NASCAR continues to roll into the summer months and the rumors of silly season are starting to ramp up. Some drivers, like Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch, have already been linked to rides for next year.
With that being said, here are predictions in all three series’ for NASCAR’s silly season in 2021.
NASCAR Cup Series
StarCom Racing, Live Fast Motorsports, and Rick Ware Racing
StarCom Racing: #00 Quin Houff
Live Fast Motorsports: #78 B.J. McLeod
Rick Ware Racing: #15 James Davison/Garrett Smithley/J.J. Yeley (no charter), #51 Cody Ware, #52 Josh Bilicki
StarCom Racing has been one of the lower-ranked teams in the NASCAR Cup Series ever since Landon Cassill left the No. 00 car, but StarCom will keep Quin Houff as the driver.
Live Fast Motorsports will be in its second year of existence next year and unless the organization is able to find a driver with sponsorship, B.J. McLeod, co-owner of the team, will be the primary driver of the No. 78 car.
Rick Ware has talked about the possibility of selling charters and earning a net gain on his profit. Ware has talked about running three full-time cars next year, but under this scenario, Rick Ware Racing sells two of its charters and runs a third car with no charter.
The No. 15 car will be split of part-time drivers, while Cody Ware and Josh Bilicki maintain their current rides for the 2022 NASCAR season.
Spire Motorsports and Kaulig Racing
Spire Motorsports: #7 Corey LaJoie, #77 Kaz Grala (no charter)
Kaulig Racing: #16 Justin Haley, #76 A.J. Allmendinger/Jeb Burton
Corey LaJoie signed a multi-year contract with Spire Motorsports last season. LaJoie should remain with Spire, which will fill its one charter for next season.
The No. 77 will have an open slot for the 2022 NASCAR season and Kaz Grala will take over the ride. Grala is a free agent at the end of the season and jumps from Kaulig Racing to Spire Motorsports as an uncharted car.
Spire will end up selling both of its charters to Kaulig Racing for the 2022 season, while keeping the third one for LaJoie.
Kaulig Racing announced earlier in the season that the organization would be going full-time NASCAR Cup Series racing next year. Kaz Grala and A.J. Allmendinger have split the part-time No. 16 car in 2021, but this could change next year.
Justin Haley will take over the No. 16 car full-time, which would be an upgrade from his Xfinity ride this year. Allmendinger and Jeb Burton will drive a second car part-time with the team in this situation. The team will acquire two of the four charters available.
Hendrick Motorsports and JTG Daugherty Racing
Hendrick Motorsports: #5 Kyle Larson, #9 Chase Elliott, #24 William Byron, #48 Alex Bowman
JTG Daugherty Racing: #47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Hendrick Motorsports already has three of its four rides for next season occupied. The only ride that is currently open is the No. 48 car, which is driven by Alex Bowman in 2021.
Bowman will return to the team next year on a multi-year deal and solidify Hendrick Motorsports lineup for the future. There isn’t much controversy over who will drive the No. 48 car in 2022.
JTG Daugherty Racing currently has two NASCAR Cup Series teams in action with the No. 37 and No. 47 cars. Ryan Preece currently drives the non-chartered No. 37 car, but that will change next year when JTG Daugherty Racing closes the car down.
Preece will leave the organization and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will continue to drive the No. 47 car in 2022.
Joe Gibbs Racing, 23XI Racing, and Gaunt Brothers Racing
Joe Gibbs Racing: #11 Denny Hamlin, #18 Kyle Busch, #19 Martin Truex Jr., #20 Christopher Bell
23XI Racing: #23 Bubba Wallace, #45 Kurt Busch
Gaunt Brothers Racing: #96 Brandon Jones (part-time)
Joe Gibbs Racing has its lineup set for the foreseeable future. Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Christopher Bell will all return to their respective cars in 2022.
23XI Racing is currently in its first year of action. Bubba Wallace drives the No. 23 car as the only entry for the team. However, co-owner Denny Hamlin has been outgoing about his desire to expand the team next year.
The Athletic reported a few weeks ago that Kurt Busch is the leading candidate for the second 23XI Racing car in 2022. Under my predictions, Busch will indeed be the second driver for 23XI Racing.
