There is still a lot of racing to go this season with eight races remaining before the Sprint Cup Series crowns its champion, but for those drivers not in the Chase it is time to finalize their rides for next season. Matt Kenseth held the keys to the kingdom, so to speak, after he announced that he would be leaving Roush-Fenway Racing at the end of the season as he was the hottest driver in the series that was on the open market for 2013.
The former Cup champion wasted very little time in his choice to move over to Joe Gibbs Racing’s #20 Home Depot team even though he didn’t make it official for several months. That seat became available when Gibbs decided to let go Joey Logano from that full-time ride, but had said it wanted to keep him if it could find sponsorship for another ride. That never materialized and Logano has found himself replacing the suspended A.J. Allmendinger at Penkse Racing for next season.
One driver that has been left out of this shuffling of drivers for a full-time ride for 2013 is Trevor Bayne. Trevor will forever be remembered as the first-year driver that won the 2011 Daytona 500 for the Wood Brothers in what will always be considered one of the biggest wins in the history of the sport. Even though it was the most talked about win of the year in the sport, it wasn’t good enough to attract the Wood Brothers the additional sponsorship that it needed to run Trevor full time.
The Wood Brothers have a working relationship with Roush- Fenway Racing that basically allows Trevor to run for both teams. He still runs the Cup side of the sport with the Wood Brothers but runs the Nationwide Series for a team that is fielded by Roush- Fenway.
Roush-Fenway also fields Nationwide cars for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and he was the driver that owner Jack Roush decided to move up to Kenseth’s vacated ride for next season. That was the ride that Bayne would have loved to have, but he still will end up with a great ride from Roush for next season as he will be taking over Stenhouse’s Nationwide team that is currently in the thick of running for its second consecutive Nationwide title.
Bayne may be a victim of his own early success as his Daytona win put him on the radar as one of the drivers that could be moving up quickly to a full-time ride in the Sprint Cup Series, but once again like it is for so many drivers it is all about attracting sponsors. The Wood Brothers is the oldest and one of the most respected teams in the sport, but it has run a part-time schedule for years due to lack of sponsorship.
Bayne is still one of the lucky ones out there that doesn’t have a full-time Cup ride for next season. He will still get the opportunity to run for a championship in the Nationwide Series in what is one of the premier rides in that sport as well as gain valuable experience at the Cup level with the Wood Brothers.
The same can’t be said for Kurt Busch and Elliott Sadler, a couple of veterans of the sport that are now having to work the garage to see what may be out there for them next season. Busch’s hunt for a full-time ride next season will no doubt be hampered by his checkered past that not only contains a Sprint Cup title but so many problems with other drivers and NASCAR officials that his options may be very limited at best.
Sadler now drives for Richard Childress Racing and is in the thick of the championship hunt in the Nationwide Series. His performance this season has had him on top of the standings for much of the year, but he will probably move on after this season due to Childress having a couple of younger drivers in the Craftsman Truck Series that he needs to move up including his grandson Ty.
Sadler’s recent success at least has his phone ringing and he is well liked in the garage, but that may not be enough to get him a ride. Of course, if he could attract a sponsor on his own it would be funny to see how fast a seat would come open.
Event: AAA 400
Track: Dover International Speedway (1-mile oval, 24 degrees of
banking in the turns)
Date: Sept. 30, 2 p.m.
Defending Champion: Kurt