Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Silly season in full swing ... earlier than years past

2011 All Star Carl Edwards Victory Lane
Carl Edwards is the big ticket free agent and current Sprint Cup points leader.
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR

Silly season, the time of year where seat swaps and contract renewals become the hot topics is already under way, much earlier then we have seen in previous years.


The latest hot topic includes the possibility that Red Bull Racing will not be returning to NASCAR in 2012. According to the team press release, “Red Bull Racing Team is currently seeking outside investors as we evaluate next steps in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.” Read more on the Red Bull story at Red Bull reportedly out of NASCAR after 2011 season. Floating as rumors for a potential investor for Red Bull is none other than Mark Martin, himself a free agent next year and a longtime friend to Red Bull Racing’s General Manager Jay Frye. With the Red Bull news, Brian Vickers could be without a seat, setting him up as a hot free agent into the pool of available drivers. Jay Frye held a teleconference today, stating that Red Bull does intend on being a two-car team next year and is looking into a solution and expects a plan to be laid out soon. Hold tight ... Brian Vickers still may have a ride if he wants it, apparently he has been talking to other teams to weigh his options for next season. 


Current Sprint Cup points leader Carl Edwards is the big ticket free agent for the 2012 season. The topic of him even considering leaving Roush Fenway Racing has his fans in a frenzy. It has been leaked that he is currently being courted by Joe Gibbs Racing to start a fourth car for the team. Would Jack Roush let his prize driver go? Would Carl Edwards leave the team that has brought him the success he has today? I think not, but the issue is sponsorship. If that piece of the puzzle fits together, I fully see Carl Edwards re-signing with RFR.


Other drivers potentially in talks of contract renewal or finding a new team: Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer.


Clint Bowyer is expected to remain at Richard Childress Racing with General Mills re-upping their sponsorship. In the rumor mix at one time was a move to Red Bull, filling the seat of Kasey Kahne, though that appears to be untrue at this time.


Juan Pablo Montoya is also expected to remain at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, with an announcement coming in the next few weeks.
Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR

As for Ryan Newman, that is where things maybe a bit complicated. Stewart Haas Racing has not had the finishes that one would expect from two top-tier drivers like Stewart and Newman. Changes have been made - director of competition Bobby Hutchens left just a few weeks ago and was replaced in the interim by Matt Borland. The latest news in the rumor mill (just a rumor, nothing confirmed) is that Greg Zipadelli, Stewart’s crew chief for his 10-year career at JGR, would replace Darian Grubb as the current crew chief for Stewart. This would leave Grubb to take the position vacated by Hutchens as director of competition for Stewart Haas Racing. With Darian’s experience, this could be a wise move for the struggling team.
The other large variable in all of the silly season mayhem is Mark Martin. Martin will leave Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the season to make way for Kasey Kahne. There are not that many empty seats as options: a proposed 4th team at JGR, maybe a third team at Stewart Haas or even the proposed option of buying into Red Bull Racing. Whoever lands Mark Martin as a driver has a wealth of experience that any team should be vying for.

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