Anthony Ballantoni

Look Ahead

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Countdown to the 500: 54 days

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


During the off-season, Look Ahead gives a snapshot of where drivers finished in 2017 and what’s ahead for them in 2018. We will look at drivers who finished in the top 30 in points for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series. Since many teams have yet to firm up their 2018 plans, follow Rotoworld NASCAR Headlines (www.rotoworld.com/headlines/nas) for the latest updates.

With 54 days to go before the 2018 NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season-opening Daytona 500, here are a few driver recaps followed by a tentative list of 2018 MENCS Driver/Team lineups. Teams listed as full-time plan on running all 36 events and have a NASCAR Charter guaranteeing a start in each race.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS):
2017: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet) - In 36 races, the Kannapolis, NC driver led 47 laps, scored two poles, one top-five, eight top-10s, had a 17.0 average start, a 20.0 average finish, earned 668 points and closed out the season 21st in the standings. Earnhardt's best MENCS season starts were 1st (poles) at Daytona (7/1) and Talladega (10/15). His best finish was fifth at Texas (4/9). His last MENCS win was at Texas Motor Speedway on November 15, 2015. Earnhardt also drove his JR Motorsports No. 88 Camaro in two XFINITY Series races at the short tracks Bristol (finished 13th) and Richmond (9th). He also won his record-extending 15th consecutive National Motorsports Press Association Most Popular Driver Award.
2018: Dale Jr. retired from full-time MENCS racing at the end of 2017. Alex Bowman will drive the HMS No. 88 Chevrolet in 2018. Earnhardt has signed a multi-year contract with NBC to work in the broadcast booth for the second half the upcoming season. He will also be involved in other NBC sports coverage throughout the year. Along with his sister Kelly, Junior will continue ownership of JR Motorsports and plans on a few NXS starts in 2018.

2017: Daniel Suarez (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota) – In 36 races, the Monterrey, Mexico driver led 40 laps, scored one top-five, 12 top-10s, had a 13.9 average start, a 16.2 average finish, earned 777 points and closed out the season 20th in the standings. Suarez’ best MENCS season start was third at Dover (6/4) and best finish was third at Watkins Glen (8/6). He has yet to win in the MENCS. Suarez also shared JGR's No. 18 Toyota in the XFINITY Series. In 14 NXS starts, he scored one pole, led 180 laps and had a 14.6 average finish with a best of second at Bristol (8/18). He drove on the Sonoma road course in a lone NASCAR K&N Pro Series West start; finished 11th.
2018: Suarez returns to JGR's No. 19 Toyota. Crew chief Scott Graves and primary sponsors ARRIS and Stanley return as well. It has not been confirmed, but looks like Suarez will again ride-share the No. 18 Toyota in the NXS in 2018.

2017: Erik Jones (Furniture Row Racing No. 77 Toyota) - In 36 races, the Byron, MI driver led 310 laps, scored one pole, five top-fives, 14 top-10s, had a 14.6 average start, a 17.1 average finish, earned 863 points and closed out the season 19th in the standings. Jones’ best MENCS season start was the pole at Bristol (8/19) and best finish was second in the same Bristol race. He has yet to win in the MENCS. Jones also shared the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota in the XFINITY Series. In 18 starts in the No. 20, he scored three wins, three poles, led 751 laps and averaged a 12.8 finish.
2018: Jones is replacing Matt Kenseth in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota in the MENCS. Kenseth parted ways with JGR and does not have any plans to continue NASCAR racing at this time. DeWalt will return as a primary sponsor. Chris Gayle was announced as crew chief for the team. Jones is also scheduled to ride-share the JGR No. 18 in the NXS.

NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS):
2017: Garrett Smithley (JD Motorsports No. 0 Chevrolet) - In 33 races, the Peachtree City, GA driver led two laps, scored two top-10s, had a 30.8 average start, a 26.5 average finish, earned 348 points and closed out the season 21st in the standings. Smithley’s best NXS season start was 23rd at Phoenix (3/18) and best finish was eighth at Daytona (2/25). He has yet to score a win in the NXS.
2018: No plans have been announced for Garrett Smithley in any series at this time. The driver for No. 0 Chevrolet also has yet to be determined.

