By: Ashley McCubbin
The theme of each NASCAR Silly Season is figuring out what the changes will be, so that way you can find the ride that your favourite driver(s) is(are) behind the wheel of. It’s why News From The Pits is here to help you sort through it all.
DGR (David Gilliland Racing) – Crosley has officially changed their name entering the 2023 campaign, as they will be known as TRICON Garage. What is there in a team name? Not a whole lot, except for identification of the owner. This does not allow you to do that so quickly, but there’s other reasons for the change. This is no longer a Ford organization, but rather under the Toyota banner. That’s important when you consider the various manufacture shifts – a couple big names at that, which will be covered as we go through this series.
Dean Thompson has been announced as the driver for the No. 5 entry after spending last season with Niece Motorsports. While Carson Hocevar chased a championship and Ross Chastain visited victory lane, Thompson failed to score a top-10 finish. Actually, he only scored five top-20 results, making this a questionable choice following a rebranding.
Their second driver, though, could carry the flag for them this season if he finds the same groove he previously held with KBM as Corey Heim will drive the No. 11 Toyota. It’s a move surprising nobody with Toyota Racing Development (TRD) having to find a place for one of their young stars with Kyle Busch Motorsports’ manufacture switch. The Georgian made 16 starts last season, scoring six top-five’s and 10 top-10’s with a pair of victories. If he is unable to back that up, one has to question the equipment beneath him as the talent is proven, from success in late models to the ARCA Menards Series. After all, Tanner Gray only scored six top-10’s in 23 races last season in the same trucks, with Hailie Deegan picking up just two herself.
Speaking of Kyle Busch Motorsports, it sent shockwaves through the sport when they revealed the swap from Toyota to Chevrolet, following suit with Kyle Busch joining Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series.
This affects Toyota in a big way, considering how much KBM meant to their program. They were known as series champions in both driver and owner points, but that was at the making of KBM. It was also the place you saw several Toyota Racing Development (TRD) drivers go to get their feet wet at the next level and progress – Erik Jones and Christopher Bell are the first couple examples. It will be interesting to see how the program gets affected moving forward (enter TRICON), and how this could benefit Chevrolet in having this stepping stone. They had a similar route with GMS Racing for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and then JR Motorsports for Xfinity Series. But now you widen the horizons and can see what other possible talent can accomplish.
You should not see KBM slow down at all despite the change, either, in knowing how well run the organization is with the individuals behind the scenes. It should only strengthen the bow tie brand with them alongside GMS and Niece Motorsports.
Chase Purdy will take the reigns of the flagship championship entry, driving the No. 4 Chevrolet Silverado. So far, he has yet to do anything strong in the series after spending time with GMS and Hattori Racing Enterprises, only scoring four top-10 finishes in 42 races. You cannot doubt the equipment either organization has, as they have chased and won titles with other drivers. If he does not get the job done this season, it could make or break for his future.
The aforementioned Hailie Deegan also has a new ride for the season, too. With the shift for TRICON to Toyota, it was guaranteed Ford immediately went to work in doing what they could to keep her in one of their rides. There was talk of her making the move to the Xfinity Series, and although she had a solid debut, a lack of wins and playoff appearances do not warrant that happening yet. Instead, they were able to find a familiar friend as ThorSport Racing is back under the blue banner, after spending some time away under Toyota.
As pointed out in an interview with Deegan, this is a make or break season for her. The equipment has proven to be successful in winning championships with Ben Rhodes and Matt Crafton – she is working with Rhodes’ crew chief. There is no excuse outside of the driver’s seat when you look at everything aligned behind her. If she does not put up the numbers this year, then you have to begin asking questions.
Rev Racing has been known for their development of drivers, especially as part of the Drive for Diversity program with NASCAR. They are taking their program to the next step, adding a Truck Series to their outfit alongside the ARCA Menards Series squad. Considering they are front runners on a regular basis, seeing them find immediate success would not be a surprise. Combined with the fact they will team with Kyle Busch Motorsports in this new endeavor, you immediately have to consider them a playoff threat.
Nick Sanchez has been announced as the driver, which surprises nobody within the industry. After placing third in the 2021 ARCA points, he scored the championship last season with three wins and nine top-five’s. It seems only fitting to watch them move up together. The Florida native already has gotten his feet wet in NASCAR National Series competition, with eight races in the Xfinity Series. He scored four top-15 finishes, including a seventh at Martinsville Speedway. Expect similar success at this level.
Stay tuned for the second part of the series as we digest more of what is to come in 2023.