The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season is 22 races deep and drivers are preparing for the playoffs and the championship chase. Others, however, are examining where they might race in 2022. With so many free agents and a limited number of open spots, it’s time to examine the most entertaining options.
Silly Season is in full effect, and there are several likely outcomes for free agency. However, it’s time to think about the moves that would shake up the Cup Series and provide entertainment for the fans. These moves are all purely hypothetical, but they would be a lot of fun, starting with a rookie rejoining his former team.
The driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro, Ross Chastain learned that he would become a free agent in late June, midway through his rookie season. Trackhouse Racing purchased CGR’s NASCAR operations, which included Chastain’s No. 42 and Kurt Busch’s No. 1. The 28-year-old does not have a set seat for the 2022 season, but a fitting option would be Kaulig Racing.
Prior to the Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway on June 20, team owner Matt Kaulig announced that the team would field two Cup Series cars in 2022. Justin Haley will drive one while AJ Allmendinger will run a limited schedule. This news opens the door for another driver to join the fold, and Chastain could be the perfect option given his history with the team.
Chastain spent portions of the 2019 Xfinity Series season with Kaulig Racing before moving to the organization full-time in 2020. He won at Daytona International Speedway in 2019 while driving the No. 16 and then posted 15 top-five finishes in 2020. Chastain has a history of productive outings with Kaulig Racing and his aggressiveness would pair nicely with Allmendinger.
Matt DiBenedetto Heads to Stewart-Haas Racing
One of the biggest stories from the past week is that Matt DiBenedetto will lose the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford Mustang while Harrison Burton replaces him. This makes him a free agent and creates questions about where he will land. He could move to Xfinity or Trucks, but we really want to see DiBenedetto over at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Following Aric Almirola’s win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 18, the likelihood that the veteran will return to SHR increased. However, DiBenedetto would be the perfect replacement in the No. 10 if Almirola decided to pursue an opportunity with a different team, such as Trackhouse Racing.
The 29-year-old reached the playoffs in 2020 and then battled through adversity early in 2021 to make the No. 21 competitive and lead laps during multiple races. Moving to SHR would keep DiBenedetto in the Ford family and provide him with the opportunity to “reset” and focus on the future. He could also potentially pair with Mike Bugarewicz, a crew chief who helped Almirola and the No. 10 fight through adversity to reach the playoffs.
Aric Almirola Joins Trackhouse Racing
Following the news that Trackhouse had purchased CGR’s NASCAR operations, Kurt Busch and Chastain became the top options to join Daniel Suarez in the two-car stable. However, Busch will likely head to 23XI Racing and join Bubba Wallace — a move we want to see happen — which would leave Chastain as the only other option.
However, pairing two young drivers together may not be the ideal move for co-owners Justin Marks and Pitbull. Instead, they could add a veteran presence to the team in Almirola. The driver of the No. 10 SHR Ford Mustang has made 374 starts in his Cup Series career and won three times. He also has 26 top-five finishes while driving for different teams and overcoming issues on the track.
Suarez, on the other hand, is five years into his full-time Cup Series career, and he is steadily improving with each passing season. However, working with a veteran that has “seen it all” could benefit him and lead to his first career win at the top level. If Almirola and Suarez built their chemistry quickly and created a good working relationship, they could become a powerful duo.