NASCAR and its fans are experiencing one of the wildest silly season’s in its sports history and while every driver is valuable in their own way, some are obviously more crucial to a team then others. With that being said, here are five drivers that deserve to keep their rides when Cup Series teams unload at Daytona International Speedway in February and five drivers who should be let go at years end.
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Stay : Kurt Busch
While Kurt Busch has only won one race this season and hasn’t done much since then, him and teammate, Kevin Harvick are the only two SHR drivers with wins this season and the team should be willing to give him another chance in the #41 car. Of course a lot of this is contingent on what sponsorship is brought to the table, but its at least a promising sign that Kurt Busch is open to going back to SHR if they make him an offer.
With that being said, there was only one other time that a defending Daytona 500 winner was ousted by there team at the end of the year and that was Matt Kenseth in 2012. Fortunately for Kenseth, he quickly rebounded with JGR and went on to win 14 races in six years before the announcement was made that he was once again being let go.
Go Danica Patrick
Its no secret that The Danica Patrick experiment has quickly derailed into one of the biggest disasters in NASCAR history, but with Danica Patrick and Stewart Haas Racing having an opt out option heading into the 2018 season and the talent that is literally chomping at the bit to have their shot at NASCAR’s highest level, its about time both parties just give up and agree to part ways.
That’s not to say Patrick can’t still be apart of the sport and maybe land with another team, but she and her fans are delirious if they think its going to be anything as good as what she has with Stewart Haas Racing. Unfortunately for the former Daytona 500 pole winner, Patrick isn’t helping her case by demanding to only run Cup races and only if they are up to her standards.
Stay Matt Kenseth
Of course this is just an opinion, but JGR is definitely losing one of their best drivers by giving up Matt Kenseth at the end of the season. Sure, he hasn’t won a championship since coming to JGR in 2013, which was the original goal for the two time Daytona 500 winner, its impossible to say that he hasn’t come close on multiple occasions during his tenure with the team.
In the end, Kenseth is out and Erik Jones is in which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Kenseth already had a top notch option elsewhere, but there’s just something about a former Cup Series champion being removed from a top level ride that just leaves a sour taste in your mouth. What makes the situation worse however is the fact that there is the possibility of him being forced into retirement at the end of the season if he doesn’t find a new ride soon.
Go Kasey Kahne
While Kasey Kahne definitely deserves to land somewhere in 2018, his current stats aren’t enough to warrant him keeping his ride at Hendrick Motorsports. Whether that’s because of his performance over the past couple of years alone, or the fact that denying William Byron a Cup Series ride at this point would be a travesty is up for fans to decide, but both are good arguments for why Kahne is and should be done with Hendrick in 2018.
With that being said, it was nice to see him at least secure one last win with the team at The Brickyard 400 before he sets off into his next venture and he definitely have a chance to show potential teams what he is capable of in this years playoffs, which is always a good thing. In the end though, there might not be a lot of options left for Kahne, especially with a lot of top rides being locked up so early in the silly season.
Stay: Clint Bowyer
As much as i would love to condemn Clint Bowyer to obscurity for his lackluster performance this season, its not like he walked into the best situation to start with. Sure, Bowyer and his team need to find some speed in the coming weeks or miss making the playoffs in his first year, but its important to remember that Tony Stewart was only able to win one race last season and was eliminated from last year’s playoffs in the first round.
With that being said, Bowyer might want to notch up some victories and some championships while he can, because Tony Stewart is a business man before anything else and he is no doubt going to put the best driver in the car every single time. Maybe its too early to judge The Clint Bowyer experiment and maybe its not, but its not looking good so far, especially since Bowyer is now with a playoff capable team.
Go: Denny Hamlin
Joe Gibbs Racing made a huge mistake this season and that mistake came when they decided to oust Matt Kenseth from his #20 ride at the end of the season instead of giving Denny Hamlin the boot in favor of the young and talented, Erik Jones. There are many reasons for this opinion and while Hamlin does have a win and guaranteed playoff spot come September, which Kenseth does not, Kenseth has had the best overall performance.