2017: Darrell Wallace Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford) – In 13 races, the Mobile, AL driver led 11 laps, scored eight top-10s, had a 14.0 average start, a 13.2 average finish, earned 348 points and closed out the season 20th in the standings. Wallace's best NXS season start was seventh at Phoenix (3/18) and best finishes were sixth at Atlanta (3/4), Las Vegas (3/11), Phoenix (3/18), Auto Club (3/25), Texas (4/8) and Richmond (4/29). He filled in for injured Aric Almirola in four MENCS races (No. 43 Ford) averaging a 17.8 finish. He made one truck start at Michigan in Matt Miller's No. 99 Chevrolet Silverado; started ninth and won the race. Also, Wallace drove the No. 6 Ford in the CARS Super Late Model Series for one start at Bristol; won that race as well.
2018: Wallace moves up to the MENCS full-time in 2018 replacing Aric Almirola in Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro. RPM aligned with Richard Childress Racing and switched from Fords to Chevys. Almirola has been hired to drive the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford. Wallace, who will be competing for Rookie of the Year honors, will be sponsored by Click n' Close, Smithfield, U.S. Air Force and STP. Drew Blickensderfer continues as crew chief on the No. 43.

2017: Spencer Gallagher (GMS Racing No. 23 Chevrolet) – In 33 races, the Las Vegas, NV driver scored one top-10, had a 20.2 average start, a 24.4 average finish, earned 433 points and closed out the season 19th in the standings. Gallagher's best NXS season start was eighth at Michigan (6/17) and best finish was 10th at Richmond (4/29). He also made one start (Daytona 2/24) in the NCWTS driving the GMS Chevrolet Silverado to a 13th place finish.
2018: Gallagher's GMS team had planned to move up to the MENCS full-time in 2018 but will put that off and return for the full NXS schedule with their No. 23 Chevrolet. Veteran crew chief Chad Norris will assume that role for the No. 23 NXS team. Gallagher may attempt the 2018 restrictor plate tracks in the Cup series.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS):
2017: Timothy Peters, driver of the Red Horse Racing No. 17 Toyota Tundra since 2009, completed the first five races of the season before the organization closed shop due to lack of funding. He drove three more truck races for other teams during the season. In eight races, the Providence, NC driver, led two laps, scored one top-five, four top-10s, had a 10.8 average start, earned 252 points and closed out the season 21st in the standings. Peters’ best NCWTS season start was third at Martinsville (4/1) and best finish was fifth at Charlotte (5/19). His last NCWTS win was at Phoenix Raceway on November 13, 2015. Peters also drove the Barry Nelson No. 12 Toyota in a lone CARS Late Model Stock Tour race (South Boston, finished third).
2018: No plans in place at this time for a 2018 ride in any series. He may be called upon again to pilot the Matt Miller No. 99 Chevrolet Silverado. He was one of several drivers sharing that ride in 2017.

2017: T.J. Bell (Niece Motorsports No. 45 Chevrolet Silverado) – In 15 races, the Sparks, NV driver had a 21.3 average start, a 19.9 average finish, earned 257 points and closed out the season 20th in the standings. Bell’s best NCWTS season starts were 16th at Pocono (7/29) and Loudon (9/23). His best finishes were 14th at Charlotte (5/19), Texas (6/9) and Pocono (9/23). He has yet to win in the NCWTS.
2018: Niece Motorsports announced that Justin Fontaine will be the full-time driver of the No. 45 Chevrolet Silverado this season. No plans in place at this time for T.J. Bell in any series.

2017: Norm Benning (Norm Benning Racing No. 6 Chevrolet Silverado) – In 20 races, the Level Green, PA driver had a 27.4 average start, a 23.0 average finish, earned 279 points and closed out the season 19th in the standings. Benning's best NCWTS season start was 17th at Kentucky (7/6) and his best finish was 13th at Eldora (7/19).
2018: Benning has fielded his own Chevrolet truck full-time since 2008 except for 2016 (drove eight races for another team). At this time, there are no plans announced but Benning will most likely enter his Silverado in as many races as possible again this season.

Tentative 2018 Cup Series Lineup - Full-time teams

Car

Driver

Sponsor

Make

Owner

1

Jamie McMurray

Cessna / McDonald’s / GearWrench

Chevrolet

Chip Ganassi Racing

2

Brad Keselowski

Miller Lite / Discount Tire / Alliance Truck Parts / Wurth

Ford

Team Penske

3

Austin Dillon

Dow/American Ethanol/AAA

Chevrolet

Richard Childress Racing

4

Kevin Harvick

Busch Beer/Jimmie Johns/ Mobil 1

Ford

Stewart-Haas Racing

6

Trevor Bayne

AdvoCare/Liberty National

Ford

Roush Fenway Racing

9

Chase Elliott

NAPA Auto Parts / Kelley Blue Book / Mountain Dew / SunEnergy1 / Hooters

Chevrolet

Hendrick Motorsports

10

Aric Almirola

Smithfield

Ford

Stewart-Haas Racing

11

Denny Hamlin

FedEx / Sport Clips

Toyota

Joe Gibbs Racing

13

Ty Dillon

Geico / Twisted Tea

Chevrolet

Germain Racing

14

Clint Bowyer

Mobil 1 / Rush Truck Centers / Haas Automation

Ford

Stewart-Haas Racing

15

?

