Blog: NASCAR's 'Silly Season' heats up

By Paul Corliss

SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 Start

As NASCAR’s regular season winds down before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins, the sport’s so-called “silly season” is revving up. Here’s a team-by-team list of changes for drivers and/or car sponsors in 2011 …

Hendrick Motorsports : Even though Kasey Kahne has a signed a contract to join the powerful roster at Hendrick, all four current drivers – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin – will return in 2011. Kahne expects to drive for Hendrick in 2012, presumably after Martin retires.

Hendrick is seeking primary sponsorship for both Gordon’s and Martin’s car. DuPont, the long-time sponsor for Gordon’s iconic ride, may still be in the mix. Wal-Mart is also rumored as a potential candidate to take over sponsorship for the No. 24.

Penske Racing : Another iconic ride – the Miller Light “Blue Deuce” – is changing hands at Penske. Kurt Busch will move out of the No. 2 and into a new Dodge at Penske: The No. 22, sponsored by Shell/Pennzoil. Brad Keselowski will leave Penske’s No. 12 behind and move into the 2. The team’s third car – Sam Hornish’s No. 77 – is in doubt for 2011, as primary sponsor Mobil has not renewed its deal with Penske.

Red Bull Racing : The only certainty at Red Bull Racing is that Kahne has a one-year deal to drive for the team in 2011. After making the Chase for Red Bull in 2009, Brian Vickers has sat out most of the 2010 season with a blood clot condition. Red Bull’s other driver, Scott Speed, continues to toil in the middle of the pack (he’s currently 27th in the season standings). No word on whether Red Bull will drop either Speed or Vickers (who’s expected to be healthy in 2011) or run three teams next season.

Richard Childress Racing : Kevin Harvick’s No. 29 team switches primary sponsorship from Shell/Pennzoil to Budweiser in 2011. The points leader for most of 2010 unveiled his new paint scheme last week in a press conference. RCR will also add a fourth car in 2011, as Paul Menard – along with his Menards sponsorship – moves in after racing for Richard Petty Motorsports in 2010.

Richard Petty Motorsports : RPM will likely go from four teams in 2010 to two teams in 2011. Departing the King’s stable are Kahn, Menard and Elliot Sadler (who has not yet lined up a ride for 2011). A.J. Allmendinger will be back in the No. 43 car that Richard Petty made famous, and Australian Marcos Ambrose will move into the No. 9 that’s currently piloted by Kahne.

Stewart-Haas Racing : Team owner and driver of the No. 14 Tony Stewart will lose his sponsorship with Old Spice after this season. Rumors are that Mobil will move to Stewart’s car. The team is also seeking additional sponsorship for Ryan Newman’s No. 39 and is rumored to be speaking with Wix Filters for that ride.

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