By: Ashley McCubbin
Every NASCAR Silly Season results in several drivers finding new rides for the upcoming campaign, with a couple others either retiring or left on the outside looking in. The 2021 version was no different, with drivers moving forward to other ventures and many switching seats.
So as we have done in past years, allow us to break down the changes for you.
After scoring three top-10’s in six ARCA Menards Racing Series starts, Kris Wright will get his chance in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Young Motorsports. Spencer Boyd and Tate Fogleman drove for the organization in 2020, scoring 16 top-20 finishes between them. Notably, Boyd will be back in 2021.
In hopes of wanting to put his name back into conversations and prove he can win, John Hunter Nemechek leaves the NASCAR Cup Series to return to Trucks, though not for his father’s team. Instead, he will be competing with Kyle Busch Motorsports, replacing Raphael Lessard in the No. 4 entry. Nemechek should bring something KBM was missing the past season – experience in the line-up, and perhaps a return to victory lane more often seeing as Nemechek has done so six times previously himself.
KBM was missing that in 2020, as Kyle Busch proved himself in the seat he could get the job done, but the youngsters were only able to add an additional win, courtesy of Lessard at Talladega Superspeedway. Frankly, seeing them just battle inside the top-10 and not in the thick of conversation for victories could easily explain the complete overhaul in the line-up as Christian Eckes is out of the No. 18 entry, not having announced his 2021 plans yet.
The No. 18 will have a familiar face, though, as Chandler Smith moves from partial schedule to full in 2021. He will need to step up his game if he wants to prove his worth there, and could do so as he ended the year off with five top-five’s in his last six races of the year.
Raphael Lessard will still be part of the conversation, though, as he moves over to GMS Racing. Right now, he is only slated to run 12 events but sponsorship could be obtained to make the schedule longer. The French Canadian will have no excuses if he does not perform there, given the memorable campaign GMS had in 2020 with multiple victories, capped off by a title courtesy of Sheldon Creed.
The line-up remains in tack as Creed, Zane Smith, and Tyler Ankrum are all back in the fold. Chase Purdy also joins the organization full-time after running seven events in 2020, including a 10th-place finish at Kansas Speedway.
Brett Moffitt, though, will not be part of that conversation following a season where he missed victory lane and ultimately wasn’t pleased with how strategy was played out. He’ll have a busy season, though, competing full-time Xfinity Series for Our Motorsports, and the whole Truck schedule with Niece Motorsports.
He’ll have some experience in his teammates, as both Ryan Truex and Carson Hocevar have been announced as full-time teammates. Truex ran a partial schedule in 2020 with four top-15 finishes in nine starts. Hocevar, meanwhile, ran seven events, equaling the top-15 number.
Niece Motorsports has previously been able to win races – scoring three victories in 2019 with Ross Chastain behind the wheel. So being just a top-15 team should not be the expectation, but rather finding the extra bit to join the top-10.
The rookie crop will have a female twist with it, as Hailie Deegan will run the full schedule for David Gilliand Racing after making her Truck debut last year with a 16th-place finish. She ran the full ARCA Menards Series schedule in 2020, scoring four top-five’s and 17 top-10’s in 20 races. DGR showed some strength in Truck competition last year, with Tanner Gray posting eight 10’s in his rookie campaign.