NASCAR silly season activity in anticipation of the 2014 race season seems to have died down, so lets take a look back at silly season of last year and consider how that silly season has panned out. We’ll exclude Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. from this conversation, as 2013 has been their rookie season, so we’ll give them some kind of benefit of the doubt.
Rookies aside, 2013 has been a positive year, seemingly, for all involved in silly season activity of a year ago. That year’s silly season players included the likes of, primarily, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Penske Racing and Furniture Row Racing. Sure, the Busch to Furniture Row move came before 2012 season’s end, but that was in anticipation of 2013, so we’ll still consider it.
For pretty much everyone involved, the moves all paid off. The No. 17′s performance did fall off with the departure of Kenseth and the placement of Stenhouse in the seat, but since that involves a rookie taking over a ride, again, we won’t consider it. Kenseth, though, is in the midst of his best season, ever. He leads the way among all Sprint Cup drivers with more trips to victory lane than anyone, and prior to last weekend’s race at Talladega, he led the entire Chase for the Sprint Cup. He may have lost the points lead last weekend to Jimmie Johnson, but Kenseth’s still in the heat of the battle for the title, trailing Johnson by a mere four points. In return, the No. 20 Kenseth now climbs into is enjoying its best season since Tony Stewart drove the car.
That leads us to Logano, Kenseth’s predecessor in the No. 20. Logano made the move to Penske Racing to drive the No. 22, and like Kenseth, is having the best season of his career in 2013. He made the Chase for the first time and this year marks his first season of multiple wins. He looks to have gotten the No. 22 car back on track after a tumultuous 2012 that saw the No. 22 team lose driver A.J. Allmendinger to a drug-related suspension and turn to Nationwide Series driver Sam Hornish Jr. to finish out the year.
And speaking of Allmendinger — he didn’t get a full-time Sprint Cup ride for 2013, but the year was productive for him, as well. He pieced together a schedule that included Sprint Cup, Nationwide and IndyCar. That schedule saw him claim his first two NASCAR wins in the form of Nationwide Series road races and those may have gone a long way in getting him the recognition that led to an opportunity for a full-time return to Sprint Cup racing in 2014 with JTG-Daugherty Racing.
Then there’s Kurt Busch at Furniture Row Racing. Busch unceremoniously departed Penske Racing a couple of years ago amid all kinds of trouble. He began his road back to the top in 2012, driving the No. 51 Phoenix Racing entry on a handshake deal with car owner James Finch. He then climbed a rung or two up the ladder with his move to Furniture Row Racing. With that move, Busch is back in the Chase and Furniture Row Racing is in the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the first time in the team’s history.
Rookies aside — and maybe we should wait another year to see how those moves panned out — last year’s silly season moves look to be panning out just fine. Actually, those who participated in those moves would probably say better than fine. Looks like the moves of a year ago were the best moves for all of those involved. Here’s wishing the same success to the graduates of silly season 2013.