Busch will drive the No. 45 car, which is a number that co-owner Michael Jordan wore in the NBA for a period of games. The organization will acquire one charter from Rick Ware Racing.
Gaunt Brothers Racing will continue its program and grab Brandon Jones, who brings sponsorship to the organization. Gaunt Brothers will attempt to run part-time as an open team in 2022 with Jones as the driver.
Richard Childress Racing and Trackhouse Racing Team
Richard Childress Racing: #3 Austin Dillon, #8 Tyler Reddick
Trackhouse Racing Team: #97 Ryan Newman (no charter), #99 Daniel Suarez
Richard Childress Racing has its lineup set for the foreseeable future too. Dillon, who is the owner’s grandson, will not be going anywhere unless he personally makes that decision.
Tyler Reddick has uncertain plans for 2022, but it doesn’t make sense for him to bolt to another team given the options available. Reddick will return to the No. 8 car next year for his third season.
Trackhouse Racing Team is in its first year of existence, much like 23XI Racing. The organization is currently set to have zero charters for 2022 after leasing one from Spire Motorsports.
However, the organization will acquire one charter for next season and have stability moving forward. Daniel Suarez, driver of the No. 99 car, will return and have a place on the team for a long time.
The second car, which will be predicted as the No. 97, will go to Ryan Newman in 2022. Newman is set to be a free agent at the end of the year but wants to continue racing. The 43-year-old driver will find a ride for the short-term future.
Chip Ganassi Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports
Chip Ganassi Racing: #1 Noah Gragson, #42 Ross Chastain
Richard Petty Motorsports: #43 Erik Jones (Toyota)
Chip Ganassi Racing has an open ride for next season with Kurt Busch moving to 23XI Racing. There are some candidates that make sense like Erik Jones and Zane Smith, but the team decides to go in a different direction.
Chip Ganassi will sign Noah Gragson to drive the No. 1 car for the organization next season. Gragson brings sponsorship that Busch will take with him to 23XI Racing and he gets an opportunity to drive a Cup car.
Gragson will jump on the opportunity, while Ross Chastain maintains the No. 42 car in 2022.
Richard Petty Motorsports will move to Toyota in 2022 and keep Erik Jones as the driver of the No. 43 car. Toyota never wanted to let Jones leave, but they find a way to bring him back into the fold for 2022.
Jones could have an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing, but Gragson’s money overrides that opportunity and he sticks with Richard Petty Motorsports for the NextGen car.
Stewart-Haas Racing and Roush Fenway Racing
Stewart-Haas Racing: #4 Kevin Harvick, #10 Aric Almirola, #14 Chase Briscoe, #41 Cole Custer
Roush Fenway-Keselowski Racing: #6 Brad Keselowski, #17 Chris Buescher
Stewart-Haas Racing has struggled throughout this season, which could lead to some changes ahead. Kevin Harvick is nearing the end of his career and Aric Almirola’s luck has been terrible.
However, neither of these issues will rear its ugly head when it comes to who is driving the cars. Both Harvick and Almirola will return to the organization in 2022.
Harvick will keep the No. 4 car and will continue to keep it for however long he desires. Almirola will keep the No. 10 car, which is mostly due to Smithfield continuing to sponsor him into next year.
Chase Briscoe and Cole Custer will also return and plan to be a major part of Stewart-Haas Racing’s future into the NextGen era.
Roush Fenway Racing will have an open slot in the No. 6 car with Ryan Newman heading off to Trackhouse. This will allow Roush Fenway to land the biggest fish in the free-agent market with incentives given to him.
It was rumored last month that Brad Keselowski would possibly be on the move to the team with a stake in ownership that would change the name of the organization to Roush Fenway-Keselowski Racing.
Keselowski will take over the No. 6 car and bring Discount Tire with him as sponsorship. This move is done for a multitude of reasons that include his situation at Team Penske and the business/ownership aspect looking into the future.
Chris Buescher will return to the No. 17 car and most likely stay with the team long-term.
