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Not going to the No. 88 doesn’t necessarily rule out a move to Hendrick Motorsports

Matt Kenseth pretty much took himself out of the rumor mill for the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet upon Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement at season’s end with comments made Monday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. But I wouldn’t be so quick to count him out of the Hendrick Motorsports drivers’ stable for 2018. Remember, there’s an at least decent chance that there are two rides available for there next year with the possible firing of Kasey Kahne. Kenseth just removed himself from the No. 88 rumor mill, not the HMS, overall, rumor mill.

When asked about the possibility to take over No. 88 driving duties next year, Kenseth said he didn’t think it will be an “opportunity I’m going to have.” But I’d like to point out that he was replying to a question, specifically, about the No. 88, not Hendrick Motorsports, in general.

I’m still a proponent of Alex Bowman in the No. 88 next year. I’m not giving up on that. Fortunately, I’m thinking that becoming more and more of a real possibility as the expected announcement draws near. Meanwhile, the move of Kenseth to, possibly, the No. 5 seems more and more like a real possibility.

Maybe Kenseth has inside information as a new HMS driver and knows, already, that Bowman will be in the No. 88, while he goes to the No. 5. This is just a hypothetical playing in my head, but it’s a possibility. Isn’t it?

Here are a couple of more reasons I’m predicting a Kenseth move to Hendrick next year:

When Kenseth spilled the beans about a week-and-a-half ago that he wouldn’t be in the No. 20 next year, Earnhardt said he was confident Kenseth would be in a quality ride next year. I’m pretty sure a Hendrick Motorsports ride would, definitely, be a quality one, and, maybe I read too much into Earnhardt’s comment, but I got the impression that he had some kind of inside information.

Also, reliable source Dave Moody of SiriusXM NASCAR Radio said Monday that his sources are telling him that Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson are “lobbying hard” for Kenseth to be at HMS next year. No, I don’t think team owner Rick Hendrick takes orders from his drivers, but I’m sure, if they’re in Hendrick’s ear, he’s probably listening, especially when one of them is a seven-time and reigning Cup Series champion. Just staying.

Besides, isn’t Earnhardt also, supposedly, lobbying for Bowman in the No. 88? Kenseth in the No. 5 is making more sense, now; isn’t it?

I could be totally wrong, Kahne may be allowed to return to the No. 5 in 2018. I don’t know. But if he doesn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kenseth behind the wheel. The two other names that seem to be carrying the loudest volume in terms of winding up at Hendrick are Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards. Personally, I don’t see Keselowski leaving Team Penske anytime soon, and, hate to break it to you, the longer Edwards keeps himself on the sideline, I think a return becomes less and less likely, at least in terms of a full-time top-tier ride.

William Byron’s name is another one in the rumor mill. But, despite, his success, I think he needs another year in the Xfinity Series. There you go; Kenseth could be a seat filler for a year or so until Byron’s ready to move up.

I really feel pretty good in predicting Bowman in the No. 88 and Kenseth in the No. 5.

Kenseth said Monday night that he didn’t haven anything lined up “for sure.” I’d like to focus on the two words, “for sure.” Something probably isn’t considered “for sure” until contracts are signed, sealed and delivered. He didn’t just say he didn’t have anything line up; he qualified it with the two words, “for sure.” Maybe that means there’s something in the works it’s just not “for sure,” as in it’s not official, or definite, yet. Maybe that thing in the works is the No. 5 ride. Maybe not.

Previously, my crystal ball had Kenseth, essentially, swapping rides with Erik Jones, with Kenseth going to the No. 77. Unfortunately, there’s word the No. 77 may not return next year with Furniture Row Racing returning to a single-car operations. I’d like to see sponsorship found, allowing the No. 77 team to stick around, though, and I think Kenseth would be a good fit there as a teammate to Martin Truex Jr., but I have this feeling in my gut that we may see the No. 77 go away. Hope I’m wrong on that one.

Anyway, don’t be surprised to see Kenseth and Bowman join Johnson and Chase Elliott at Hendrick Motorsports next year.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (Facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (Facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on July 18, 2017. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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