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All of the 2024 Silly Season Dominos Still to Fall

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Denny Hamlin has now officially signed with Joe Gibbs Racing on a multi-year extension. With that out of the way, NASCAR’s Silly Season picture looks more clear, but it is by no means done yet. What other major moves still need to take place in NASCAR Silly Season?

Current and Potential Open Seats

Wood Brothers Racing #21

Harrison Burton did not give a straight answer when asked whether or not he would return to the Wood Brothers in 2024, and the rumor mill began swirling. Burton just has not shown much improvement as he sits 31st in points with a worse average finish than his rookie season.

The Wood Brothers now have a larger swath of free agents to choose from with Hamlin’s car out. Zane Smith is an obvious choice as a Ford driver, but what about someone like John Hunter Nemechek? Our very own Cody Williams took a look at who the Wood Brothers #21 car could look to replace Burton in 2024.

Kaulig Racing #16/#31

A.J. Allmendinger made a surprising comment last week by saying that he might not be back in the #16 car for Kaulig Racing next year. It did not seem that he was looking to step away from racing entirely as he said he would be racing for Kaulig next season, but he left it open-ended as to in what capacity. He is not the only potential change that Kaulig will be handling next season.

With Justin Haley gone from Kaulig Racing next season, someone is going to have to take over that 31 car. Austin Hill was a candidate, but he is staying with Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for next year. However, Chris Rice said that they have a driver for the 31 car and that the driver may surprise a few people.

Is it possible that Allmendinger may go back to part-time Cup Series racing in that 31 car while still driving the Xfinity car full-time? That option did not seem to exist weeks ago, but now it is very much there. As for who takes over the 16 car, Daniel Hemric and Chandler Smith are obvious choices in the Xfinity Series, but there are some more options we can get to in a bit.

Stewart-Haas Racing #10

Aric Almirola is another driver who is mulling retirement, and the clock is ticking. In late July, Almirola said that he was about one or two months away from making a decision, so, that decision could come any day now. If he does leave, that could make for quite a headache for SHR with major sponsor, Smithfield potentially leaving alongside Almirola.

SHR may have more teams to bid against for drivers to replace Almirola. However, SHR still remains the better of the Ford teams still remaining. If Almirola does indeed leave, then Zane Smith could be their number one candidate, but what about Harrison Burton or Cole Custer? Those would be interesting choices, but, they are options.

Legacy Motor Club #42

Legacy Motor Club has had a wacky and disappointing season, and now they are looking for a driver for 2024. Many have rumored that John Hunter Nemechek could be in line to drive that car with LMC moving on to Toyota next season, but that has not been confirmed. They have not even announced who will be driving the car in most of the races for the rest of the season.

The performance of Carson Hocevar at Darlington turned some heads, and it opens up the question of whether Hocevar is the driver to replace Gragson in the #42 full-time. Nemechek has the inside track because of the manufacturer, but Hocevar is a serious talent. Now that JGR is off the table, LMC will be sure to get Toyota’s best driver available if everything works out right.

Spire Motorsports #77

The Spire Motorsports #77 car is driven by Ty Dillon, and Dillon is 32nd in points out of 32 drivers who have competed in every race this season. Not much has been officially reported regarding the #77 car, but many are speculating that there could be a driver swap in that car next season. There are a couple of major prospects available that could take this ride over in 2024.

Hocevar raced well for the team at Gateway before a brake rotor failure. However, he canceled on running the Xfinity race with them in favor of running the Cup Series race with Legacy Motor Club. Regardless, the Spire #77 is likely at the bottom of most free agent driver’s lists given the performance, so, they may have to just pick up whoever is left.

Current and Potential Free Agent Drivers

Harrison Burton

It is certainly possible that Burton could return to the Wood Brothers in 2024, but, it is understandable if they let him go. He just has not performed well. If he does leave, it is hard to see a Cup Series team who would want him given what seats are open with other drivers available.

Could Burton be a candidate to jump back down to the Xfinity Series then? That jump downwards has paid off for guys like Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek at least at that level. That may be the most likely option for Burton if he does not return to the Wood Brothers.

Zane Smith

With Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland signed for 2024, Zane Smith was the odd man out. Now, the question becomes where he will go in 2024. Denny Hamlin signing with JGR means that seat is gone, but, Smith was probably not a serious contender for that seat anyway.

Given his Ford connection, SHR may seem like the most logical place for him to go, but, the Wood Brothers are also open with a direct line to Team Penske, one of the top teams in NASCAR. Austin Cindric is a driver who may be on the hot seat next season if his performance does not improve, so, does Smith take that risk with the Wood Brothers?

Carson Hocevar

Carson Hocevar is another intriguing prospect. He is a driver who has impressed in the Craftsman Truck Series, and he was a favorite to land at JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series with the 8 car replacing Josh Berry. Those rumors have failed to actually happen, and his plans to fill in at Legacy Motor Club in the 42 and his relationship with Spire make him interesting candidates for both the #42 and the #77 cars.

Given his Chevy connection, Kaulig is also a team that cannot be ruled out, however, he would likely need to bring some major sponsorship with him to make that happen. The talent of Hocevar is obvious, and that means that he will likely have options for 2024.

John Hunter Nemechek

In early August, a surprise report from Jordan Bianchi said that John Hunter Nemechek was linked to Legacy Motor Club for 2024. This was before the Noah Gragson incident happened, and now that the #19 car and the #11 are both no longer options, maybe the #42 car could be. Toyota seems to like Nemechek, so, that could be what pushes him forward.

However, Hocevar performed better than Gragson had on similar race tracks with a 17th-place finish at Darlington, so, that ride could be up for grabs. It is the only Toyota ride available, so Nemechek would have to look outside of Toyota to find his next ride if LMC does not work out. In that instance, pretty much any ride could seem like a fit for Nemechek given his Xfinity performance.

A lot is still being sorted through when it comes to NASCAR Silly Season. Which drivers will end up in which seats in 2024?

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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