Anthony Ballantoni

Look Ahead

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Under a month to Cup racing

Sunday, January 21, 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 28 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: Ryan Blaney - Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford - In 36 races, the High Point, NC driver scored one win, two poles, four top-fives, 14 top-10s, had a 10.3 average start, a 17.2 average finish, led 301 laps and was one of the 16 drivers who made it into the playoffs. Blaney also made it through the Chase Round of 12 and the Round of 8 but did not advance into the Chase Championship 4. He closed out the season ninth in the standings. His best MENCS season starts were the poles at Kansas 5/13 and Phoenix 11/12. His best finish was the victory at Pocono Raceway 6/11. Blaney also piloted the shared Team Penske Nos. 12 and 22 Fords in 13 XFINITY Series races. He picked up two wins (Charlotte 5/27 and Dover 9/30), two poles and an average finish of 4.1 in those events.
2018: Blaney moves over to the Team Penske No. 12 Ford Fusion for the 2018 MENCS season. Jeremy Bullins will be crew chief for the No. 12 team. Menards, REV Group, Fitzgerald Glider Kits, PPG and Dex Imaging are primary sponsors. Blaney will again ride-share the Team Penske No. 22 in the XFINITY Series.

2017: Kyle Larson - Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) No. 42 Chevrolet – In 36 races, the Elk Grove, CA driver scored four wins, three poles, 15 top-fives, 20 top-10s, had an 11.3 average start, a 13.3 average finish, led 1,352 laps and was one of the 16 drivers who made it into the playoffs. Larson also raced through the Chase Round of 12 and the Round of 8 but did not advance into the Chase Championship 4. He closed out the season eighth in the standings. His best MENCS season starts were the poles at Auto Club 3/26, Bristol 4/24, Michigan 6/18 and Sonoma 6/25. His best finishes were the victories at Auto Club 3/26, Michigan 6/18, Michigan 8/13 and Richmond 9/9. Larson also drove the shared CGR No. 42 Chevrolet in 11 XFINITY Series races leading 453 laps and picking up wins at Auto Club 3/25, Richmond 4/29 and Dover 6/3.
2018: Larson is contracted thru at least 2018 to drive the CGR No. 42 Chevrolet in the Cup Series. Chad Johnston returns as crew chief. Sponsors on the No. 42 are Credit One Bank and DC Solar. Larson is also contracted to run about seven XFINITY Series races in CGR's shared No. 42 Chevrolet. Larson, who owns his own World of Outlaws team, plans on entering as many as 25 dirt track races this season. Already in 2018, he looked to be the winner of the January 13th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, but with just 10 laps to go, his engine went up in smoke allowing Christopher Bell, the defending winner, to make in a second consecutive victory in the annual Tulsa, OK event.

2017: Matt Kenseth - Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota - In 36 races, the Cambridge, WI driver scored one win, two poles, 10 top-fives, 18 top-10s, had a 10.4 average start, a 14.2 average finish, led 421 laps and was one of the 16 drivers who made it into the playoffs. Kenseth also passed through the Chase Round of 12 but did not advance into the Chase Round of 8. He closed out the season seventh in the standings. His best MENCS season starts were the poles at the two Richmond races (4/30 and 9/9). His best finish was the victory at Phoenix 11/12.
2018: In July 2017, Kenseth announced he would finish out the season but would not return to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018. Although he has not said anything about retirement, at this time he has no plans in place for any ride in any series.

NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS):
2017: Michael Annett - JR Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet - In 33 races, the Des Moines, IA driver scored one top-five, seven top-10s, had a 19.3 average start, a 16.6 average finish, led nine laps 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 ninth in the standings. Annett's best NXS season start was fifth at Indianapolis 7/22. and best finish was second at Road America 8/27. He has yet to win an NXS event.
2018: Annett will return to JRM's No. 5 Chevrolet as well as crew chief Jason Stockert and sponsor Pilot Flying J for the full NXS NXS season.

2017: Ryan Reed - Roush Fenway Racing No. 16 Ford – In 33 races, the Bakersfield, CA driver scored one win, two top-fives, seven top-10s, had a 14.2 average start, a 17.8 average finish, led 16 laps and was one of the 12 drivers who made it into the playoffs. He made it through the Chase Round of 8 but did not advance into the Chase Championship 4. He closed out the season eighth in the standings. Reed's best NXS season start was second in the season-opener at Daytona 2/25. His best finish was the win in the same event.
2018: Reed will return for another season in RFR's No. 16 Ford. Phil Gould will continue as crew chief. American Diabetes Association (Lilly Diabetes) also returns as full-time primary sponsor for the team.

