It's January Already
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and as always a warm and cordial greeting to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR on this cold winter morning. It’s Tuesday morning, a bit before 10:30 as I pull up to the keyboard without a clue where this might take us. I went to bed last night in Georgia, but it felt as though I were back in New York when I awakened this morning. The weather app on my phone told me it was 12º outside. I shall stay inside, and that’s a promise.
Is it “It’s only January?” or is it, “Yes, it’s January already!?” That depends on who’s doing the talking. For the fans, it’s only January. For teams still hunting for sponsors or Charters, yes, it’s January already! Aside from a team like the Hendrick Motor Sports #48, which carries a full series sponsor in Lowe’s, very few teams have announced full sponsorship for 2018. Even the NASCAR Cup Series is teetering on the brink, trying to woo Series sponsor, Monster Energy Drink into signing for another two years. Those that sit in high places might keep repeating that all is well, while many of the sport’s best drivers and several of its bright new stars cannot attract enough sponsorship to carry on for the full year… and yes, it’s January already! All does not seem to be well or settled as yet.
One team that on paper might appear to have a concern is the new #12 team on the Penske Racing roster, piloted by the engaging young Ryan Blaney, who moves to the new team from the Wood Brothers #21. So far, the new team has announced sponsorship for 23 of the 36 races on the schedule. That’s very light when it’s January already. Another concern is that this team shows no Charter for 2018. Does this scribe believe that the Captain will take his chances on making every race on young Blaney’s talents alone? Not for a nano-second. In all honesty, I’d thought this would come from somewhere else, but as I was typing, this one was being settled. The #12 team has purchased a Charter from Roush-Fenway… the one used for the now defunct #16 team. It was leased in 2017 to the #37 of JTG-Daugherty with driver Chris Buescher. No word that I’m aware of as to what that team will do for a Charter for 2018.
Another team that doesn’t appear to be set all the way is the #21 team from Wood Brothers. This is the team Blaney vacated to move to Penske, and the car will be driven this year by Paul Menard, with a 22-race sponsorship from Menard’s. It’s no accident that the #12 of Blaney will carry a 14-race sponsorship from Menard’s. To date, the Wood Brothers team is without a Charter for 2018. They had leased one from #32, Go Fas Racing for 2017, but according to Charter rules, that Charter is no longer available for lease… only for sale or use by GFR. Wood Brothers have operated before without a Charter, but something tells me that John Menard won’t want his son driving without one. Something to keep an eye on, at any rate.
Then that duo becomes a trio, as we add the #27 team from Richard Childress Racing to the mix… whose 2017 driver was Paul Menard. This team does have a Charter, but at present has no announced driver or sponsor. Crew chief Matt Borland has moved to the #13 Germain Racing team to work with driver Ty Dillon, Childress’ grandson. At this juncture, this appears to be a Charter available for sale or lease and Wood Brothers would be a likely candidate… my guess would be for lease, which gives everyone one more year to see which way the wind will be blowing for 2019.
Then we have a game of “fun with numbers” building for 2018 as Kasey Kahne leaves the #5 of Hendrick Motorsports for the mid-pack team of the #95 for Leavine Family Racing. The #5 will ride off into the sunset and magically become the #24 in the coming season, driven by the 2017 Xfinity Series Champion, William Byron. The “Old” #24 will become the #9, driven by Chase Elliott, son of Hall of Famer and 1988 Champion, Bill Elliott, who made that number a household word in his day.
Michael McDowell will leave the #95 to drive for Front Row Motorsports as teammate to David Ragan in the Bob Jenkins-owned effort. Pretty much a lateral move there, and it’s not yet been announced who will drive which car. FRM currently holds Charters on two cars, #34 and #38.
Do I have you thoroughly confused and addled now? No? Well, give me a chance. It’s only January! You’ll notice that we didn’t discuss any of the back-of-the-pack gang because, as Rhett Butler so succinctly put it, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a da**!
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout. Today’s treasure comes from “The Country Show” with a star-studded cast that includes Ernest Tubb, June Carter, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Jean Shepherd and more!
Before I leave you today, I’d like to announce that we are rerunning Matt McLaughlin’s History Anthology in celebration of NASCAR’s 70th Anniversary and the 20th Anniversary of the Anthology, “50 Years of NASCAR Racing”, written to commemorate NASCAR’s first 50 years.
Bookmark that page. It’s a great series and was partially destroyed when our “Theme” was broken through no fault of ours. I promise you’ll enjoy following it!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!