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, as a pair of drivers walked away from the sport – and many other changes occurred, forcing this to be a three-part piece.
While Jamie McMurray has become a fixture in the booth, he will be back behind the wheel, driving for Spire Motorsports in the Daytona 500. A lot of people got their first dose from them when Justin Haley scored the surprise victory at Talladega Superspeedway. Since then, they have now expanded to a two-car organization with Corey LaJoie partaking in all 36 events while the second car will see multiple drivers.
Knowing as long as you have decent equipment you can contend on the superspeedways, McMurray could easily put himself as a driver to watch for the victory as four of his seven Cup victories have been at Daytona or Talladega.
He wasn’t the only driver getting a nod for the 500, as Ty Dillon landed his feet following Germain Racing’s closure, set to run the event with Gaunt Brothers Racing. They are certainly looking for a boost as it’s no secret they weren’t able to have much success with Daniel Suarez last year. Now the combination of Dillon and Gaunt could work, as he proved he could make something happen with Germain vs the big organizations, with 12 top-20 finishes in 2020 with a best result of third at Talladega.
Gaunt Brothers Racing also confirmed they will be running the road course and superspeedway races this year, and Dillon could fixture into the conversation based on the speed and laps led at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.
Dillon will get additional seat time, confirmed for a limited schedule with Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, as well as running The Clash for the 23XL Racing. While Bubba Wallace will run the full Cup schedule for Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin’s new team, he is not qualified for the Clash whereas Dillon is virtue of winning a stage at Charlotte.
it’s a win-win for both parties involved. Dillon has been strong on the superspeedways and knowing 23XL is affiliated with JGR, there is bound to be some good equipment. Meanwhile, this will allow 23XL to get a race under their belt, from pit stops to going through communication, to help get into the swing of everything before the Daytona 500.
Derrick Cope also found an opportunity for the Daytona 500, courtesy of Rick Ware Racing and StarCom Racing. Cope is no stranger to NASCAR success, having won the Great American Race in 1990. However, success is not something seen in most recent years, making it a challenge for him to simply qualify.
Rick Ware also made waves of another kind, confirming Josh Bilicki will get to run the full schedule for the first time in his career, after competing in 22 events last year between three different teams. He will hope to break into the top-20 following a best finish of 25th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Kaulig Racing also made headlines, following up their announcement of Cup intention and Kaz Grala for the 500 with confirmation that A.J. Allmendinger will run the Daytona road course event. The savy road racer is connected with the team via set for the full NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule in 2021 after picking up a couple victories last year – including the Daytona ROVAL and Charlotte ROVAL races. Given his ability turning both left and right as evident in Xfinity and SportsCar competition, this announcement seems like a no-brainer and could easily make him someone to watch.