With another NASCAR Cup Series season now in the history books, it is time to look ahead to 2022 and with the driver market always being a rather frenzied environment, the negotiations for the following year have already begun.
Negotiations that in some cases have already been completed and with a number of driver changes already announced for 2022, it is now time to make sense of what has been going on away from pitlane.
Arguably the biggest switch for 2022 will see Brad Keselowski leave Team Penske after a contract expiration and with rumours abound as to where he would subsequently end up, the answer comes courtesy of Roush Fenway Racing.
While with the deal carrying a little more weight than just a standard driver switch, it will mean that the No.6 car that is currently operated by Roush Fenway Racing, will not only be driven by Keselowski but he will also take a stake in the team’s ownership.
This deal was one that was inked during the summer and with news of the 37-year-old’s imminent departure coming as early as May of this year, confirmation of a switch from Penske to Roush Fenway was made just two months later.
While for those who like to place a NASCAR wager from time to time, a change of team could be good news for Keselowski and therefore backing the No.6 to victory in 2022, could be well worth your dollars.
Especially if you make good use of a Fanduel sportsbook bonus and with a number of offers available to both new and existing members, winning the race to profitability is something that may be achievable when NASCAR returns in February of next year. Currently I found odds from two sportsbooks that have Keselowski +3000 and +1800 to win the title in 2022.
With Team Penske looking to fill the Keselowski-shaped void that had been created, his replacement would also be announced in July of this year and with Austin Cendric making the move from the Xfinity Series, his part-time stint with the squad is now permanent.
Although he drove part-time in the No.33 car last year, Cendric made his name in the Xfinity Series rather than the Series Cup and after claiming last year’s Xfinity championship, his move to the top class has been keenly anticipated.
Especially as at one stage, it looked as if Cendric would be making a switch to Wood Brothers Racing for 2022 and although a deal looked very close to being completed, the above movement from Keselowski had a knock-on effect elsewhere.
Even though the failure to land Cendric would have been a bitter pill to swallow, it must be remembered that Wood Brothers Racing are a Penske-affiliated team and when the bosses come knocking, their desires must be adhered to.
Which meant Wood Brothers Racing missed out on the 2020 Xfinity Series winner and instead plumped for Harrison Burton. His arrival also means that Matt DiBenedetto now finds himself as a free agent for 2022.
While another high-profile move for 2022 is one that involves Kurt Busch and with his contract at Chip Ganassi Racing coming to an end by 2021, a number of teams were reportedly vying for his signature.
A battle that was eventually won by 23XI Racing and with their plans to expand to a two-car team being confirmed in August, it means that Busch will now compete in the No.45 Toyota – a number connected to team co-owner Michael Jordan.
They are not the only moves that have been agreed during 2021 and with the Trackhouse Racing Team announcing the signature of Ross Chastain, the 29-year-old will be tasked with piloting the No.1 Chevrolet.
While Ryan Preece announced back in September that he would not be returning to JTG Daugherty Racing for 2022 and as a consequence, the Chevrolet team will be running just the No.47 car of Ricky Stenhouse Jr next year.
It is all change at GMS Racing, as Ty Dillon will link up with the team in 2022, while in doing so, he will partner Erik Jones in another Chevrolet-powered team and when it comes to new partners, Todd Gillard is the new running mate for Michael McDowell at Front Row Motorsports.
With a handful of seats still unfilled for 2022, the likes of Live Fast Motorsports and Rick Ware Racing will still need to get on the phone to talk to prospective drivers and in the case of the latter, they will have to work twice as hard.
Because at the time of writing, they do not have any drivers for 2022 and with options running thin in terms of those who are available, it could mean that it is rather slim pickings for the Rick Ware Racing owners.
Those respective deals should be signed in the next few weeks and once the full entry list of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series is announced, the countdown to February’s Daytona 500 will begin in earnest.