?

Chevrolet

Premium Motorsports

17

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Fastenal / Fifth Third Bank / SunnyD

Ford

Roush Fenway Racing

18

Kyle Busch

M&M’s / Skittles / Snickers /  Interstate Batteries

Toyota

Joe Gibbs Racing

19

Daniel Suarez

ARRIS / Stanley

Toyota

Joe Gibbs Racing

20

Erik Jones

DeWalt

Toyota

Joe Gibbs Racing

22

Joey Logano

Shell-Pennzoil / Autotrader / AAA

Ford

Team Penske

24

William Byron - R

Liberty University / Axalta / UniFirst

Chevrolet

Hendrick Motorsports

27

?

?

Chevrolet

Richard Childress Racing

31

Ryan Newman

Bass Pro Shops / Cabela's / Caterpillar /  Grainger / Liberty National

Chevrolet

Richard Childress Racing

32

Matt DiBenedetto

Can-Am

Ford

GoFAS Racing

33

?

?

Chevrolet

Circle Sport

34

Michael McDowell

Love's Travel Stops

Ford

Front Row Motorsports

37

Chris Buescher

Scott Products / Kroger / Bush’s Beans / Kleenex / Velveeta / Natural Light

Chevrolet

JTG Daugherty Racing

38

David Ragan

?

Ford

Front Row Motorsports

41

Kurt Busch

Monster Energy / Haas Automation

Ford

Stewart-Haas Racing

42

Kyle Larson

Credit One Bank

Chevrolet

Chip Ganassi Racing

43

Darrell Wallace Jr.- R

Click n’ Close / Smithfield Foods / U.S. Air Force / STP

Chevrolet

Richard Petty Motorsports

47

AJ Allmendinger

Kroger / Scott Products / Kingsford Charcoal / Bush’s Baked Beans/ Louisiana Hot Sauce

Chevrolet

JTG Daugherty Racing

48

Jimmie Johnson

Lowe’s / Kobalt Tools / Jimmie Johnson Foundation

Chevrolet

Hendrick Motorsports

51

Ray Black Jr. - R

?

?

Rick Ware Racing

78

Martin Truex Jr.

Furniture Row / Bass Pro Shops / 5-Hour Energy / Auto Owners Insurance

Toyota

Furniture Row Racing

88

Alex Bowman

Nationwide Insurance / Axalta

Chevrolet

Hendrick Motorsports

95

Kasey Kahne

WRL General Contractors/Procore

Chevrolet

Leavine Family Racing

 

 

R - Rookie of The Year candidate

 

 

No Charter Guarantee/Part-time/Questionable

00

Derrike Cope

StarCom

Chevrolet

StarCom Racing

7

?

?

Chevrolet

Premium Motorsports

12

Ryan Blaney

Menards / REV Group / Fitzgerald Glider Kits / PPG

Ford

Team Penske

16

? (CH)

?

Ford

Roush Fenway Racing

21

Paul Menard

Menards / Motorcraft / Quick Lane

Ford

Wood Brothers Racing

23

Multiple drivers

?

Toyota

BK Racing

30

?

?

Chevrolet

The Motorsports Group

44

?

?

Chevrolet

Richard Petty Motorsports

52

Multiple drivers

?

?

Rick Ware Racing

55

?

?

Chev/Toyota

Premium Motorsports

66

David Starr

Eureka Vacuums

Chevrolet

MBM Motorsports

66

Mark Thompson

Phoenix Air (Daytona only)

Ford

MBM Motorsports

72

? Cole Whitt

?

?

TriStar Motorsports

75

Brendan Gaughan

Beard Oil / TSS Logistics

Chevrolet

Beard Motorsports

77

?

?

?

Furniture Row Racing

83

Multiple drivers

?

Toyota

BK Racing

96

?

?

Toyota

Gaunt Brothers Racing

 

 

 (CH) - HAS a Charter Guarantee

 

 

 Teams With An Used Charter Available for Lease/Sale

 Roush Fenway Racing, Go Fas Racing and Front Row Motorsports



Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at RotoWorld.com.
Email :Anthony Ballantoni



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