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Everything We Know So Far About NASCAR Silly Season: Denny Hamlin, Zane Smith, and More

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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NASCAR Silly Season in 2023 has been the definition of Silly. However, many things are still yet to be determined, and it can be hard to keep up. Here is a look at everything you need to know about NASCAR Silly Season.

Biggest Moves So Far

First, let’s take a look at the biggest moves made to this point. Which free agent drivers and open teams do we know will be pairing up next year?

Stewart-Haas Racing #4 Car: Josh Berry to Replace Kevin Harvick

Josh Berry’s move to SHR was one of the worst-kept secrets in modern NASCAR. It was also a great story of a driver who truly worked their way up to the Cup Series on merit, but, questions still remain in terms of sponsorship. Who will be sponsoring the #4 car next year with major sponsors such as Busch Beer leaving?

Rick Ware Racing #15/51: Justin Haley

One of the most shocking moves of NASCAR Silly Season was Justin Haley making the move from Kaulig Racing, where he has been for years, to Rick Ware Racing on a multi-year contract. While a surprising move at the moment, the recent technical alliance with RFK Racing has made some people wonder what the potential of Rick Ware Racing is. The future for Rick Ware Racing is bright, and Haley gives them a young driver to build around.

Front Row Motorsports #34/38: Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland

Front Row Motorsports has been one of the great surprises in NASCAR this season with Michael McDowell making the Playoffs via a win at the Indianapolis Road Course, and Todd Gilliland impressing as well. While re-signing these two drivers makes sense, it means that Zane Smith is the odd-man out. The question becomes where Smith goes in 2024?

Spire Motorsports #7: Corey LaJoie Extends His Contract

Corey LaJoie has been impressive with Spire Motorsports this year, enjoying the best statistical season of his career. Some wondered if other teams may want to snag him up, but LaJoie is going to be at Spire for the foreseeable future. With Spire being an up-and-coming team, it will be interesting to see what awaits them in the future.

Joe Gibbs Racing #19: Martin Truex Jr. Pushes Retirement Back

Martin Truex Jr. was rumored to potentially retire at the end of the 2023 season, but he decided to push that back. Why would he not, as he is a true championship contender this season. It also helps Joe Gibbs Racing to not lose another star driver after Kyle Busch left the team following the 2022 season.

Current and Potential Open Seats

Kaulig Racing #31

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.

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 is 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.

Stewart-Haas Racing #14/#41

Stewart-Haas Racing is a team that is rumored to be selling a charter or two for the 2024 season. This would not be a huge surprise given the downturn in performance and the potential switch in manufacturers. However, Jordan Bianchi reported on “The Teardown” that Stewart-Haas Racing is reportedly committed to fielding four cars next year. Eric Estepp discussed it in the most recent Out of the Groove.

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 the rest of the season.

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.

Current and Potential Free Agent Drivers

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin has about the most complicated free agency that anyone in the sport currently has. He not only has a deal to strike with Joe Gibbs Racing, but he also has to put together a manufacturer deal with 23XI Racing. If that deal is not met, then Hamlin’s future at JGR is in jeopardy. In that earlier Eric Estepp clip, it was disputed that 23XI had met with another manufacturer, so, it seems for now that the plan is Hamlin to return to the FedEx 11 car.

Zane Smith

With Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland signed for 2024, Zane Smith was the odd-man out. Now, the question becomes where he goes in 2024? Does he sign with SHR if Almirola retires, the Kaulig 31 car, or maybe somewhere like Rick Ware Racing?

Carson Hocevar

Carson Hocevar is another intriguing prospect. He is a driver that 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 the relationship with Spire make him interesting candidates for both cars.

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 is no longer an option, maybe the #42 car could be. Toyota seems to like Nemechek, so, that could be what pushes him forward.

A lot of things have happened, and a lot of things are still remaining to happen with NASCAR Silly Season. It should be an interesting few weeks to see how all of these pieces fit into the 2024 puzzle.

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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