Anthony Ballantoni

Look Ahead

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Look Ahead: Daytona in 35 days

Sunday, January 14, 2018


During the off-season, Look Ahead gives a snapshot of where drivers finished in 2017 and what’s ahead for them in 2018. We will look at drivers who finished in the top 30 in points for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series. Since many teams have yet to firm up their 2018 plans, follow Rotoworld NASCAR Headlines (www.rotoworld.com/headlines/nas) for the latest updates.

With 35 days to go before the 2018 NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season-opening Daytona 500, here are a few driver recaps followed by a tentative list of 2018 MENCS Driver/Team lineups. Teams listed as full-time plan on running all 36 events and have a NASCAR Charter guaranteeing a start in each race.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS):
2017: Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet) - In 36 races, the Joplin, MO driver scored three top-fives, 17 top-10s, had a 10.1 average start, a 14.6 average finish, led 21 laps, earned 2,224 points and was one of the 16 drivers who made it into the playoffs. McMurray also made it through the Chase Round of 12 but did not advance into the Chase Round of 8. He closed out the season 12th in the standings. His best MENCS season start was second at Sonoma (6/25). His best finish was second at Talladega (5/7). McMurray's last MENCS win was at Talladega on October 20, 2013.
2018: McMurray will continue driving the CGR No. 1 Chevrolet. Matt McCall returns as crew chief as well as sponsors McDonald's, Cessna and GearWrench.

2017: Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing (RCR) No. 3 Chevrolet) – In 36 races, the Lewisville, NC driver scored one win, three top-fives, four top-10s, had a 19.1 average start, an 18.6 average finish, led 12 laps, earned 2,224 points and was one of the 16 drivers who made it into the playoffs. Dillon did not advance into the Chase Round of 12 and closed out the season 11th in the standings. His best MENCS season starts were ninth at Dover (6/4) and Chicago (9/17). His best finish was the win at Charlotte (5/28). Dillon also drove the shared RCR No. 2 Chevrolet in 17 XFINITY Series races leading 141 laps and picking up 13 top-10 finishes. He made one truck start in the MDM Motorsports No. 99 Chevy Silverado; finished seventh at Atlanta.
2018: Dillon will return for another season with RCR's No. 3 Chevrolet. Justin Alexander will also return as crew chief. Unless something changes, sponsors Dow, American Ethanol and AAA will also return. Dillon plans on entering several XFINITY Series races again this season in the shared No. 2 Chevrolet for RCR.

2017: Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet) - In 36 races, the El Cajon, CA driver scored three wins, four top-fives, 11 top-10s, had a 16.9 average start, a 16.8 average finish, led 217 laps, earned 2,260 points and was one of the 16 drivers who made it into the playoffs. Johnson also made it through the Chase Round of 12 but did not advance into the Chase Round of 8. He closed out the season 10th in the standings. His best MENCS season start was second at Loudon (7/16) and best finishes were the victories at Texas (4/9), Bristol (4/24) and Dover (6/4).
2018: Johnson is contracted thru 2020 to drive the No. 48 Chevrolet. Chad Knaus is signed thru 2018 as crew chief. Sponsors Lowe's, Kobalt Tools and Jimmie Johnson Foundation are also returning for another season.

NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS):
2017: Jeremy Clements (Jeremy Clements Racing No. 51 Chevrolet) - In 33 races, the Spartanburg, SC driver scored one win, one top-five, two top-10s, had a 25.1 average start, a 22.1 average finish, led 12 laps, earned 2,107 points and was one of the 12 drivers who made it into the playoffs. He did not advance into the Chase Round of 8 and closed out the season 12th in the standings. Clements’ best NXS season start was 14th at Bristol (8/18) and best finish was the win at Road America (8/27).
2018: No changes announced yet but Clements owns the No. 51 team and will most likely run another full NXS season.

2017: Blake Koch (Kaulig Racing No. 11 Chevrolet) – In 33 races, the West Palm Beach, FL driver scored one pole, five top-10s, had a 13.4 average start, a 17.6 average finish, led 32 laps, earned 2,138 points and was one of the 12 drivers who made it into the playoffs. He did not advance into the Chase Round of 8 and closed out the season 11th in the standings. Koch's best NXS season start was the pole at Talladega (5/6). His best finish was sixth at Phoenix (11/11). He has yet to win in the NXS.
2018: On January 9th, Kaulig Racing announced the hiring of former Camping World Truck Series driver Ryan Truex to pilot the No. 11 Chevrolet full-time in 2018. At this point Blake Koch does not have a ride in any series for the new season.