Team Penske, Wood Brothers Racing, and Front Row Motorsports
Team Penske: #2 Austin Cindric, #12 Ryan Blaney, #22 Joey Logano
Wood Brothers Racing: #21 Matt DiBenedetto
Front Row Motorsports: #34 Michael McDowell, #38 Anthony Alfredo
Team Penske now has an opening with Brad Keselowski on his way to Roush Fenway-Keselowski Racing. This opens the door for a driver to take over the No. 2 car, which is the most notable number with the team.
Austin Cindric is scheduled to drive the No. 21 car for Wood Brothers Racing in 2022, but with Keselowski on the move, he will take over the ride next year. It’s an easy decision due to the inevitabley of Cindric ending up at Team Penske.
This decision will also help the development of the 22-year-old driver long-term. Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano will also return to their respective rides and seem to be set at Penske long-term.
It would not be surprising if Blaney changed his number to the No. 2 and Cindric to the No. 12, but that will not happen in these predictions.
With Cindric now set for the third Penske car, this leaves Matt DiBenedetto returning to Wood Brothers Racing in 2022. DiBenedetto will continue to drive for the team for a third consecutive year.
Front Row Motorsports will also see its drivers return next year. Michael McDowell, the winner of the 2021 Daytona 500, will return to the No. 34 car next season. McDowell has been having a career year and the NextGen car could elevate his performance even more.
Anthony Alfredo will return to the No. 38 car, which saw John Hunter Nemechek leave the organization at the conclusion of the 2020 season. This will be good for Alfredo due to his lack of full-time experience in NASCAR.
GMS Racing: #26 Ryan Preece/Josh Berry/Sheldon Creed/Zane Smith (PT)
GMS Racing announced that the organization will be going Cup racing in 2022. It was not announced whether it would be full-time or part-time, but under these predictions, GMS will be a part-time team.
Ryan Preece will be the primary part-time driver in the No. 26 car, while Josh Berry, Sheldon Creed, and Zane Smith will have a race or two of seat time.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing
Team Penske: #22 Todd Gilliland
Stewart-Haas Racing: #98 Riley Herbst
Team Penske will have an opening for its NASCAR Xfinity Series team with Austin Cindric jumping up to the Cup team. This leaves an open slot for another young driver to take over.
There is the possibility of Penske closing the team down, but Todd Gilliland will take over the No. 22 in 2022. Gilliland is under the Ford camp with Front Row Motorsports in the NASCAR Truck Series, so it makes sense to give him a shot.
Stewart-Haas Racing replaced Chase Briscoe with Riley Herbst and Monster in the No. 98 car for the 2021 season and this will continue into next year. As long as Monster is willing to sponsor Herbst, it makes sense to keep him in the car.
Kaulig Racing and Richard Childress Racing
Kaulig Racing: #10 Jeb Burton, #11 Sheldon Creed, #16 A.J. Allmendinger
Richard Childress Racing: #2 Myatt Snider
Kaulig Racing will be going Cup racing with Justin Haley in 2022, which leaves an opening in the No. 11 car for next year in Xfinity. There are many options from the Truck Series that make sense, but one stands out above the rest.
Sheldon Creed will take over the No. 11 car for Kaulig Racing next year. Creed won the championship in the Truck Series in 2020 and needs to move up eventually. Kaulig represents a great opportunity to progress in his career.
Jeb Burton and A.J. Allmendinger will also return as full-time entries in their respective cars. Each driver has run well this year and should be back if they want to continue.
Richard Childress Racing signed Myatt Snider to drive the No. 2 car in 2020 and saw the benefits of that when he won at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but outside of that race, it has been a disappointing year for him.
However, Snider will return to the No. 2 car and have another opportunity with the organization. If he didn’t clinch a spot in the playoffs, it may have been a different story.
JR Motorsports: #1 Michael Annett, #7 Justin Allgaier, #8 Josh Berry, #9 Sam Mayer
JR Motorsports is set to run full-time in the Xfinity Series, not Cup, under these predictions. It could make the lineup decisions tougher for the organization since they can focus on the Xfinity Series like this season.
Michael Annett will return to the No. 1 car and Justin Allgaier will return to the No. 7 car in 2022. Both drivers have sponsorship, so unless something changes, it makes a lot of sense for both of them to return.