2017: Matt Tifft - Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota – In 33 races, the Hinckley, OH driver scored two top-fives, 13 top-10s, had an 11.9 average start, a 13.6 average finish, led 11 laps and was one of the 12 drivers who made it into the playoffs. He passed through the Chase Round of 8 but did not advance into the Chase Championship 4. Tifft closed out the season seventh in the standings. His best NXS season start was third at Texas 11/4. His best finishes were third at Mid-Ohio 8/12 and Road America 8/27. He has yet two in the NXS. Tifft made one NASCAR K&N Pro Series East start at the Watkins Glen road course; started ninth, finished 10th.
2018: At the end of 2017, Tifft was hired by Richard Childress Racing to pilot the organization's No. 2 Chevrolet in the XFINITY Series. Randall Burnett will serve as crew chief for the team. Anderson's Maple Syrup will be one the sponsors known at this time.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS):
2017: Ryan Truex - Hattori Racing Enterprises (HRE) No. 16 Toyota Tundra - In 23 races, the Mayetta, NJ driver scored two poles, eight top-fives, 13 top-10s, had an 8.9 average start, an 11.4 average finish, led 115 laps and closed out the season ninth in the standings. Truex’s best NCWTS season starts were the poles at Chicago 9/15 and Las Vegas 9/30. His best finish was second at Loudon 9/23. He has yet to win an NCWTS race. Truex also drove an HRE Toyota in two NASCAR K&N Pro Series East events scoring one pole and a 19th place finish.
2018: At the end of 2017, Truex parted ways with HRE and searched for a new ride. On January 9th, Kaulig Racing announced Truex as full-time driver of the No. 11 Chevrolet in the XFINITY Series. Chris Rice continues as crew chief as well as sponsor LeafFilter Gutter Protection. Bar Harbor Foods and Sea Watch have since join the team as primary sponsors for at least 10 events.

2017: John Hunter Nemechek - NEMCO Motorsports No. 8 Chevrolet Silverado – In 23 races, the Moorseville, NC driver scored two wins, eight top-fives, 11 top-10s, had an 11.0 average start, a 13.8 average finish, led 108 laps and was one of the eight drivers who made it into the playoffs. Nemechek also made it through the Chase Round of 8 and the Round of 6 but did not advance into the Chase Championship 4. He closed out the season eighth in the standings. Nemechek's best NCWTS season start was second at Gateway 6/17. His best finishes were the victories at Gateway 6/17 and Iowa 6/23.
2018: Nemechek will move up to the XFINITY Series this season, where he will share the driving duties in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet. NEMCO Motorsports is looking for another driver for the No. 8 Silverado but John Hunter may still enter some truck races this season for his family-owned team.

2017: Kaz Grala - GMS Racing No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado - In 23 races, the Westborough, MA driver scored one win, one pole, five top-fives, 11 top-10s, had a 10.2 average start, a 14.0 average finish, led 33 laps and and was one of the eight drivers who made it into the playoffs. He did not advance into the Chase Round of 6 and closed out the season seventh in the standings. Grala's best NCWTS season start was the pole at Daytona 2/24 and best finish was the win in the same season-opening event. Grala also entered two ARCA Racing Series races. At Daytona, he drove Mason Mitchell's No. 88 Chevrolet to a 10th place finish. He took MDM Motorsports No. 41 Chevrolet from a start on the pole to a fourth place finish at Pocono.
2018: Grala left GMS Racing at the end of 2017 to move up to the XFINITY Series. JGL Racing hired him to drive the No. 24 Ford full-time in the NXS. The team switched from Toyota to Ford in the off-season. Shane Wilson has been assigned crew chief duties for the No. 24 team. No word on sponsorship at this time.

Tentative 2018 Cup Series Lineup - Full-time teams

Car

Driver

Sponsor

Make

Owner

1

Jamie McMurray

Cessna / McDonald’s / GearWrench / DC Solar

Chevrolet

Chip Ganassi Racing

2

Brad Keselowski

Miller Lite / Discount Tire / Alliance Truck Parts / Wurth / REESE / Draw-Tite

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 / Mountain Dew / SunEnergy1 / Hooters / Kelley Blue Book

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 / DEX Imaging

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

21

Paul Menard

Menards / Motorcraft / Quick Lane          (Now has a Charter)

Ford

Wood Brothers 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 / Kappa

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

Shriners Hospitals for Children / 100Bulbs.com

Ford

Front Row Motorsports

41

Kurt Busch

Monster Energy / Haas Automation

Ford

Stewart-Haas Racing

42

Kyle Larson

Credit One Bank / DC Solar

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

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

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

 Front Row Motorsports

         

 



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



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