This season is almost over, but not all the dominoes from Silly Season 2017 have finished dropping, which means that underdog drivers are racing for their jobs next year, and their race teams are seeking survival. Why is this important? Because of all the behind-the-scenes employees who could potentially be out of work if their race team shuts down – the office workers, the mechanics, the hauler drivers.
Some drivers know their 2018 fate already –for example, Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola upgrade to Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing, while Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne and Darrell Wallace, Jr. will join the Wood Brothers, Leavine Family Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports, respectively.
Matt DiBenedetto returns to Go FAS, Ty Dillion stays at Germain and the JTG Daughtery duo of AJ Allmendinger and Chris Buescher will stay put. But teams like Front Row Motorsports have yet to confirm their 2018 lineup, and BK Racing has been plagued by financial uncertainty all year. Can alliances with larger teams like Richard Childress Racing continue to work well for these smaller teams? Will first-year full-time Cup Series teams like TriStar Motorsports or Rick Ware Racing be able to return? Will Premium Motorsports or Circle Sport continue to rotate drivers? Could the part-time teams like Motorsports Business Management, Beard Motorsports or Gaunt Brothers Racing be back for the restrictor-plate mayhem, or even more?
There are still plenty of questions for teams to answer.
Top of the class: Texas: Playoff contender Blaney led nine laps and finished sixth in the No. 21, but needs to cross the line first next week in order to race for the championship in Miami: “We need to try to go win the race, that’s really the only thing we can do.”
Almirola had back-to-back top-20 finishes for the Petty No. 43 with his run in 15th, and the No. 47 of AJ Allmendinger ended a rough month with a very good lead-lap 16th-place finish.
Passing grades: Michael McDowell was 21st, followed immediately by Chris Buescher, with Ty Dillion, DiBenedetto and Landon Cassill clocking in at 24th through 26th – all of which are good runs for their teams. Cole Whitt finished 29th for TriStar, which opened the season strong before the realities of underdog life set in.
Needs Improvement: David Ragan was 30th in the second Front Row car, followed by Reed Sorenson (31st) and Joey Gase (32nd). Jeffrey Earnhardt matched his car number at 33rd, which is a decent run for the Circle Sport/TMG team. Ray Black, Jr. was 34th in the No. 51. David Starr (MBM No. 66) and the BK Racing pair of Corey Lajoie and Gray Gaulding brought up the rear due to an accident and engine failures.
RPM picked up a three-race sponsorship deal for next season with Click n’ Close, including the Daytona 500.
Among the entries for this weekend’s Can-Am 500K at Phoenix (Sunday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBC) are Derrike Cope in the No. 00 StarCom Racing Chevy, trying to make the team’s second-ever race. Gase returns in the TBR No. 7, DJ Kennington is back in Premium’s No. 15, and Lajoie is in the BK No. 23. Drivers have not yet been announced for the BK No. 83, or for Rick Ware’s No. 51. The No. 55 and No. 66 are not entered.
How many times will I hear this weekend @TXMotorSpeedway "Ain't you that dude that flipped like 15 times, man I thought you were dead?"
— Michael McDowell (@Mc_Driver) November 3, 2017
Part of my friend letting me stay at his place for the weekend in Fort Worth includes babysitting his kid tonight while he’s gone pic.twitter.com/VLAAbxl2B5
— landon cassill (@landoncassill) November 4, 2017
— Front Row Motorsports (@Team_FRM) November 5, 2017