Martin Truex Jr. was already expected to be a late entry in the 2013-2014 NASCAR silly season several weeks ago when Michael Waltrip Racing announced that it wouldn’t hold him back from talking to other race teams and considering other possibilities soon after sponsor NAPA announced that it was cutting ties with the race team. Truex was, pretty much, officially made a silly season player earlier this week with MWR’s announcement that it would only field two Sprint Cup teams full-time next year — Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 and Brian Vickers’ No. 55 — and one part-time team for car owner Michael Waltrip.
Truex joins series veterans like Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton still in the silly season mix, and we might as well throw in David Stremme. As far as teams still looking for drivers, there’s Furniture Row Racing, Phoenix Racing and Swan Racing.
Swan Racing looks to want to go the younger driver route. Since letting Stremme go, the team has auditioned Cole Whitt and recently announced that Nationwide Series regular Parker Kligerman would drive its No. 30 car in a couple of weeks at Texas Motor Speedway. Not to refer to any of the aforementioned drivers as old, but they’re years removed from “young gun” status. So I’m assuming we can take Swan Racing off the table as far as these guys are concerned.
Phoenix Racing has offered somewhat of a driver merry-go-round, as of late, but does new team owner Harry Scott Jr. want to put longtime Nationwide Series driver Justin Allgaier in the car? I’m guessing he does on, at least, a part-time basis.
Really, the best ride out there is the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing ride. After all, this is a team that’s in the Chase this year. And Truex looks to be, by far, the driver still with a lot of good years left. Nothing against Labonte and Burton, or Stremme for that matter, but Labonte looks to be past his prime and so does Burton, even though he does produce a glimmer of goodness here and there. And really, has Stremme ever had it when it comes to racing at the Sprint Cup level?
When MWR first announced that Truex was free to look for employment elsewhere, Furniture Row Racing did express interest. I have a feeling that the No. 78 is Truex’s ride for 2014, if he wants it.
Nothing against Swan Racing, but I doubt its No. 30 is anyone’s dream ride. Besides, like I said before, I think that team’s in search of the next young thing. I’d consider Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 a step up from the No. 30, but it’s probably not exactly a highly-coveted ride, unless it’s a driver’s only option.
I think a lot of both Burton and Labonte, but their current situations lead me to the conclusion that their days in a highly-competitive Sprint Cup Series ride are over. Maybe Burton, who has mentioned part-time driving, will be in the No. 51, sharing that ride with, perhaps, Allgaier, but I don’t see him in a full-time ride anymore, unless he settles for a seat in some “also-ran.” The No. 51 may be a rung or two above that. As for Labonte, I guess he’ll be relegated to “also-ran” status, too.
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