2017: Brendan Gaughan (Richard Childress Racing (RCR) No. 62 Chevrolet) – In 33 races, the Las Vegas, NV driver scored two top-fives, eight top-10s, had a 16.0 average start, an 18.4 average finish, led 37 laps, earned 2,153 points and was one of the 12 drivers who made it into the playoffs. He did not advance into the Chase Round of 8 and closed out the season 10th in the standings. Gaughan's best NXS season starts were ninth at Atlanta (3/4) and Daytona (6/30). His best finishes were fifth at Daytona (2/25) and Road America (8/27). His last NXS win was at Kentucky Speedway on September 20, 2014. Gaughan also made four Cup starts at the restrictor plate tracks in Beard Motorsports No. 75 Chevrolet. His best finish was seventh at Daytona (7/1).
2018: RCR is cutting back to three NXS teams and will not field the No. 62. Gaughan is also cutting back to a part-time season. He may or may not drive the in some of the races in the RCR shared-ride No. 3 Chevrolet in the NXS. He has also committed to drive the restrictor plate races for Beard Motorsports in the Cup series. That team has changed it's car number from 75 to 62 (Gaughan's favorite number) and will be sponsored by Gaughan's family-owned South Point Resort & Casino.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS):
2017: Justin Haley (GMS Racing No. 24 Chevrolet Silverado) - In 21 races, the Winamac, IN driver scored one pole, three top-fives, 12 top-10s, had an 11.4 average start, an 11.2 average finish, earned 600 points and closed out the season 12th in the standings. Haley’s best NCWTS season start was the pole at Texas (11/3) and best finish was third at Kentucky (7/6). He has yet to win an NCWTS race. Haley also drove three ARCA Racing Series races averaging a 2.7 finish. He piloted MDM Motorsports No. 28 Toyota to a victory at Talladega and drove Mason Mitchell Motorsports No. 78 Chevrolet to a win at Pocono and a sixth at Kansas Speedway.
2018: At the end of 2017, Kaz Grala, driver of the No. 33 truck has parted ways (mutual agreement) with GMS to drive full-time in the XFINITY Series. No firm plans announced, but GMS hinted in November that Haley may move to GMS' No. 33 team in 2018.

2017: Grant Enfinger (ThorSport Racing No. 98 Toyota Tundra) – In 23 races, the Fairhope, AL driver scored nine top-fives, 15 top-10s, had an 11.0 average start, a 9.4 average finish, led 41 laps, earned 718 points and closed out the season 11th in the standings. Enfinger's best NCWTS season start was fourth at Homestead (11/17) and best finishes were third at Dover (6/2) and Texas (6/9). His last win in the NCWTS was at Talladega on October 22, 2016. Enfinger made one ARCA Racing Series start driving Mike Allgaier's No. 16 Chevrolet at Springfield; started second, led 51 laps and won the 100-lap event.
2018: No announced plans at this time. Unless something changes in the next week or two, Enfinger will be back behind the wheel of the ThorSport No. 98.

2017: Noah Gragson (Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) No. 18 Toyota Tundra) – In 23 races, the Las Vegas, NV driver scored one win, three poles, four top-fives, 13 top-10s, had a 6.7 average start, an 11.6 average finish, led 187 laps, earned 724 points and closed out the season 10th in the standings. Gragson's best NCWTS season starts were the poles at Texas (6/9), Iowa (6/23) and Loudon (9/23). His best finish was the win at Martinsville Speedway on October 28. Gragson drove Venturini Motorsports Toyotas in five ARCA Racing Series races scoring two top-10s and an average finish of 18.8.
2018: KBM announced that Gragson will return to the No. 18 Tundra with primary sponsorship for all 23 races from Safelite AutoGlass. He is also entering the January 27th Super Late Model race (Chilly Willy 150) at Tucson Speedway. He has run this event the past three years and only finished outside the top five once. Last season he was runner-up.

Tentative 2018 Cup Series Lineup - Full-time teams

Car

Driver

Sponsor

Make

Owner

1

Jamie McMurray

Cessna / McDonald’s / GearWrench

Chevrolet

Chip Ganassi Racing

2

Brad Keselowski

Miller Lite / Discount Tire / Alliance Truck Parts / Wurth

Ford

Team Penske

3

Austin Dillon

Dow/American Ethanol/AAA

Chevrolet

Richard Childress Racing

4

Kevin Harvick

Busch Beer/Jimmie Johns/ Mobil 1

Ford

Stewart-Haas Racing

6

Trevor Bayne

AdvoCare/Liberty National

Ford

Roush Fenway Racing

9

Chase Elliott

NAPA Auto Parts / Kelley Blue Book / Mountain Dew / SunEnergy1 / Hooters

Chevrolet

Hendrick Motorsports

10

Aric Almirola

Smithfield

Ford

Stewart-Haas Racing

11

Denny Hamlin

FedEx / Sport Clips

Toyota

Joe Gibbs Racing

12

Ryan Blaney

Menards / REV Group / Fitzgerald Glider Kits / PPG (Now has Charter)

Ford

Team Penske

13

Ty Dillon

Geico / Twisted Tea

Chevrolet

Germain Racing

14

Clint Bowyer

Mobil 1 / Rush Truck Centers / Haas Automation

Ford

Stewart-Haas Racing

15

?

