Commentary

TRACKING THE CHANGES: NASCAR Cup Series Part 2

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.

Click here to read the first part of the series. 

#17: Ryan Preece, Team DGR, Compustar/RaceChoice Ford F-150

When Ryan Preece signed his deal with Stewart-Haas Racing as a reserve driver for 2022, a lot of people assumed he would get a ride the year following with Aric Almirola having announced his retirement. Those plans are cancelled for Almirola, but Preece is still moving up – as Cole Custer heads back to the NASCAR Xfinity Series to prove himself once again after a lackluster beginning in Cup. Preece has proven to get the job done in both Xfinity and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, as evident by trips to victory lane. SHR knows how to win and get championships. If the talent shines through as many expect, it could be a very strong season.

Noah Gragson’s multiple trips to victory lane in Xfinity have paid off, as he will join the newly rebranded Legacy Motor Club, which is GMS Petty Racing with Jimmie Johnson. Gragson ran half the Cup schedule with Beard Motorsports, Kaulig Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, only scoring five top-20 finishes including a fifth at Daytona International Speedway. Certainly a step up in performance better be expected, as those organizations are used to producing those numbers regularly. The same can be said for this team, as Erik Jones scored 13 top-10 finishes in their equipment.

The one advantage for Gragson, too, is having a familiar face with Luke Lambert joining him from JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series. Lambert isn’t new to the top level of motorsports, having spent time with Richard Childress Racing and Ryan Newman.

Ty Dillon, who drove the No. 42 that Gragson is slated to drive, will remain in the NASCAR Cup Series as he joins Spire Motorsports, taking over their second full-time ride. It marks his third different team in the series, and makes you wonder how many chances are left. After all, he has been unable to put up the strongest numbers to date, with just two top-five’s and seven top-10’s in nine years of Cup experience. The team, meanwhile, has been showing progress with Corey LaJoie finding his way inside the top-10 on more than a couple occasions.

#21: Austin Hill, Richard Childress Racing, Bennett Transportation Chevrolet Camaro

Beard Motorsports, which gave Gragson his door into the Cup Series, will remain in action despite the loss of one of the team owners. The next driver getting their chance behind the wheel will be Austin Hill, running six races on top of the full Xfinity Series schedule with Richard Childress Racing. The decision makes sense with Beard having a technical alliance with RCR, and Hill is the next driver on their organization who supposedly would be ready for a Cup opportunity. Hill scored two wins and 21 top-10’s in Xfinity last season ranked sixth in the standings.

The aforementioned Jimmie Johnson will be making a return to the Cup Series after his foray in IndyCar, set to run a partial schedule for the team he’s got an ownership stake in. Nothing more needs to be said given his career statistics in the series.

BJ McLeod Motorsports will see BJ McLeod back behind the wheel (as expected), but with Josh Bilicki currently slated to run COTA, Chicago, Michigan, and Indianapolis. He was able to have some success in his 16 appearances last year with Spire Motorsports, scoring a best finish of 16th at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The Xfinity Series is seeing a slew of changes, and those will affect the Cup Series, as well – obviously. Chandler Smith earning his full-time opportunity with Kaulig Racing also translates to a partial Cup schedule, slated to run Daytona, spring Richmond, All-Star race, fall Talladega, and fall Phoenix. Consider this an audition in seeing where your talent lies, and what you can do, as that way you can factor into team’s future plans. As we’ve noted, Smith has proven himself already in the Truck Series so this should be natural progression.

23XL Racing will be expanding slightly, keeping their full-time pair of entries with a third as Travis Pastrana will be running the Daytona 500 for the organization. Pastrana is known for racing a variety of cars and series over the years, and has experience in Xfinity and Truck Series. However, there isn’t any results that you’d want to write home about so it makes you wonder about the chances of making the show.

The pieces so far…..

  • Austin Dillon has a new crew chief in Keith Rodden instead of Justin Alexander
  • Austin Hill will be running six Cup races for Beard Motorsports alongside Xfinity with RCR
  • Chandler Smith goes from Kyle Busch Motorsports to Kaulig Racing (full-time Xfinity, partial Cup)
  • Kyle Busch goes from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing
  • Josh Bilicki goes from Spire Motorsports to BJ McLeod Motorsports
  • Noah Gragson from JR Motorsports Xfinity to Legacy Motor Club (with Luke Lambert)
  • Ryan Preece goes full-time with SHR after being their reserve driver
  • Travis Pastrana will be running the Daytona 500 for 23XL Racing
  • Ty Dillon goes from Petty GMS Racing to Spire Motorsports
  • Ty Gibbs goes from Xfinity to Cup with Joe Gibbs Racing
  • Tyler Reddick goes from Richard Childress Racing to 23XL Racing

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