NASCAR team, Rousch Fenway Racing, announced on Tuesday that Scott Graves will serve as crew chief for their No. 6 car starting 2019. Scott Graves was recently working for Joe Gibbs Racing as Crew Chief for Daniel Suárez in the No. 19 car. JGR announced this year that they would be dropping Suárez from the team after the conclusion of the 2018 season, which seems to have sparked Graves’ announcement of his immediate departure from the team on Oct. 9. Although the RFR No. 6 car has been driven by Trevor Bayne since 2015, the team announced in September that Ryan Newman would be leaving the No. 31 car of Richard Childress Racing to replace Bayne on their team starting 2019.
If all this sounds fairly complicated or a bit confusing, that’s because it is. The 2018 season has been littered with team changes and rumors of certain drivers going almost everywhere. It’s a lot like the college football coaching carousel last year in that sense. There are currently 11 full-time Monster Cup Series drivers poised to change cars by the 2019 season. The list includes 4 drivers confirmed in new positions by next season, 3 drivers with quality rumors of likely new positions and 4 unemployed drivers with no solid-rumors of future plans. Here is the comprehensive NASCAR Driver Changes Breakdown of 2019.
AJ Allmendinger | #47
- Current Team: JTG Daugherty Racing
- 2019 Plans: TBD
- Years in Cup: 13
- Cup Series Wins: 1
- Best 2018 Cup Finish: 3rd in Coke Zero 400 at Daytona
- 2019 #47 Replacement: Ryan Preece
AJ Allmendinger has had a long career in racing from the Grand-Am Series, WeatherTech SportsCar, NASCAR and even the IndyCar Series. While driving the No. 22 car, Allmendinger was dropped from Team Penske in 2012 for breaking the NASCAR substance abuse policy of failing a drug test with unprescribed Adderall. That’s right, the pills that ensure kids graduate college are treated like steroids in NASCAR. Quick, someone warn Denny Hamlin before he says something to embarrass himself.
Allmendinger was hired the next year by JTG Daugherty Racing and earned his first Cup win at Watkins Glen International in 2014. After four-consecutive years of missing the playoffs however, JTG Daugherty decided to prematurely end their five-year contract that began in 2016. In late September, JTG announced their plan to promote the Xfinity up-and-comer from Joe Gibbs Racing, Ryan Preece, to take over the No. 47 car starting 2019.
Ryan Preece | #18 Xfinity Series
- Current Team: Joe Gibbs Racing (Xfinity Series)
- 2019 Team/Car: JTG Daugherty Racing #47
- Cup Series Starts: 5 (2015)
- Cup Series Wins: 0
- Best Cup Finish: 32nd in 2015 Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire
28-year-old Ryan Preece, previously had a short Cup Series stint in 2015 with the now-defunct Tommy Baldwin Racing team in the No. 98 car. Although he only started in 5 races, he was never able to finish higher than 32nd. He then spent a few years hopping between JD Motorsports in the Xfinity Series and his racing-roots on the Modified Tour. By 2017, Preece joined Joe Gibbs Racing as a part-time Xfinity driver where he has earned 12 top-10 finishes, 10 top-5 finishes and 2 wins, all out of only 16 total races in two years.
We currently live in the NASCAR transitional “young gun” era, where teams are eager to replace their aging drivers with promising youth. Hence the NASCAR adderall epidemic, surely. Some of the 2018 NASCAR season leaders such as Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer are all around 40 years young. Nevertheless, teams are constantly on the search for the next Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, Bubba Wallace Jr. (for merch sales only at this point), Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones or William Byron; all of whom are under 25. In my opinion, Preece has shown plenty of promise recently but the nearly 30-year-old unproven Cup driver was a fairly bold replacement choice for a team that only has Chris Buescher left. Don’t get me wrong, I like Buescher but let’s be honest, he’s not competing for a championship anytime soon.
