Starting flag drops on the Silly Season
Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are teammates again, leading the parade of speculation otherwise known as NASCAR’s Silly Season.
Could Kenseth possibly fill the slot left by Dale Earnhardt Jr. over at Hendrick Motorsports?
Could that slot have Edwards’ name on it, assuming he wants to return to racing after a one-year hiatus?
Will there be a wild card thrown into the mix if Brad Keselowski decides to leave Penske Racing to join Hendrick Motorsports? (Hint: Not likely.)
And what will become of the second seat at Furniture Row Racing now that Erik Jones has left the building?
All of these questions stir pure speculation and rumours. It is also the stuff that drives much of our sports landscape. Every athlete is driven by opportunities, and plenty of those will arise in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“It’s definitely one of the most interesting Silly Seasons,” said Larry McReynolds, Fox Sports Analyst. “And I think what’s making it is just the change in landscape.”
We’re talking money. Everything involving everyone comes down to contracts and sponsorship dollars and which driver can deliver sponsors and cover expenses for the long-haul of a 36-race season.
The trend does not favour veteran drivers who command bigger salaries. That obviously puts 2003 season champ Kenseth in the career crosshairs as his contract expires and gives Jones an opportunity.
Jones is moving from Furniture Row Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing, a decision that wasn’t easy for owner Joe Gibbs. The team had to find room for Jones, a driver with rising potential. So thanks for the memories, Mr. Kenseth. At 45, and with sponsorship questions, your service is appreciated but paying bills supersedes emotional ties.
“We didn’t want to be here, but we wound up here and then we had to make a decision,” Gibbs told reporters last weekend.
But the upside is that it is trading salaries — undisclosed in the sport — of a veteran for a talented younger guy who comes at a cheaper price. Look at it from an owner’s perspective.
“I’m going to throw out hypothetical numbers,” McReynolds said. “I can put a veteran who is very talented and won a lot of races — maybe even won a championship — but he’s going to cost me $8 million to $10 million a year.
“Or I can take a young driver who has proven he’s very talented, looks like he has the potential to win races and has won races and championships in another series, and I can put him in my car for maybe a third of what that veteran is going to cost me.”
Matt Kenseth and team owner Joe Gibbs talk in the garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway.