UPDATE: According to an announcement at Jayski.com, we will find out Friday who will take the ’42′ ride at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. presumably making Furniture Row’s decision easier. Larson? Newman? Anyone?
If HBO ever considered a “Hard Knocks” style show featuring a NASCAR team, they would find ratings gold with Stewart-Haas Racing. With Kurt Busch in the fold, they have three drivers who have won championships (Kevin Harvick won one in the Busch Series back in the day), three drivers who can contend for championships NSCS Series’ lone full-time female driver and a combustible mix of personalities and an eclectic mix of crew chiefs.
The arrival of Busch means there is an opening at Furniture Row Racing. The good news is that the Richard Childress allied team proved it could run with the big dogs with a serious talent. The bad news is they’re out on NASCAR’s far flung frontier, based in Denver, Colorado. While a part of me wants to jeer Busch for the move, I can’t blame him. Staying to show loyalty to the team would have made a nice sentimental move, then I think about Bobby Labonte, who elected to stay with Richard Petty, though he reportedly had a chance to take the ‘33’ ride at Richard Childress. That didn’t work out so well. Even if Busch falls on his face at SHR (I don’t think he will), it won’t be for lack of effort on the team’s part. It’s obvious Gene Haas wanted the 2004 champion real bad.
Furniture Row won’t be absent of options. Ryan Newman’s name keeps coming up. It may very well be Newman’s career could enjoy the same revival that Busch enjoyed in Denver. There’s a lot that can be said for being the top fiddle; heck, at FRR, you’re the only fiddle. The rub here is that Newman may be eyeing a move to the ‘29’ at RCR; of course, Richard Childress may have other designs that include simply having a three car team of grandson Austin Dillon, veteran Jeff Burton and Paul Menard. There’s also speculation aplenty Newman could take over in the ‘42’ seat at Earnhardt- Ganassi Racing as well.
It’s also not hard to fancy A.J. Allmendinger in Denver. Presently, Allmendinger has occupied a variety of seats in 2013, mostly for Roger Penske. Occasionally, talk crops up of reviving the ‘12’ an options could include bringing Newman back to his old ride (or A.J.), and then there’s a logjam of other talent that also includes Sam Hornish. One can’t help but think Allmendinger will be a regular somewhere in the NSCS in 2014, but where is the question. Could this be it? If Penske doesn’t offer him something, why not?
Back to Allmendinger, he has seat time in the ‘47’ at JTG Daugherty, which begs the question of what may become of Bobby Labonte. It pains me to say it as a fan, but one has to wonder if for him, the move to Furniture Row would be a lateral move, meaning at the end of the day the two really do nothing to raise each other’s profiles. Marcos Ambrose was running pretty decent in the ‘47,’ and the team slipped backwards with Labonte in the seat. Whether it was a case of car, crew or driver, no one can say with certainty.
Of course, it doesn’t end there. There may be any number of Nationwide drivers who could step in to the ‘78.’ There are also drivers over at Front Row Racing who could bolt, but one part of me thinks that the likes of David Ragan, David Gilliland and Josh Wise are content there.
Another possibility may be David Reutimann. He’s had a taste of success, and has toiled in anonymity over at BK Racing. The argument can be well made that Reutimann has more talent than people give him credit for, having largely spent his career in the earlier days of Michael Waltrip Racing when things weren’t as rosy.
All we can do now is speculate. No doubt Barney Visser and Company saw this coming. There’s a plan- no doubt. It’s just a matter of time until we see it all play out.