Handicapping the NASCAR 2013 Silly Season

The NASCAR Silly Season is in full effect. Yeah, we were off to a slow start, but with Monday’s announcement that Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing won’t be renewing its Sprint Cup contract with Juan Pablo Montoya, it seems as though the season has finally started. Compared to last year’s events with AJ Allmendinger, Joey Logano, and Matt Kenseth, Silly Season 2013 has been very quiet. Sure, the announcement that Ryan Newman wouldn’t return to Stewart-Haas is “big” news, and it seems as though Kurt Busch is always looking for a new job, but come on, we can all admit it has been quiet.

Monday, Michael Waltrip Racing announced it signed both driver Brian Vickers and sponsor Aaron’s to a two-year full sponsorship deal. I admit that I was surprised. I really like Brian Vickers, and I think he’s a good driver, but my surprise comes with Aaron’s and their commitment to Michael Waltrip. They could have easily taken all of their sponsorship dollars and spent it with Hendrick Motorsports.

Scuttlebutt had been suggesting that Hendrick was trying to get Aaron’s to give more of their sponsorship dollars to Chase Elliot, who just happens to be the son of NASCAR great Bill Elliot.

I personally think Aaron’s made the right choice. Admittedly, that could just be my bias for Waltrip and Vickers, because at this point it is too early to consider placing MWR into NASCAR’s top racing tier.

Obviously it’s too early to tell because MWR doesn’t have a lot of wins under their belt nor will they be able to compete with the likes of Penske, Hendrick, or Roush right away. But let’s be real, MWR is immediately better than EGR, who at this point is a second- or third-tier NASCAR team.

So, let’s talk about who is available:

Ryan Newman

Newman could easily replace Kevin Harvick (heading for Newman’s old ride at Stewart-Hass) at Richard Childress Racing, and he’s a good fit for most sponsors. He’s intelligent, a good racer, and generally doesn’t cause many problems (except the occasional whining). The question is, as always, sponsorship. I would imagine Quicken Loans would be willing to move its sponsorship with Newman almost anywhere he goes, and if they commit to him, it makes the decision about hiring him that much easier for any team. Especially for RCR which will have several driver options.

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Newman could attempt a return to Penske, but that also seems unlikely with Penske looking to find something for Sam Hornish, Jr. The move to three teams will be hard enough, but four seems nearly impossible.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Again, I was just as surprised as you were that Montoya has been let go. Could he end up somewhere else in NASCAR? Of course. Do I see it happening? Nope. Unless he’s willing to take another step backwards. He was getting excellent support and resources at EGR, and at this point, I’m not sure who’d be willing to take a chance on him full time.

Montoya is known mostly for crashing into a jet dryer, and only has two wins in his eight years of Cup experience. The novelty of him being an Indianapolis 500 winner has long since worn off. He could stay with Ganassi and return to either IndyCar (not likely) or he could move to sports cars (much more likely).

The only other place I can see him end up: Furniture Row[1. When Josh was reading this, he really was hoping Damien meant Montoya would be a furniture salesman.]. Details on that later.

A.J. Allmendinger

There are really only two options for Allmendinger: JTG Daugherty or Penske. The options remain the same for Penske. The thought of expanding by two cars in one offseason is daunting, but if anyone can do it, Penske Racing can. Although Penske has shown a commitment to AJ Allmendinger, it’s honestly tough to pass up Sam Hornish. Hornish has earned progressing to the next step.

The other option for Allmendinger would be JTG Daugherty, but only if they’re willing to part ways with Bobbie Labonte. Obviously, Labonte is a Cup Champion, but he’s getting long in the tooth. He’s certainly a fan and sponsor favorite, but he hasn’t performed well lately. Honestly though, he hasn’t had awesome equipment or resources.

The good for Allmendinger is JTG co-owner Tad Geschickter seems to like him. If JTG doesn’t work then there is Nationwide, Furniture Row, and of course IndyCar.

Kurt Busch

At this point, he appears to be the best driver available on the market. He could decide to stay at Furniture Row Motorsports, or he could try for options at any of the other seats that may come available. I’m going to go all optimistic and go bizarre and guess that he does something no one has really considered.

IndyCar…mixed in with NASCAR. If you remember, he famously did a test for Andretti Autosport this past May and drove wonderfully. Therefore, here’s how this could potentially play out:

Michael Andretti could start a NASCAR team and have Kurt Busch be his first full time driver, and recruit a second part time driver, or Andretti could expand his IndyCar team, and have Busch run “full time” in IndyCar and compete regularly in the Sprint Cup.

This rumor is nothing new, but if Andretti were going to try to make the leap, it’s now or never. He has plenty of cash to pay Busch and has the resources to either team up with another team or get enough sponsorship dollars to go it alone.

If you’re wondering about which manufacturer, it will no doubt be Chevrolet, and they would take him and his racing heritage in a minute.

So, there you have it. That’s my breakdown of the 2013 NASCAR Silly Season. How do you think this all ends up? Is my Andretti prediction as crazy as it sounds?

Send me an e-mail to damien@morethanafan.net or leave a comment here.