Key figures in 2020-21 Silly Season
Aric AlmirolaCurrent ride: No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The scoop: Almirola has been a playoff fixture during his three-year tenure at SHR and a preseason crew chief change has helped him reach new heights. Almirola confirmed he had a deal to return in 2021 on Sept. 1.
William ByronCurrent ride: No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The scoop: Three days after Byron's first career win, Hendrick Motorsports announced it had extended the young driver's contract through the 2022 season. Byron qualified for the 2020 NASCAR Playoffs with his victory in the Aug. 29 regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway.
Noah GragsonCurrent ride: No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
The scoop: Gragson will be returning to JR Motorsports for the 2021 Xfinity Series season. In 2020 to date, he has notched two wins and has turned some heads with his aggressive, take-no-prisoners style of racing.
Corey LaJoieCurrent ride: No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The scoop: LaJoie confirmed on Aug. 21 that he and Go Fas will mutually part ways at the end of the 2020 season and that he is in "discussions with several other opportunities to continue improving competitively in the Cup Series." His heartfelt letter to Rick Hendrick to let him know his interest in the No. 48 seat is already well known. His personality and passion for the sport are well showcased on MRN's "Sunday Money" and a move to a mid-tier team similar to what Matt DiBenedetto has done in recent years feels like it could be in the offing.
Christopher BellCurrent ride: No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The scoop: Joe Gibbs Racing announced Aug. 10 that Christopher Bell would drive the No. 20 Cup Series car in 2021. It was announced earlier that Erik Jones, who currently occupies that seat, would not return to JGR after the 2020 season. Bell will continue to drive for Leavine Family Racing until the end of this season with LFR selling its charter beyond 2020. Bell has found solid footing and several top 10s in the last month after a slow start.
Tyler ReddickCurrent ride: No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The scoop: Reddick casually announced he will be staying with Richard Childress Racing in 2021 on a Aug. 7 Zoom call -- the day after Erik Jones’ Joe Gibbs Racing departure became public news. The rookie will return to his No. 8 Chevrolet, which hasn’t made it to Victory Lane in 2020 just yet but did place runner-up to his own teammate, Austin Dillon, at Texas Motor Speedway in July. A playoff run wouldn’t be surprising for the 24-year-old, as he sits just one spot below the cutoff line with six races remaining in the regular season.
Erik JonesCurrent ride: No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The scoop: Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Aug. 6 it would part ways Jones following the 2020 season. The 24-year-old is having an up-and-down year and finds himself a free agent with six races remaining in the regular season. His 2020 contract was a one-year deal from the get-go.
Brad KeselowskiCurrent ride: No. 2 Team Penske Ford in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The scoop: Team Penske took Keselowski off the open market by signing him to a contract extension on Aug. 3. The 2012 champ will return to the No. 2 Ford in 2021, putting to rest one of the biggest question marks we had entering Silly Season.
Matt DiBenedettoCurrent ride: No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The scoop: DiBenedetto has put together a solid half season with the historic Wood Brothers Racing organization and has the team squarely in the playoff mix. While a return to the Woods is a strong possibility, could a Keselowski return to Penske combined with Austin Cindric's emergence leave him feeling squeezed?
Austin CindricCurrent ride: No. 22 Team Penske Ford in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
The scoop: Cindric has certainly boosted his stock this summer with four Xfinity wins in a five-race stretch from Kentucky to Road America. Penske's alliance with Wood Brothers gives them an extra seat to play with amidst the yearly game of driver musical chairs. And there's this question: Would a fourth year in the Xfinity ranks be of value to Cindric? On Aug. 11, Cindric admitted while he would love to stay with the Penske-Ford camp, he is in the process of "understanding what's out there."
Jimmie JohnsonCurrent ride: No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The scoop: What is the retiring seven-time champ doing here? Well, he is only retiring from full-time racing in NASCAR. It's not hard to picture him being in the field at say Sonoma or Watkins Glen in 2021 and perhaps a few other select events in addition to his potential IndyCar dabbling.
Bubba WallaceCurrent ride: No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The scoop: Wallace has seen an uptick in his performance this season with a little more speed and better finishes in the No. 43. That combined with his personality and willingness to be a spokesperson for social change make him an appealing option to teams.
Clint BowyerCurrent ride: No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The scoop: Bowyer has said he wants to retire at SHR and would like to return for 2021. The emergence of Chase Briscoe could play a role in Bowyer's future as well. Should things not work out, his work on Xfinity telecasts with FS1 and FOX could lead to more opportunities with the network.
Chase BriscoeCurrent ride: No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
The scoop: Briscoe is cut very much from the same cloth as team co-owner Tony Stewart. The 2020 Xfinity season has been a breakout year for Briscoe, and it's going to be hard to keep him out of the Cup ranks -- whether that's with SHR or another team.
Matt KensethCurrent ride: No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The scoop: Seemingly out of nowhere, Kenseth returned to take over the reins of the No. 42 when NASCAR returned from its COVID-19 hiatus. The results may not have quite lived up to expectations, so it's hard to see them running it back in 2021.
Ross ChastainCurrent ride: No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
The scoop: Chastain is running a full Xfinity slate for Kaulig this season and dabbled as a fill-in while Ryan Newman was sidelined. His ties with the Ganassi camp remain an intriguing factor when considering his possibilities for the future.
Daniel HemricCurrent ride: No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
The scoop: Hemric is running the bulk of the schedule for the No. 8 team and still searching for that elusive first national series win. Last year's Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the Cup ranks should be on the short list for the numerous mid-tier rides that seem to open up each year.