Editor’s note: Amy is sidelined this week with a wrist injury, but the column must go on. Get well soon, Amy!
1. Where could Christopher Bell end up?
The Oklahoman tore through the Camping World Truck Series competition on his way to the championship last year, and he’s leading the XFINITY Series in wins this season with three (so far). Sooner or later, the Norman native will jump into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (it will probably have a different name by then, but that’s another story). But all four Joe Gibbs Racing MENCS cars are currently filled, and Furniture Row already cut back to one car before losing 5-Hour Energy last week. So they probably don’t have room, either.
Rumors are flying that Leavine Family Racing will switch to Toyota next season and become a JGR affiliate. Kasey Kahne has driven a Toyota before, for Red Bull Racing’s final year of existence in 2011. He scored a win, two poles, eight top fives and 15 top 10s that season. But he’s finished 12th or worse in the standings seven of the past eight years, and at 38, his career is definitely on the downswing. Maybe Kahne could run a split schedule next season with Bell to give him Cup experience, similar to how LFR split the season between Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon several years ago.
Denny Hamlin is likely at JGR until at least 2020, so, hypothetically, Bell’s rookie season could be 2020 (either in the No. 95 or a full-time return of the LFR second car, the No. 59) and then slide into the No. 11 in 2021, similar to how Erik Jones spent his rookie year at FRR in 2017 before graduating to the main team.
2 – 5. The Mustang is coming to Cup and the Supra to XFINITY next season. Assuming you had the power to issue decrees and could override current contracts, which manufacturer would join NASCAR, which model(s) would they run, and which organization would be their flagship team?
“I’d bring Honda into the NASCAR fold. The Accord would likely be the model of choice for the Cup Series, given that it’s most like other styles we see in the division and given that it’s also one of the best selling cars in the United States. Adding the Accord would likely attract the soccer mom/suburban demographic, and the affiliation would continue Honda’s rich legacy in motorsports.
“I could see Front Row Motorsports jumping onboard because of the assembled talent and the need for some impetus to push the organization toward a higher level of competition. An infusion of Honda funding and technical support couldn’t hurt. The Accord would also be the model of choice for the XFINITY Series, perhaps giving an upstart new organization an opportunity to enter the division. As for the Truck Series, I’d make the Ridgeline eligible by default.” – Mark Howell
“The Dodge Hellcat Challenger returning Mopar to the roost where it once was a major player would be a natural. Obviously, Petty Engineering would be a good fit as would Team Penske, whose NASCAR teams ran Dodges a few seasons [2003 – 2012]. Plus it would be one instance where the street counterpart of a NASCAR approved entry actually made more power than the NASCAR-legal variants.” – Matt Mclaughlin
“If I got to pick, I’d go out in left field and bring Kia into NASCAR. Its North American cars are made in Georgia and the Optima has previously raced in the Pirelli World Challenge. A team like Levine Family Racing might take a chance on them if they choose to race in the Cup Series. However, the XFINITY Series is a closer match to Kia’s previous experience in PWC.
“I’d expect they’d attract some interest from at least a couple lower budget teams there. Kia could even have a ready-built new ad campaign with their hamster mascots in race cars, though for some that might bring back bad memories of Fox’s Digger.” – Dan Greene
“Ideally, five or six manufacturers would be represented, like what you see in Supercross. Honda would be a good choice, though I would choose their Civic as the XFINITY car because there is some level of familiarity to racing with that model since it was run in the Red Bull Global Rallycross Series. Also, it seems more similar to the Mustang and Camaro than the Accord.
“But my choice would be Nissan, running the Titan in the Truck Series and either the Altima or Sentra in XFINITY and Cup, as either of those feel more akin to Toyota’s Camry. For the team, I’m going to say Chip Ganassi Racing, who build around Chase Briscoe and John Hunter Nemechek after Kyle Larson wins a title and promptly retires to run on dirt full-time, with the CGR NXS team and a no-longer-shoestring-budget NEMCO Motorsports as their feeder pipeline.” – Wesley Coburn
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