Come next season, there are going to some new faces, and some big names in different cars. Drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth do not plan to drive at all next year, and Danica Patrick is only running in one NASCAR race next year. There are many more drivers on the move within NASCAR as well.
Dale Earnhardt Jr
For obvious reason, this is the biggest news coming out of this season. Earnhardt Jr. announced earlier this year that he planned to retire from driving after this season. Earnhardt has said that he plans to join the NBC NASCAR broadcast crew for next season. After 17 full seasons, Dale Jr is finally hanging it up. In those 17 seasons, Erarnhardt Jr. has 26 wins, 260 top tens, 15 poles, and 15 most popular driver awards, and all of those awards were in succession from 2003-2017. This sport will definitely not be the same without Dale Jr., and we will surely miss him, but I wish him all the best in his life after driving.
This one came as a bit of a surprise also. Towards the end of the year, Kenseth announced that he would not be returning to Joe Gibbs Racing next year. The week before the season finale in Homestead, he announced that he was going to step away from racing for next year. It was a few weeks after he said that he wasn’t going to return to JGR, and he had not gotten any ride offers for next year. So he eventually made the decision to step away from racing for next season. He never officially announced retirement, so it will be interesting to see where he ends up in the future.
Patrick also announced her retirement the week leading up to the season finale. However, she plans on racing in two events next year: the Daytona 500, and the Indianapolis 500. So she technically isn’t retired, but after the Indy 500 next year, she will be. She started her professional racing career in the Indy Car Series in 2005, and switched to NASCAR in 2012. Danica never won a race in NASCAR, but she did get the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500. Her career stats include one pole position and seven top tens. Aric Almirola is going to take over the 10-car next year.
Kahne will be leaving Hendrick Motorsports and go drive for Leavine Family Racing next year. Kahne is taking over the 95-car from Michael McDowell. This will be the fourth team Kahne drives for in his career after starting his career with Evernham Motorsports. He then he moved on to Richard Petty Motorsports and most recently raced for Hendrick Motorsports. I feel like he will be able to help Leavine Racing grow into a better team, and I look forward to what he will be able to do there.
Bowman will be taking over the number 88-car following the retirement of Dale Jr. Bowman’s last stint in the Cup Series was as a replacement driver for Dale Jr. when he suffered a concussion in the 2016 season. Bowman drove in 10 races, which included three top ten finishes and one pole position.
Fresh off an Xfinity Series championship in his rookie season, Byron will drive full time for Hendrick Motorsports next season. He will drive the number 24-car, and Chase Elliot will drive the brand new number 9-car. Byron won seven races in his rookie Xfinity season, and, at the age of 20, has a full-time ride in the Cup Series. Lets see if he can live up to the hype.
Menard will be leaving Richard Childress racing to race for Wood Brothers next season. Wood Brothers had a very successful season last year with Ran Blaney. Lets see if Menard can repeat the success of Blaney in the number 21-car.
Blaney will race the third Penske Racing car next year. Blaney is coming off of a very successful year with Wood Brothers, making the Final 8 in the Chase, and winning the first Pocono race last year. Wood Brothers is backed by Penske, so it only makes sense that after such a successful season that Blaney got “called up” to race for Penske. I am very excited to see how Blaney will perform next season.