The No. 8 car is a different story. It currently runs full-time, but with different drivers such as Josh Berry, Sam Mayer, Miguel Paludo, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Next year, the No. 8 car will run full-time with Berry at the wheel.
Due to Noah Gragson moving to cup, it leaves the No. 9 car open for 2022. Sam Mayer will take over the ride and run full-time, which is already the plan for next season.
Joe Gibbs Racing
Joe Gibbs Racing: #18 Ty Gibbs, #19 Daniel Hemric, #20 Harrison Burton, #54 John Hunter Nemechek
Joe Gibbs Racing has more potential drivers than seats, which is a similar scenario that JR Motorsports is under. However, there are some locks for these rides for the 2022 NASCAR season.
With Jones moving to the Cup Series, it allows Hemric to slide over to the No. 19 car and keep a spot in the organization. There is limited spacing due to Gibbs needing a full-time ride, so it works out for both drivers.
Ty Gibbs will take over the No. 18 car, which is a number change due to Hemric moving to the No. 19 car. Gibbs will have a ride at Joe Gibbs Racing either way, but it allows him to keep the No. 18.
Harrison Burton will also return to the No. 20 for a third straight year and continue this development. Burton has taken a step back from last year, but he should continue to get better.
John Hunter Nemechek will stay with Toyota, but take over a fourth full-time car with Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s unclear if Joe Gibbs would do this, but it makes sense for Nemechek if he wants to stay in the Toyota camp.
NASCAR Truck Series
David Gilliland Racing
David Gilliland Racing: #1 Hailie Deegan, #15 Tanner Gray
David Gilliland Racing will keep it simple and bring back both Hailie Deegan and Tanner Gray for the 2022 NASCAR season. Each driver needs time to develop and it makes sense to give them more time.
Niece Motorsports: #40 Ryan Truex, #42 Carson Hocevar, #44 Ross Chastain/others (part-time), #45 Bayley Currey
Niece Motorsports will play the same game as David Gilliland Racing and bring back Ryan Truex and Carson Hocevar next season. Hocevar has shown flashes of being a good driver, so more time to develop is ideal.
Ross Chastain and other drivers will continue to race in a part-time truck next year, while Bayley Currey takes over the No. 45 truck on a full-time basis next season. Currey has impressed in some races, which gives him the nod.
ThorSport Racing: #13 Christian Eckes, #98 Grant Enfinger/Ty Majeski (part-time), #88 Matt Crafton, #99 Ben Rhodes
ThorSport Racing won’t see many changes, but some drivers will switch rides. Johnny Sauter will retire, while Christain Eckes takes over the No. 13 truck full-time in 2022. This allows Ty Majeski to split time with Grant Enfinger in the No. 98 truck.
Matt Crafton returns to the No. 88 truck next season, but the prediction here is that it will be his final season. Ben Rhodes will also return to the No. 99 truck next year and become a staple to the team.
Kyle Busch Motorsports
Kyle Busch Motorsports: #4 Corey Heim, #18 Chandler Smith, #51 Kyle Busch/Drew Dollar/Sammy Smith
Kyle Busch Motorsports will see changes with John Hunter Nemechek taking over the No. 54 car for Joe Gibbs Racing. Corey Heim will take over the No. 4 truck on a full-time basis, while Chandler Smith returns to the No. 18 truck next season.
Kyle Busch, Drew Dollar, and Sammy Smith will split the No. 51 truck, which will be run on a full-time basis next season. Smith will be the new driver introduced to the bunch as he currently competes in the ARCA Menards East Series.
GMS Racing: #21 Zane Smith, #23 Raphael Lessard, #24 Jack Wood, #26 Tyler Ankrum
GMS Racing will also see changes with Sheldon Creed moving to Kaulig Racing next season. GMS will shut down the No. 2 truck on a full-time basis next season while attempting to run part-time with GMS in the Cup Series.
Raphael Lessard returns to GMS, taking over the No. 23 truck from Chase Purdy. Zane Smith, Jack Wood, and Tyler Ankrum all return to their respective rides in 2022.