By Jordan Dodson
New teams, new drivers and this year, new cars. That is what makes silly season and 2013 no exception.
One of the biggest surprises that has happened during this silly season, was the announcement by Joe Gibbs Racing and Matt Kenseth. Kenseth left Roush Fenway Racing at the end of 2012, after nearly 15 seasons of driving the No. 17. Kenseth will move to a new team for the first time in his Sprint Cup career, piloting Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 car sponsored by Home Depot and Dollar General. Kenseth’s new crew chief will be Jason Ratcliff. It will be interesting to watch if he can have the instant success Clint Bowyer did with his new team in 2012 at Michael Waltrip Racing.
Coming off back-to-back Nationwide championships, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will take over the No. 17 for Roush Fenway Racing.
Kenseth’s move also left Joey Logano looking for a new ride. Joey Logano landed in his new home at Penske Racing, beginning in 2013. After AJ Allmendinger‘s suspension and subsequent firing from Penske Racing for a failed drug test, Penske searched for a new driver in Logano. Brad Keselowski, last year’s Sprint Cup champion, was instrumental in the eventual signing of Joey Logano with owner Roger Penske. As Logano takes over driving duties for the No. 22, with Todd Gordon as his crew chief, it will be his first team change during his NASCAR career. Logano has been signed with Joe Gibbs Racing since he was 15 as a development driver on his path to the Sprint Cup Series.
Along with the driver change at Penske Racing, the organization is switching from Dodge to Ford and will get engines from Roush Fenway Racing in 2013. With Penkse Racing’s announcement, Dodge announced earlier this year, they would be backing away from the sport with hopes of returning in the near future when an opportunity presents itself.
Another big name in silly season news this year was that of Kevin Harvick. Earlier this year, news leaked from Marty Smith of ESPN, that Kevin Harvick has signed a deal with Stewart-Haas Racing starting in 2014. Harvick will leave Richard Childress Racing at the end of the 2013 season, after taking over Dale Earnhardt Sr.‘s car since his tragic death in 2001. It is speculated that Budweiser and Jimmie Johns, Harvick’s current sponsors, will follow Harvick as he makes the change to Stewart-Haas in 2014. Richard Childress, owner of RCR, added that he still has sponsors lined up for the No. 29 car when that day comes.
Along with Harvick’s news about switching to Stewart-Haas, Danica Patrick will run her first full Sprint Cup season with the team after three seasons in the Nationwide series and will be led by Tony Gibson, formally Ryan Newman’s crew chief.
And no silly season is complete without Kurt Busch in the mix. Kurt Busch took over the No 78 car with Furniture Row Racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway this past October. Busch made the move coming from Phoenix Racing. FRR is a team on the upswing becoming more competitive every season. Look for them to challenge for wins, as they try to reach their goal of making the Chase for the first time in the team’s history. Busch finished out the 2012 season with three top tens in a row and the new No. 78 team is now led by Todd Berrier.
There have also been many crew chief changes during this year’s silly season. Drew Blickensderfer resigned as crew chief of Jeff Burton and will sit atop the pit box for Marcos Ambrose in 2013. Luke Lambert will move to Sprint Cup as Jeff Burton’s crew chief in 2013, after serving as Elliott Sadler’s crew chief in the Nationwide Series. Matt Borland will crew chief Ryan Newman after taking over at the end of 2012 atop the pit box. Aric Amirola’s team will be led by veteran crew chief Todd Parrott. As Matt Kenseth leaves RFR, Jimmy Fennig will move over to the No. 99 team at RFR and crew chief for Carl Edwards.
More recent news came out of Swan Racing, formally Inception Motorsports, as the team has came under new ownership. With the new ownership, the team plans to run the full Cup schedule with David Stremme behind the wheel. Tony Eury Jr. will crew chief the No. 30 team after leaving JR Motorsports last season. After the team ran a limited schedule last season, the hope is to make every race and run competitively in 2013.
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will switch to new motors in 2013. The organization will change their engine partnership to Hendrick Motorsports instead of using Earnhardt-Childress engines. The hope is to produce better results on the race track.
The biggest news of all may be the new “Generation Six” cars that will hit the track in 2013. NASCAR has now unveiled all the new 2013 cars that will bring more manufacturer distinction next season, including the Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry. NASCAR’s hopes are to have cars that are not as aero dependent as in the past and in turn create closer racing.
With all the big name changes, new cars and expected closer competition the 2013 season is sure to be one with twist and turns like we have never seen before and it will be fun to watch veteran drivers make the change, with new teams. The 2013 season is shaping up to be one of the most exciting seasons for NASCAR and there’s a lot to look forward to with more potential changes to come.