Silly Season hit full stride on Wednesday as a surprise announcement from Team Penske and the Wood Brothers racing organizations made announcements. Roger Penske had hinted that his team was looking at a third car for Ryan Blaney, but when asked if it might be 2018, his only comment was it could be. This morning the answer changed to yes.
So, the next question was what’s going to happen to the Wood Brothers? No team in NASCAR is respected more than the Woods. Not only have they won 99 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, the two founders of the team are both in the Hall of Fame. Team Penske took care of the iconic team by apparently stealing Paul Menard away from Richard Childress’s organization along with sponsorship for the No. 21 Ford by the Menard family. Menard’s stores will sponsor the Woods in 22 races with Ford Motorcraft apparently sponsoring the remaining 14 races, though that hasn’t been announced.
The uncertainty now shifts to Richard Childress Racing along with driver Matt Kenseth, Bubba Wallace, and Kasey Kahne. Alex Bowman has a ride in Hendrick Motorsports No. 8, vacated by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Brad Keselowski has a multi-year deal. Eric Jones is replacing Kenseth in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing car, but still no news for Kenseth, Kahne, and Wallace.
Wallace was rumored to have been on the list for Blaney’s replacement at the Wood Brothers ride. I assume the sponsorship Menard could bring tilted the Woods to Menard. Richard Petty has hinted that he is searching for sponsorship to field a second car for Wallace, but sponsorship I fragile these days and at last word, the sponsorship for the 43 car hadn’t been signed, so that’s iffy at best.
The Menard move now opens a ride for Ty Dillon at RCR, but without sponsorship so far. The grandson of Childress will likely fill that seat if adequate sponsorship can be obtained. RCR has been very good at getting sponsors, and even though Childress said the makeup would be announced later, a lot of questions are left unanswered.
For Kenseth and Kahne, things are not looking good. Whenever car owner Rick Hendrick is asked, he gives a non-answer. “That’s a question for another time,” Hendrick said when asked if Kahne will be in the No. 5 Chevrolet in 2018. Kenseth was rumored to be a candidate for the No. 88 ride, but the Bowman announcement put that to rest. Who would have believed that Kenseth, a former champion of the top series who has 38 wins and averages almost two wins a year, would be without a ride for 2018?
Even with today’s announcements, a few things must be worked out. No sponsorship’s have been announced for Blaney’s No. 12 Ford, something that usually happens at these events. Though the Woods had a charter for 2017 leased, that must be obtained and a charter for the third Penske car will have to be leased or bought. Both Team Penske and the Wood Brothers indicated they were working on this problem. This will have to be announced later.
Still, although some questions have been answered, there are many more questions unanswered. It is still only July, a full seven months before the 2018 Daytona 500. Silly Season used to start in October, but it’s earlier these days. Who knows when the other shoe drops? Maybe tomorrow?