By Michelle Lesener
The Nationwide Series silly season has been in full swing, with changes taking place even before the racing season wrapped up for 2012. Look for more changes before the new season starts in February 2013.
As NASCAR fans look forward to Nationwide Series racing next season, there’s already been a lot of driver movement and changes, including the guarantee of a new Nationwide Series champion in the 2013 season.
As Ricky Stenhouse Jr. moves on to the Sprint Cup Series full time, his move will make him ineligible to defend his two consecutive Nationwide championship titles as he is stepping up his game by competing for points on the Cup side of racing.
Trevor Bayne is taking over Stenhouse’s No. 6 Nationwide ride this coming year.
Other moves include Regan Smith joining JR Motorsports as he steps into the No. 5 car for next season.
Joining Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers at Joe Gibbs Racing, Elliott Sadler – who looked to have a shot at the championship this year, before a run of bad luck ended his title hopes – left Richard Childress Racing, taking the spot vacated by Brian Scott at Joe Gibbs Racing. Brian Scott is taking the RCR spot vacated by Sadler, making the swap between teams complete.
Brian Vickers is making his return to full time Nationwide competition after running a partial Sprint Cup schedule this year with Michael Waltrip Racing – which he will continue in the 2013 season. His return to Nationwide competition also gives Vickers a shot at another championship, ten years after he earned his first title while racing for Hendrick Motorsports and the late Ricky Hendrick.
Besides the changes that have been confirmed, there are also changes that have been rumored. Many of these changes involve driver movement with no official confirmation yet. More often than not, the rumors later turn out to be true.
Parker Kligerman is rumored to be moving to Kyle Busch Motorsports for the 2013 season, but there has been no official press release from either party to confirm or deny this rumor.
Another rumor is this year’s Camping World Truck Series champion James Buescher, who may compete full time in the Nationwide Series next year for Turner Motorsports.
With all the movement and changes that have already taken place, the careers of some drivers have been left hanging in the balance and possibly without a ride for 2013.
One of those is Cole Whitt, who drove the No. 88 for JRM this year. The future for Whitt – who finished 7th in the standings this year – is uncertain and without sponsorship, Whitt may find himself out a job at JRM this year.
Of the larger teams, Turner Motorsports has yet to announce their driver line-up for next year. Many of the smaller teams have yet to announce their intentions for the 2013 season as well. .
In the coming weeks, there is sure to be more silly season movement and changes announced before the start of the season in February and maybe even more after the first race at Daytona. For fans, the fun will be finding out which changes bring the best results in 2013.