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How Have Loaned Drivers Done in the NASCAR Cup Series?

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Joshua Lipowski

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Race teams loaning out drivers to other race teams is a bit unorthodox, but not unprecedented. Even in recent years, some race teams have loaned out the services of their drivers to other race teams, but how have they fared? Here is a look at how drivers in this situation have done in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Erik Jones (JGR to Furniture Row in 2017)

Beginning in 2016, Furniture Row Racing entered into a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, and in 2017, JGR helped FRR start a second team. That team was for JGR’s hottest new prospect, Erik Jones. He was the 2015 Craftsman Truck Series Champion along with winning four Xfinity Series races in 2016.

In the Cup Series in 2017, Jones was impressive as he recorded five top-5s and 14 top-10s to take Rookie of the Year over Daniel Suarez. Despite missing the Playoffs, Jones was brought on to replace Matt Kenseth in the 20 car at JGR for 2018. He won two races with the team before moving to the team he currently races for, Petty GMS, now known as Legacy Motor Club.

Christopher Bell

Joe Gibbs Racing decided to do the same thing with Christopher Bell that they did with Erik Jones, and they loaned Bell out to Leavine Family Racing to driver the 95 car for the 2020 season. Obviously, the equipment was not as great as Jones had in his rookie season, and Bell was not quite as impressive in his rookie year. Bell recorded only seven top-10s and two top-5 finishes finishing 20th in the standings, and he would lose out to Cole Custer for Rookie of the Year.

However, he impressed enough to take the seat of Jones in the #20 for the 2021 season. Since then, Bell has flourished as he won his second race with the team in 2021, and made a Championship 4 appearance in 2022. Bell and Ty Gibbs seem to be the pillars JGR is building their future around, so, this move ultimately worked out very well.

Ryan Blaney

Ryan Blaney had an interesting journey to the NASCAR Cup Series. He spent the 2015 season running part-time for Roger Penske in the Xfinity Series and The Wood Brothers in the Cup Series. Penske always had his eye on Blaney, but it was not until 2018 that Penske fully brought Blaney into the fold.

Blaney improved gradually over his two full-time seasons with The Wood Brothers in 2016 and 2017. He broke out in 2017 with four top-5s, 14 top-10s, his first career pole, and his first career win at Pocono. This meant that Blaney made the Playoffs and The Wood Brothers made the Playoffs for the first time.

Chris Buescher

Chris Buescher was in an odd situation heading into 2016 as Roush-Fenway Racing did not have a place for him in the Cup Series. As a result, Buescher was loaned to Front Row Motorsports for 2016 then JTG-Daugherty Racing for 2017-2019. Despite Buscher still being under a contract with Roush-Fenway, he was racing for other teams for four consecutive seasons.

Results were mixed as Buescher got his first career win with Front Row in 2016 at Pocono, but he never recorded more than four top-10 finishes in a season. In 2020, he came to Roush-Fenway full-time, and he got better year after year. Finally, in 2023, Buescher blossomed as he has won three races so far with a legitimate chance at a Cup Series Championship.

For every driver on this list, they are all still in the Cup Series to this day. If executed right, the idea of loaning a driver can work out great for both the race team and the driver. Could Zane Smith be the next success story?

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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