races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2017 before splitting time between the two last year. He was a revelation in his 15 Xfinity Series starts for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018, winning in the spring at Bristol and nabbing ten top-tens. Now he’s back in the big leagues, replacing A.J. Allmendinger at JTG Daugherty.
No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota – Matt DiBenedetto: When he announced in September that he was betting on himself and leaving Go Fas Racing with no other offer on the table, some wondered if fan favorite DiBenedetto had lost his marbles. It turns out, the bet paid off. LFR formed a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, taking the spot opened up by Furniture Row Racing’s demise, and that brings DiBenedetto back together with the team the originally signed him nearly 15 years ago to a developmental deal. He says his experience starting at the top then falling from grace has prepared him for his next opportunity. It looks like this could be it so we’ll see if he’s ready to take it.
No. 97 Obaika Racing Toyota – Tanner Berryhill: It was nearly four years to the day between NASCAR starts for Tanner Berryhill. After closing out the 2014 NASCAR Xfinity Series season with a 31st place effort at Homestead, the 25-year-old didn’t qualify again until the Cup race at Phoenix in 2018. Now he’s got a full-season ride with Obaika Racing, the first African-owned NASCAR team. The two sides are similarly placed with Obaika Racing planning to run the full season for the first time since its 2015 debut in the Xfinity Series.
Cars without a committed driver yet:
- No. 51 Rick Ware Racing
- No. 52 Rick Ware Racing
- No. 72 TriStar Motorsports
- No. 77 Spire Motorsports