On the Move - Who’s driving where in 2018 - South Dade News Leader: Opinion

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On the Move - Who’s driving where in 2018

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Posted: Friday, August 25, 2017 1:30 am

   Before the NASCAR season commenced at Daytona International Speedway in February, there were a number of racing teams that took on a different look in terms of personnel for 2017. From a driver perspective, there were many who found new homes with different racing teams, giving them an opportunity for a fresh start to their careers.

   For one, Tony Stewart’s retirement following the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season led to a vacant position on his Stewart-Haas Racing team. The void left by the three-time Monster Energy Series champion (2002, ‘05, ‘11) was filled by 12-year Cup Series veteran Clint Bowyer, who made the jump from the No. 15 car for HScott Motorsports into the No. 14 car for Stewart-Haas.

   In addition to Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, also found a new home. Suarez’s move was different from Bowyer’s, however, as the 25-year-old made the jump from the NASCAR XFINITY Series to the Monster Energy Series. Suarez took over the No. 20 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, which was previously occupied by 2016 Championship 4 participant at Homestead-Miami Speedway Carl Edwards, who retired prior to the start of the 2017 campaign. 

   Bowyer and Suarez are just two of the numerous drivers who are competing on new teams this season. And though there are still 12 races to go in the 2017 Monster Energy Series season, there has actually already been quite a few announcements about shakeups and driver changes coming to NASCAR in 2018.

   The biggest news came at the end of April when NASCAR’s 14-time most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his retirement from the Monster Energy Series after the 2017 season. Like Stewart, Earnhardt will leave some big shoes to fill following his last race, which will be the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19. Fans will still be able to enjoy Earnhardt’s personality and charisma as he is set to join the NBC broadcast booth in 2018.

Replacing Earnhardt in his No. 88 car is 24-year-old Alex Bowman.     

   Bowman was behind the wheel for 10 races last year while Earnhardt recovered from a concussion. During that span, Bowman won a pole in November at Phoenix Raceway, where he led 194 of the 324-lap race. He also posted three top-10 finishes.

   Beginning next year, he will try to add on to the legacy left behind by Earnhardt.

    Another big name who is making a change next season is Ryan Blaney, who won at Pocono Raceway earlier this year. Blaney, who is just 23 years of age, is one of the rising stars in the sport.   

   As a result, it is no

surprise that he will be joining the Team Penske in 2018, driving the No. 12 Ford. It will be the first time since 2010 that Team Penske fields three full-time entries, as he will race alongside his new teammates 2012 Monster Energy Series champion Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. With Blaney moving to Penske, Wood Brothers Racing signed 11-year Cup Series veteran Paul Menard to run the No. 21 car.

   Likewise, two other high-profile drivers are set to change racing teams next year. 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Erik Jones, who has been competing under the Furniture Row Racing banner this season, will make the move to Joe Gibbs racing in 2018. The transition was announced in July after the team decided that 2003 Monster Energy Series champion Matt Kenseth would not be returning to the organization. The other driver who will be switching racing teams prior to next year’s campaign is 19-year-old William Byron, who has accumulated three victories this year in his rookie season of the XFINITY Series. He will transition from the XFINITY Series to the Cup series where he will replace Kasey Kahne in the No. 5 car. These moves ultimately make Kahne and Kenseth two of the most recognizable free agents heading into next season.

   As we head into the playoffs, there will certainly be more moves and changes to come for drivers and race teams. We will wait to see what else transpires over the next several of months.

NASCAR ACTION THIS WEEKEND

Sunday, August 27 at 3:00 PM (ET)

NASCAR XFINITY Series Johnsonville 180 at Road America

Tune In: NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

*The Monster Energy Series and Camping World Truck Series are off this weekend and will return September 3.*

UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

Aug. 26-27 

Formula & Automobile Racing Association

Sept. 8  

Fast Lane Friday presented by The Ticket Clinic

Sept. 9  

Miami Exotic Auto Racing

Sept. 10 

Florida Track Days

Sept. 16-17 

Sports Car Club of America

Sept. 23-24 Performance Driving Group

2017 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES

Nov. 17  

Ford EcoBoost 200 Camping World Truck Series Championship Race

Nov. 18  

Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race

Nov. 19  

Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy Series Championship Race

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