Trevor Bayne | #6
- Current Team: Roush Fenway Racing
- 2019 Plans: TBD
- Years in Cup: 9
- Cup Series Wins: 1
- Best 2018 Cup Finish: 11th in Bass Pro Shop NRA Night Race at Bristol
- 2019 #6 Replacement: Ryan Newman
In 2011, Trevor Bayne helped officially kick off the “young gun” era in NASCAR by becoming the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500, the day after his 20th birthday. Yet after four seasons of part-time driving the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 car, Bayne was finally able to land a full-time Cup series gig as the driver of Rousch Fenway Racing’s No. 6. There was a lot of excitement around the young up-and-comer after making a name for himself. Unfortunately, he has currently only logged 13 top-10 finishes and 4 top-5 finishes at the end of his 4th season with the team.
As a result, Roush called on a veteran driver to help save what little was left of the season in an unexpected Matt Kenseth NASCAR return. Bayne is currently ranked 31st in the NASCAR standings, which is only 1 spot above Kenseth who has started in 8 less races this year. On the SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show in September, team owner Jack Roush said Bayne will not be returning for 2019, leaving him without a team next season and currently unemployed.
My solution? We start treating the Daytona 500 like golf treats the Masters but in a much more NASCAR fashion. For instance; instead of choosing the dinner, the previous winner chooses the alcohol. Rather than a green jacket, winners get a custom NASCAR jacket that fans wear to look like they have the top half of a fire suit. Most importantly however, previous winners are invited back to ensure there will always be a place for guys like poor, poor Trevor Bayne.
Ryan Newman | #31
- Current Team: Richard Childress Racing
- 2019 Team/Car: Roush Fenway Racing #6
- Years in Cup: 19
- Cup Series Wins: 18
- Best 2018 Cup Finish: 6th in Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hamphsire
- 2019 #31 Replacement: Daniel Hemric
Ryan Newman decided to announce his departure from Richard Childress Racing via Twitter on September 15. Team owner Richard Childress admitted to knowing that the split was coming, which made Newman’s departure from the team appear surprisingly amicable for RCR, at least compared to Kevin Harvick anyway. Desperate for rejuvenation, Roush Fenway Racing offered Newman the drivers seat of their No. 6 car. The same position they recently took away from Trevor Bayne for not living up to the high expectations he previously set from himself from his single career Cup win.
Although Matt Kenseth is still currently a driver for the No. 6 car, Roush President Steve Newmark confirmed that Kenseth wasn’t prepared to become a full-time driver in 2019. The 46-year-old NASCAR Champion only agreed to help Rousch out of a tough situation as part-time driver and he seems eager to stick with that plan. Personally, it seems odd Roush Fenway Racing chose to replace their once hopeful young driver with a 40-year-old veteran. Nevertheless, Ryan Newman is an experienced driver with over 600 Cup Series races and 18 wins under his belt. He could be just the man to help correct the mess Roush has made for themselves.
Daniel Hemric | #8 (#21 Xfinity Series)
- Current Team: Richard Childress Racing (Part-time)
- 2019 Team/Car: Richard Childress Racing #31 (possibly #8)
- Cup Series Starts: 2
- Cup Series Wins: 0
- Best Cup Finish: 23rd in 2018 Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte
Immediately after Ryan Newman announced his departure from the Richard Childress Racing team, speculations emerged as to who would drive the No. 31 car in 2019. A few rumors about Daniel Suárez being a potential solution spread but all eyes were heavily focused on Daniel Hemric. Occasionally, racing teams attempt to utilize an open-car opportunity to find an experienced driver that will contend for a championship before they even get into 4th gear. RCR however, knew they had a young and talented driver already on the team. On September 28, RCR announced Daniel Hemric was being promoted to their second full-time Monster Cup Series driver.
