There have been several moves that have shaken up NASCAR’s Silly Season, such as Kyle Busch going to Richard Childress Racing. However, there are three teams that still have deals to announce.
The Daytona 500 is less than 100 days away, and there are questions about four entries. The No. 18 of Joe Gibbs Racing, the No. 41 of Stewart-Haas Racing, the No. 34 of Front Row Motorsports, and the No. 38 of Front Row Motorsports all have uncertain situations. There are expected moves that should take place, but there are also some changes that could happen.
The two Front Row Motorsports entries are unlikely to have major changes. The Cup Series organization does one-year deals with its drivers, and it always waits until the season is over to announce any moves.
There is no reason to expect that Michael McDowell will lose his seat in the No. 34 Ford Mustang. He delivered a Daytona 500 win in 2021 and then he set career-highs in top-10 finishes and laps led during the 2022 season.
Todd Gilliland, for comparison, will likely return to the No. 38 Ford Mustang after his rookie season. The three-time Truck Series winner posted two top-10 finishes and one top-five during his first season in the Cup Series, and he posted an average finish of 23.2 while leading the first 11 laps of his career.
Joe Gibbs Racing Has Time To Make Announcements
Prior to the season finale, Joe Gibbs noted that there would not be any announcements about the Xfinity Series or Cup Series lineup before the trip to Phoenix Raceway. The organization was focusing on multiple playoff drivers.
The expectation was that JGR would set its driver lineup shortly after the season ended with Ty Gibbs as the driver of the No. 18 Toyota Camry TRD. However, the situation significantly changed on the morning of November 6. Joe Gibbs Racing announced that vice chairman and COO Coy Gibbs had passed away in his sleep at the age of 49.
The sudden loss of Gibbs completely changed the conversation. The driver lineups were far less important than the family and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. There will still be announcements at some point in the future, but the family will first take care of more important things.
Stewart-Haas Racing Faces the Biggest Question
While Front Row Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing both have expected outcomes for their contract questions, Stewart-Haas Racing sits in a different situation. The team has one entry without a confirmed driver for 2023, and there are two possible options.
The expectation back in August was that Cole Custer would return to the No. 41 Ford Mustang for the 2023 season. SHR Chief Competition Officer Greg Zipadelli met with media members ahead of the trip to Watkins Glen International, and he said that the plan was to keep Custer in the No. 41.
The situation changed in October. Team co-owner Gene Haas told multiple media members at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that he wants Custer in the No. 41 but that Tony Stewart wants to give Ryan Preece an opportunity in the entry.
SHR has not provided any clarity about the situation since the trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Custer, for his part, told media members at Phoenix Raceway that the decision was up to Stewart and Haas. He said that he was worried about the season finale and that he would focus on his future with the team after leaving Arizona.