No silly season at Hendrick Motorsports

Steve Mickey

By Steve Mickey

NASCAR Columnist

The calendar is just about to turn over to August and if you have been a fan of the sport for any length of time then you know that August is the “unofficial” beginning of the sport’s Silly Season. Now the Silly Season consist of all of the rumors that are circulating around the Cup garage about changes that may or may not being going to take place before the start of the following season.

The rumors run the gauntlet from driver and crew member switching teams to teams switching manufacturers. Furniture Row Racing with driver Martin Truex Jr. has been rumored since early in the year to be considering changing from Chevrolet to Toyota for the 2016 season. Toyota has said publicly that it would like to add the one-car team to their lineup but the Denver, Colorado based team has yet to announce their plans for next season.

Toyota’s lineup now features Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing but again rumors concerning Toyota’s plans for next season may include Chip Ganassi Racing that now campaigns Chevrolets. If Ganassi does make the move to Toyota there is speculation that MWR may move to Chevrolet.

It is hard to believe that MWR would like to move to Chevrolet next season as it would find itself way down in the pecking order of organizations that campaign under the bowtie emblem. Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing are the poster boys for Chevrolet. Richard Childress also has a long running relationship with Chevrolet with a history of winning championships.

If MWR wants to stay with Toyota it needs to return to a three-car operation. That may be difficult as the contract with long time sponsor Aaron’s is up at the end of the season and there has been no word of the two sides talking about an extension. So it could be that instead of finding a new sponsor for a third team that the organization will have to find another primary sponsor for one team to go along with Five Hour Energy that will be returning to Clint Bowyer’s team next season.

While any change in manufacturers in the sport makes the headlines, the biggest splashes comes anytime a driver changes teams. Last season it was the season long talk about the future of Roush-Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards. The drama played out for months before it was officially announced that he would be making the move to Joe Gibbs Racing.

One organization that never seems to be at the center of any Silly Season rumors is Hendrick Motorsports and this year is no different. HMS has a history of moving quickly anytime a possible change arises. The announcement that Chase Elliott would be taking over for the retiring Jeff Gordon next season was made early so both drivers could concentrate on the season at hand and not have to answer questions about possible changes.

HMS driver Jimmie Johnson’s contract is set to run out at the end of the season but he told reporters last week that he along with crew chief Chad Knaus are putting the finishing touches on a new contract with Lowe’s and Hendrick. This will be his fourth contract with HMS since he first made the move to the Cup level in 2001. His last contract was a six-year deal that runs through the end of this season.

PIT NOTES: Sunday’s starting lineup at Indy only included one driver that had started every Cup race at the track since the first one in 1994. Jeff Gordon was the only driver to have started all 22 races and was honored by the track when he was presented with a ring for winning last year’s race. It was his fifth Indy winner’s ring but it will be his last as he finished 42nd after being involved in a wreck early in the race.

Race Preview:

Event: Windows 10 400

Track: Pocono Raceway (2.5 mile tri-oval, turn 1-14o of banking, turn 2-8o of banking, turn 3-6o of banking)

Date: July 26, 1:30 p.m.


Radio: MRN

Defending Champion: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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