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Who Drives Next For Ford, Toyota, and Chevrolet?

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

When fans talk about Cup Series drivers either on the hot seat or on the verge of retirement, the easiest drivers to replace them are those in the lower series. The future of drivers like Harrison Burton, Martin Truex Jr., and Daniel Suarez is the subject of much discussion, but, if there’s no driver to replace them, then, are their rides really in jeopardy? Well, today, we look at which drivers are in line to replace these individuals should things go south.

  • For this list, we will focus on the top prospects for each of these manufacturers. Which drivers are the most likely to join the Cup Series should one of the Cup drivers move on from their current seat?
  • While drivers can and will jump between manufacturers, but, it’s often easiest to speculate drivers moving up within manufacturers. Which ones have the best pipelines?
  • Fans love to speculate about the future of NASCAR Cup Series teams and drivers. If one driver loses a ride, someone has to take over the seat.

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Ford

Ford has by far the thinnest development pipeline currently, and that comes at a rather difficult time. With Ford as a whole struggling in the NASCAR Cup Series right now, having a big-time prospect is a must, but, that simply does not exist.

Looking at the Craftsman Truck Series, there’s some talent there, but, no one groundbreaking. ThorSport has Truck Series veterans like Matt Crafton, Ty Majeski, and Ben Rhodes, but, the young drivers Jake Garcia and Conner Jones have failed to nab a top-10 this season. Layne Riggs (Daily Dowforce #8 Prospect) is the driver who has shown the most promise thus far with a top-10 finish, but, he is currently 23rd in points.

Looking at the Xfinity Series, it’s slightly better but, not exactly deep. Cole Custer is the defending Champion, but, he already had an opportunity in Cup where he failed to impress. Riley Herbst (Daily Dowforce #9 Prospect) has plenty of funding from Monster Energy along with some solid Cup Series starts, but, he has only one Xfinity Series win to his credit. Aside from that, there’s Hailie Deegan, who continues to struggle, and Matt DiBenedetto, who only has 5 races on his schedule plus the RSS Racing drivers, but, none of those drivers seem to have Cup Series aspirations.

As of right now, Riley Herbst seems like the most likely candidate to take over for someone like Harrison Burton or potentially Austin Cindric. Herbst is currently 5th in Xfinity Series points, so, he does have consistency even if he isn’t consistently a race-win threat. He also has funding from Monster Energy.

Toyota

On the opposite side of the spectrum is Toyota. While Ford is struggling to build up a prospect pool, Toyota has some of the best prospects in the sport.

This includes Daily Downforce top-2 Cup Series prospects Chandler Smith (No. 2) and Corey Heim (No. 1). Smith seems like JGR’s heir apparent with 2 wins in the first 6 races, and he has a solid chunk of funding from QuickTie. Heim continues to be ridiculously consistent in the Truck Series with no finish worse than 6th in the first 5 races of the season.

Outside of those two, Taylor Gray and William Sawalich (Daily Downforce No. 10 Prospect) will be interesting to watch as the years go on. Gray showcased his talent with a top-5 finish in the Xfinity Series at Richmond for Joe Gibbs Racing. Sawalich races for JGR in ARCA, and he intends to make his Xfinity Series debut this fall.

Chandler Smith is an easy candidate for the No. 19 car should Truex Jr. choose to retire. If Hamlin moves on in the next couple of years, it will be interesting to see if drivers like Heim, Gray, or Sawalich end up slotting into that No. 11 car.

Chevrolet

Whereas Toyota has the advantage in terms of quality, Chevrolet has the edge in quantity. They have 5 drivers included in our top-10 prospects list, and these drivers continue to impress.

There’s the Spire duo in the Truck Series of Nick Sanchez (Daily Downforce No. 6 Prospect) and Rajah Caruth (Daily Downforce No. 3 Prospect), who both just nabbed their first Truck Series win. Caruth also has funding from HendrickCars.com, so, while it may take a while, he could join Hendrick in the future. There’s also Christian Eckes (Daily Downforce No. 7 Prospect) in the Truck Series as well, but, his funding situation is unclear.

The Xfinity Series has a slew of intriguing prospects. There’s the impressive Jesse Love (Daily Downforce No. 4 Prospect) with 2 poles and a top-5 points position and Sammy Smith (Daily Downforce No. 5 Prospect) with 4 top-10s in the first 6 races. We haven’t even mentioned Supercars star Shane Van Gisbergen, RCR stalwart Austin Hill, road course ace Sam Mayer, and Trackhouse phenom Connor Zilisch.

The issue with many of these drivers is that there is no easy place for some to slot into yet. Maybe SVG or Zilisch will head to Trackhouse at some point if Suarez leaves, but, RCR and Hendrick seem pretty set on their drivers for now. It’s going to be interesting to see if Chevy forces any of these drivers through at some point.

Which race team has the best development pipeline currently? Is it enough to force current Cup Series drivers to look over their shoulders?

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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