?

Chevrolet

Premium Motorsports

17

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Fastenal / Fifth Third Bank / SunnyD

Ford

Roush Fenway Racing

18

Kyle Busch

M&M’s / Skittles / Snickers /  Interstate Batteries

Toyota

Joe Gibbs Racing

19

Daniel Suarez

ARRIS / Stanley / PEAK

Toyota

Joe Gibbs Racing

20

Erik Jones

DeWalt

Toyota

Joe Gibbs Racing

22

Joey Logano

Shell-Pennzoil / Autotrader / AAA

Ford

Team Penske

24

William Byron - R

Liberty University / Axalta / UniFirst

Chevrolet

Hendrick Motorsports

31

Ryan Newman

Bass Pro Shops / Cabela's / Caterpillar /  Grainger / Liberty National

Chevrolet

Richard Childress Racing

32

Matt DiBenedetto

Can-Am

Ford

GoFAS Racing

33

?

?

Chevrolet

Circle Sport

34

Michael McDowell

Love's Travel Stops

Ford

Front Row Motorsports

37

Chris Buescher

Scott Products / Kroger / Bush’s Beans / Kleenex / Velveeta / Natural Light

Chevrolet

JTG Daugherty Racing

38

David Ragan

?

Ford

Front Row Motorsports

41

Kurt Busch

Monster Energy / Haas Automation

Ford

Stewart-Haas Racing

42

Kyle Larson

Credit One Bank

Chevrolet

Chip Ganassi Racing

43

Darrell Wallace Jr.- R

Click n’ Close / Smithfield Foods / U.S. Air Force / STP

Chevrolet

Richard Petty Motorsports

47

AJ Allmendinger

Kroger / Scott Products / Kingsford Charcoal / Bush’s Baked Beans/ Louisiana Hot Sauce

Chevrolet

JTG Daugherty Racing

48

Jimmie Johnson

Lowe’s / Kobalt Tools / Jimmie Johnson Foundation

Chevrolet

Hendrick Motorsports

51

Ray Black Jr. - R

?

?

Rick Ware Racing

78

Martin Truex Jr.

Furniture Row / Bass Pro Shops / 5-Hour Energy / Auto Owners Insurance

Toyota

Furniture Row Racing

88

Alex Bowman

Nationwide Insurance / Axalta

Chevrolet

Hendrick Motorsports

95

Kasey Kahne

WRL General Contractors/Procore

Chevrolet

Leavine Family Racing

 

 

R - Rookie of The Year candidate

 

 

No Charter Guarantee/Part-time/Questionable

00

Derrike Cope

StarCom

Chevrolet

StarCom Racing

7

?

?

Chevrolet

Premium Motorsports

16

?

?

Ford

Roush Fenway Racing

21

Paul Menard

Menards / Motorcraft / Quick Lane

Ford

Wood Brothers Racing

23

Multiple drivers (CH)

?

Toyota

BK Racing

27

? (CH)

?

Chevrolet

Richard Childress Racing

30

?

?

Chevrolet

The Motorsports Group

44

?

?

Chevrolet

Richard Petty Motorsports

52

Multiple drivers

?

?

Rick Ware Racing

55

?

?

Chev/Toyota

Premium Motorsports

62

Brendan Gaughan

Beard Oil / TSS Logistics (was #75)

Chevrolet

Beard Motorsports

66

David Starr

Eureka Vacuums

Chevrolet

MBM Motorsports

66

Mark Thompson

Phoenix Air (Daytona only)

Ford

MBM Motorsports

72

? Cole Whitt

?

?

TriStar Motorsports

77

?

?

?

Furniture Row Racing

83

Multiple drivers

?

Toyota

BK Racing

96

?

?

Toyota

Gaunt Brothers Racing

 

 

      (CH)  Has a Charter

 

 

 Teams With An Used Charter Available for Lease/Sale

 Go Fas Racing and Front Row Motorsports

 



Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at RotoWorld.com.
Email :Anthony Ballantoni



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