What’s Happening?

Some NASCAR Cup Series drivers will be racing for a little extra in 2024. A few drivers potentially have contracts that expire at the end of the season, but, not every expiring contract means the same thing.

You Need to Know:

  • Not every NASCAR team releases specific details on driver contracts. However, we can deduce from language such as “Multi-year deal” or a deal “For the year XYZ” what drivers may have expiring contracts.
  • Not every expiring contract means that a driver is definitely moving on from the team. Sometimes it means a driver is mulling retirement, and other times they work on a deal to stay with the current team. However, many times, it does indicate a driver could move on.
  • Fans are always speculating on where drivers could go in the future, and with so many drivers (like Harvick and Almirola) retiring this year, it’s understandable why next year is a hot topic for speculation.

Drivers Who Could Be Free Agents

Martin Truex Jr.

RACER Magazine describes Martin Truex Jr.’s current contract as a “Year-by-year” deal. He was rumored to be mulling retirement throughout the 2023 season, but he ultimately decided to come back for the 2024 season. This looks more like Truex Jr. waiting for retirement than becoming a true free agent.

He may become a free agent if JGR feels the need to bring up a prospect. However, they haven’t announced who will be driving their Xfinity Series cars full-time in 2024. That makes it impossible to predict how their prospects pan out.

Front Row Motorsports: Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland

Front Row Motorsports does not usually hand out multi-year contracts, so, Todd Gilliland and Michael McDowell are only under contract for 2024. McDowell seems likely to stay with the team for the foreseeable future. He won a race in 2023, and he has been there since 2018. However, many fans speculated throughout the summer that McDowell could leave if a better opportunity arose.

Todd Gilliland enters his third year with the team. He finished 28th in points in 2023 with only 2 top-10s. If that performance does not improve, this ride could open up, but it’s not a total guarantee.

Ryan Preece

Ryan Preece only has a contract signed through 2024. His first year with SHR was a disappointment, but, SHR as a whole was down. If performance does not improve, this could be an open ride in 2025.

SHR failed to win a race in 2023 for the first time since Tony Stewart bought into the team. If that continues, then changes will be made. Preece did show flashes of brilliance in 2023, but that likely needs to become more consistent.

Josh Berry

When Josh Berry signed with SHR nothing was said about the length of the contract. SHR announced he was signed for 2024, but they said nothing about the years beyond. However, it seems likely that Berry will have at least a second year with the team.

Rarely are drivers ousted after only one year. That said, Berry’s sponsorship situation is still unknown for 2024. If he struggles to find sponsorship, that could call into question his future with the team.

Austin Cindric

Austin Cindric signed an extension for 2024, but no mention was made of what he could do beyond 2024. After winning the Daytona 500 in 2022, Cindric’s performance dipped in 2023 with no wins. His comment following the extension announcement was interesting.

I’m focused on next year big time,” Cindric said during his media availability at Charlotte. “With the changes that we made after the regular season and all that, yeah, pretty focused on hitting the ground running, using these next couple of weeks to really take advantage of that opportunity. Driving for Roger, driving the 2 car, that’s a big deal. That’s a big opportunity. I don’t see myself getting too many other opportunities like that in my racing career.

Austin Cindric via Stephen Stumpf of Fronststretch

That does not sound like a driver who has a secure future. 2024 could be a make-or-break season for Cindric.

Harrison Burton

Harrison Burton is in a similar place to Austin Cindric. It’s Burton’s third year in the Cup Series, and he has no wins or Playoff appearances yet. At some point, he has to show more improvement, and he only has a contract announced for 2024.

If he does not improve, the No. 21 Wood Brothers car could be an open ride for 2024. This is the year for Burton to prove he belongs.

John Hunter Nemechek

Just like Josh Berry, John Hunter Nemechek was only announced for 2024 with nothing said about the years beyond. Nemechek was one of those drivers who left the Cup Series after one year. That means it is possible this could be a one-and-done.

However, that is rare, especially with a team like Legacy Motor Club. If he performs well, Nemechek should get opportunities beyond 2024 with the team.

Daniel Hemric

Daniel Hemric is another driver that falls into the Josh Berry, John Hunter Nemechek category. Again, Hemric was dropped after one year of Cup racing for Richard Childress. Funding is a major factor at Kaulig Racing as well, so sponsorship has to stay with him.

Out of all drivers moving up from Xfinity to Cup, Hemric might be the most likely for a one-and-done. However, it seems silly to think Kaulig signed him for just one year. He has a solid chance of staying with the team beyond 2024.

Which drivers are you watching to become potential free agents next year? Which ride do you hope opens up?

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