The Nascar world was rocked today by the news that Tyler Reddick considered naming his unborn child “Ryker”
before settling on “Beau”. Sliding under the radar was the news that Jimmie Johnson would retire from full-time driving
after the 2020 season. While Hendrick Motorsports has seen better days, a fully-funded car for a major team is quite the plum ride (and I’m not just talking about Ally’s paint scheme). So who will get the nod to drive the 48 in 2021? Here’s the top candidates:
WHY HE MAKES SENSE: He’s shown he can compete even while driving for a “good but not great” team like Ganassi. He’s tangentially connected to HMS through Ganssi’s use of Chevy’s and HMS engines. And he seems to be a free-agent after the 2020 season, although Nascar contracts seem to be barely worth the paper they’re printed on (especially if they use something with a really fancy watermark).
WHY HE DOESN’T: He’s repeatedly said he’s faithful to Chip Ganassi for signing him without any funding attached. Moving from Ganassi to HMS might not be enough of a step-up to convince him to move. And if he leaves the 42 car, he’ll have no more chances to run Kyle Petty throwback schemes at Darlington!
SPADE RACING ODDS: 4:1
WHY HE MAKES SENSE: He’s already in the HMS system via JR Motorsports, and seems to come with sponsorship as well through Switch. He’ll have two years of Xfinity experience under his belt by 2021. And it doesn’t hurt that “Noah Gragson” lends itself to some pretty cool nicknames (The Gragster? Agro-Grag? No-ahhhhhyeeeeeah?)
WHY HE DOESN’T: He hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in Xfinity this year. He’s super-young and might not react well to the pressure of replacing Jimmie Johnson. And he’s from Las Vegas, and the last time we had a Vegas driver in a Hendrick Chevy, we had Kyle Busch’s soul-patch.
SPADE RACING ODDS: 5:1
WHY HE MAKES SENSE: He’s already in the Chevy system as a driver for Kaulig Racing. He’s shown that when given decent equipment, he can win races. And just think how many wins he’ll have under his belt after 2020…under his belt so that Nascar doesn’t take them away again for failing inspection.
WHY HE DOESN’T: He came up the same way as Alex Bowman, who hasn’t exactly dominated in Cup so far. He supposedly has a developmental deal with Ganassi. And do you really want even MORE stories about how he’s just a simple watermelon farmer blah blah BLAH…
SPADE RACING ODDS: 10:1, goes to 5:1 if Larson re-ups with Ganassi.
WHY HE MAKES SENSE: His deals with Stewart-Haas Racing have been pretty short, likely leaving him free to leave in 2021. He’s arguably the top driver in Nascar with a lack of sponsorship. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s friendly with just about everyone in the sport…well, except for Jerry Stazowski, Nascar official—and HE KNOWS WHAT HE DID.
WHY HE DOESN’T: He’ll be 41 years old next year. His performance seems to have, at the very least, leveled-off. And he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy Ally would align with (“I’m Clint Bowyer, and after a hard night of racin’ and partyin’, I like to wake up and check on my money market accounts online!”)
SPADE RACING ODDS: 12:1
WHY HE MAKES SENSE: Should be virtually unattached to any team or manufacturer after the 2020 season. Has shown he CAN compete when he has good equipment. And he has the rarely thing of all in 21st-century Nascar—a personality.
WHY HE DOESN’T: “Awkward” is the best way to describe his relationship with Alex Bowman. He has a tendency to tear up equipment. And the last time a former Petty driver wound up at Hendrick Motorsports, it was Wally Dallenbach Jr.
SPADE RACING ODDS: 40:1
Chase Elliott Clone
WHY HE MAKES SENSE: Would come with familiarity with the HMS system. Has tons of sponsorship appeal. And could split Nascar’s biggest driver fanbase without destroying it.
WHY HE DOESN’T: Cloning doesn’t exist yet. Side-effects remain unknown. And if both Chases fight each other it could cause the entire time-space continuum to implode.
SPADE RACING ODDS: 1,000:1