Considered to be one of the top Xfinity up-and-comers this year by most, Hermic demonstrated his capabilities last year by making it to the Championship 4 in his first full-season driving for Childress. Although he has yet to actually win a race, he is currently leading the Xfinity series with only 3 races left in the season. Hermic has also made his Cup Series debut this year in two races, driving Dale Ernhardt Jr.’s old No. 8 car. Although he has been confirmed as Newman’s replacement in the No. 31 car, Childress mentioned that they haven’t ruled out a possible number change to the fan-favorite 8.
I think RCR already hit a home-run by choosing to promote this talented driver rather than a vet who has no interest in putting up with Childress of Austin Dillion. Now they are talking about possibly putting him in the No. 8 car? Just take my money already.
Kasey Kahne | #95
- Current Team: Leavine Family Racing
- 2019 Plans: Retiring from full-time Cup Racing
- Years in Cup: 15
- Cup Series Wins: 18
- Best 2018 Cup Finish: 4th at Daytona 500
- 2019 #95 Replacement: Matt DiBenedetto
On August 16, 38-year-old Kasey Kahne announced that 2018 would be his last season as a full-time driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Unfortunately, his final season was cut short due to heat exhaustion following the Southern 500 in Darlington. After a test at Charlotte Motor Speedway, four weeks after his medical problems original began, Kahne announced his body just couldn’t handle the extended amount of time in his racecar anymore.
Kahne hasn’t given up on racing altogether however. He plans on competing in the increasingly popular World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series, where he already owns a team. His health won’t be a concern due to the shorter races and open cockpits. Leavine Family Racing recently announced that Matt DiBenedetto will drive the No. 95 car in 2019 as well as a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, which will transition the team from Chevy to Toyota. It will be a great opportunity for Matt DiBenedetto to fully prove his capabilities with absolutely no potential of anything to go wrong from a team choosing to parter with JGR.
Matt DiBenedetto | #32
- Current Team: Go Fas Racing
- 2019 Team/Car: Leavine Family Racing #95
- Years in Cup: 4
- Cup Series Wins: 0
- Best 2018 Cup Finish: 7th in Coke Zero 400 at Daytona
- 2019 #32 Replacement: TBD
After two years with Go Fas Racing, Matt DiBenedetto announced he will be leaving the team at the end of the 2018 season. DiBenedetto said by him going in a “different direction,” this “leap of faith” is a bet on himself. With 136 starts, DiBenedetto has had 4 top-10 finishes and hopes to improve his promising career with the advancements of a bigger team. Although Regan Smith has filled the absence of Kasey Kahne in the No. 95 car since Sep. 30, Leavine Family Racing announced in October that Matt DiBenedetto would be taking over the role as full-time driver of the No. 95 car in 2019.
“I believe in my heart everything happens for a reason,” DiBenedetto said. “I’m excited it did work out that way. I’m excited and relieved. When I bet on myself and took a step back, I genuinely had absolutely nothing. It was a full bet on myself. I’m so relieved I am the guy that came out on top.”
Jamie McMurray | #1
- Current Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
- 2019 Plans: TBD (Proposed: team leadership position)
- Years in Cup: 17
- Cup Series Wins: 7
- Best 2018 Cup Finish: 2nd in Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Roval
- 2019 #1 Replacement: TBD (Rumored: Kurt Busch)
As the household names NASCAR fans have known and supported for years continuously retired one-by-one, teams continue to try and get the next rising star before another team does. That doesn’t seem to be the case for Chip Ganassi Racing with Jamie McMurray however as he is rumored to be replaced by one of the few drivers that has been in the cup series longer. Team owner Chip Ganassi, told the Associated Press that McMurray will be offered a contract to drive only for the 2019 Daytona 500 then move into a leadership role within the team, similar to Dario Franchitti in IndyCar. Although McMurray has yet to announce his decision on the offer, the No. 1 car is in fact open and Kurt Busch is heavily rumored to take it.
“I love Jamie McMurray and I want him on my team,” said Ganassi. “In a Dario role, though.”
