With the news last week that Casey Mears is out at All-Star Team Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the 2008 season, this officially begins the annual switcheroo of drivers and teams. (No, not that bullshit switcheroo, that one 2ndStoryLloyd pulls on you the first night you move into a new town, and he invites you over to introduce you to a chick he met at a bar last weekend– whom you find out later he’s already boned–then Ninja smokes you and disappears upstairs with the hot one while you are forced to babysit the grenade and talk about your asshole friend who’s up there doing who knows what with the Holy Grail, no not that switcheroo.)
At any rate, let’s take a quick look at last year’s changes before we dive into the prognostications.
Kyle Busch out at Hendrick to make room for Junior. Busch to Joe Gibbs Racing. This was by all accounts a win-win trade for both JGR and Hendrick. The loser here was DEI, which Dale Jr. bailed on due to his step-mom’s ridiculous need to stay involved in motorsports. Dale won his first race in two and a half years a few weeks back under an HMS Chevy, and Kyle has won 5 (as many this year as in his career) and is the current points leader in a JGR Toy.
Kenny Wallace forced out at Furniture Row Racing in favor of Joe Nemechek. Not a bad move for FR here, with Nemecheck a proven veteran driver with some wins. But don’t we all miss Kenny interviewing other drivers after the race for the SPEED network… after coming in 40th himself? I know I do.
2009 predictions after the jump…
Casey Mears to DEI. Mears has the calm, collected demeanor and enough racing cred to make it at the (now) mid-major DEI. He’d be a great teammate for Martin Truex, Jr. and newby Aric Almirola, who’ll be taking over the #8 next year. That leaves Regan Smith and Paul Menard as candidates for odd man out. My guess, with Menard’s daddy’s money (yes, that Menard) it’ll be Smith. Mears takes over the Principle Financial #01.
Tony Stewart to CNC-Haas Racing (which will then become Smoke Racing). The ever growing Stewart empire’s next move will be taking over the financially struggling (yet Chevy-driving) Haas organization. Stewart already owns a Speedway and several lower-level teams. This move only makes sense for a guy that is running last on his team right now and wants to get out of a Toyota. Haas currently has the #66 and #70 car, but my money’s on the Home Depot and #20 going with him. That leaves Scott Riggs in the Haas Automation #66.
Joey Logano jumps straight to Cup action in the rarely used #80. You’ll more than likely see JGR enter the #80 for the 18 year old Logano sometime later this year, but after Tony gets out of his contract and takes that #20 with him, it will be Logano’s ride full time… and let’s be honest, that’s not a bad set of cars to get into these days. Logano won in only his 3rd ever Nationwide start a few weeks back at Kentucky Speedway. Logano drives the #80 Interstate Batteries car after Mars ponies up full time on the #18.
There will be some lesser moves, like Johnny Sauter getting fired, Jeremy Mayfield racing for 10 or 11 different teams, Travis Kvapil earning a full time cup ride somewhere, and Jacques Villeneuve trying again to make the jump to NASCAR (and failing)–see Sam Hornish Jr, Patrick Carpentier, etc. And hopefully someone will punch Kurt Busch in the face again.