What are the moving parts in NASCAR's silly season?
The NASCAR Cup Series is entering its final stretch at Darlington Raceway, signaling the start of championship season for 16 drivers and teams, while also marking the time for race teams to make decisions regarding their plans for 2024. Contract extensions have already been secured for Martin Truex Jr. at Joe Gibbs Racing, and for the drivers at Front Row Motorsports. Daniel Suarez is locked in at Trackhouse Racing, as is Alex Bowman at Hendrick Motorsports. However, there are still various pieces that need to fall into place for other race teams.
One situation to watch is Aric Almirola’s future at Stewart-Haas Racing. He signed a multiyear extension after considering retirement, but there are ongoing discussions about the next year. One key aspect is the sponsorship with Smithfield, which might not continue, potentially affecting Almirola’s future. If one piece goes, the other is likely to follow, and losing a full-year sponsor would be challenging for Stewart-Haas Racing. Additionally, rumors suggest that two charters might be up for grabs at Stewart-Haas.
Denny Hamlin’s situation is also unresolved, as he waits to sign with Joe Gibbs Racing and finalize details regarding 23XI Racing’s future. The alliance between teams and manufacturers is crucial, and both sides are focused on ironing out the specifics before moving forward. While there is no indication of a desire for change, the process takes time. Joe Gibbs and Steve Lauletta, the president of 23XI Racing, have hinted at an upcoming announcement.
Kaulig Racing is another team facing decisions, particularly regarding the No. 31 Chevrolet. Although the timeline for an announcement has been pushed back, team manager Chris Rice has stated that the deal is nearly done and expects the announcement to surprise people. Previously, it was widely believed that Austin Hill would take the driver’s seat, but this might change.