Kurt Busch | #41
- Current Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
- 2019 Plans: TBD (Rumored: Chip Ganassi Racing #1)
- Years in Cup: 19
- Cup Series Wins: 30 | 2004 Champion
- Best 2018 Cup Finish: 1st in Bass Pro Shop NRA Night Race at Bristol
- 2019 #41 Replacement: TBD (Rumored: Daniel Suárez)
For the second year in a row, Stewart-Haas Racing put Kurt Busch into free agency, which means he can discuss potential opportunities with other teams. Kurt Busch is arguably the most experienced active driver in NASCAR. He has 30 wins over his career and has managed to win at least one race for 15 of his 19 total seasons. Not to mention, he has been driving since Dale Earnhardt was still on the track. That being said, Stewart-Haas Racing is possibly the best team right now in NASCAR with 12 wins on the season.
It seems odd that any driver would want to leave such a successful team at their peak but at the same time, it seems odd any team would be willing to let a driver like Kurt Busch talk to other teams. Busch claimed he currently has two contract offers to look more into. It’s been reported that he will likely take over the No. 1 car at Chip Ganassi Racing and that his primary sponsor, Monster Energy, will follow him as well. In the current climate of NASCAR, bringing a primary sponsor with you to another team could land pretty much anyone a great job. Hell, Jeffery Earnhardt could get a brand-new number with Team Penske if he brought along Target, or even just brought back the 13 extra races Miller Lite dropped.
“I don’t know many drivers that have a primary sponsor with them,” Busch said. “Monster Energy has been very loyal to me. It’s just a matter of when the time is to start talking about a contract. Last year, it went long just because I felt I deserved more.”
Daniel Suárez | #19
- Current Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
- 2019 Plans: TBD (Rumored: Stewart-Hass Racing #41)
- Years in Cup: 2
- Cup Series Wins: 0
- Best 2018 Cup Finish: 2nd in Gander Outdoor 400 at Pocono
- 2019 #19 Replacement: TBD (Rumored: Truex Jr.)
With 3 top 5 finishes and 8 top 10, Daniel Suárez has proven to be a very capable and competitive driver this year. Unfortunately, the odds were stacked against him at JGR. With Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and the rising-star Erik Jones as teammates, standing out can be difficult, even for the only Mexican NASCAR driver. On top of all that, JGR essentially put Furniture Row Racing out of business by doubling the cost of their alliance deal just to acquire the driver and crew chief they weren’t able to beat. Suárez said at Richmond on September 21 that “we’re talking to a lot of people.” Unfortunately for Suárez, he’s not quite enough of a house-hold name yet to be the hottest commodity. If the rumors of Kurt Busch leaving Stewart-Hass are true however, that will likely be where he ends up.
Martin Truex Jr. | #78
- Current Team: Furniture Row Racing
- 2019 Plans: TBD (Rumored: Joe Gibbs Racing #19)
- Years in Cup: 15
- Cup Series Wins: 19 | 2017 Champion
- Best 2018 Cup Finishes: 1st in Auto Club 400, Pocono 400, Toyota/Save Mart 400 at Sonoma and Quaker State 400 at Kentucky
- 2019 #78 Replacement:
The effect of NASCAR’s poor viewership has finally been seen as Furniture Row Racing announced on Sep. 4 that they will close their doors after the conclusion of 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The team that won the 2017 NASCAR Cup and currently in 3rd as Martin Truex Jr. enters the NASCAR Playoff Series Round of 8 with 4 wins, can’t afford to operate any longer due to lack of sponsorship. That’s like the Astros ending the team at the conclusion of the year and claiming it’s due to Minute Maid deciding to not pay for their name on the ball park anymore. All the while, Brian France maintains control of NASCAR. With Cup Champion Truex Jr. suddenly a free agent, rumors have emerged of him replacing Daniel Suarez in the No. 19 car because Joe Biggs Racing can’t stand to not own what they can’t beat.