Each season, contracts come to a close and new ones are formed. Drivers switch teams, some willingly and others not by choice. 2013 saw many new pairings like Matt Kenseth in the No.20 or Joey Logano in the No.22.
This season, it might take a bit longer than usual to learn which driver is behind the wheel of what car. Multiple driver changes are happening in the Sprint Cup Series with some of your favorite drivers leaving their long-time teams and new faces being introduced.
If you can’t seem to remember them all, here is how they all break down:
STEWART-HAAS RACING: One of the most notable driver changes in 2014 will be the long-awaited move of Kevin Harvick. Harvick, who took over the No.29 (formerly the No.3), after the tragic passing of Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing, will pack up and move on over to Stewart-Haas Racing in the new No.4 with long-time friend Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch as teammates. Busch will also be a new face at the organization in 2014. Leaving the single car team of Furniture Row Racing, Busch will be making a jump to SHR into the No.41 after a surprising offer came from co-owner Gene Haas just a few months ago. Starting in 2014, SHR will be full force with a four-car lineup and four of the biggest personalities in the sport under the same roof.
RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING: Filling the vacant seat left by Harvick’s departure from RCR, the 2013 Nationwide Series Champion Austin Dillon will be making the jump up to the Sprint Cup Series full time in 2014. In an announcement just last week, RCR and Dillon revealed that the famed No.3 will be making its first appearance in NASCAR highest series since Earnhardt’s death in 2001. Dillon, who also won the 2011 Camping World Truck Series Championship, will be running for the 2014 Rookie of the Year award. Moving to RCR in 2014 will be Ryan Newman. Newman, vacating his seat at SHR, will be behind the wheel of the No.31. With Rookie Austin Dillon and Paul Menard, Newman will be the lead driver at the organization for the first time in his career.
FURNITURE ROW RACING: After his teammates actions cost him his spot in to 2013 Chase, then his sponsorship with NAPA and finally his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing, Martin Truex Jr. was left without a ride for 2014. Furniture Row Racing saw the perfect opportunity to pick up another talented racer to pilot their No.78 when Kurt Busch decided to move to SHR. Truex is on a multi-year contract with the team and after an impressive 2013 for the No.78 shop. In an alliance with RCR, Furniture Row Racing has all of the qualities to be a Championship contending race team once again in 2014.
MICHAEL WALTRIP RACING: A controversial blowout before the Chase left MWR scrambling to pick up the pieces of its organization. Loosing the contract to one of its major sponsors, NAPA, MWR had to cut back to a two-car team and said goodbye to Martin Truex Jr. The only returning full-time driver at the organization in 2014 will be Clint Bowyer in the No.15. Taking over the No.55 will be Brian Vickers after a long-awaited return to the track full-time. MWR will also be fielding a third car part-time, the No.66, with Jeff Burton and Michael Waltrip behind the wheel.
PHOENIX RACING: After multiple seasons in the Nationwide Series, Justin Allgaier is finally getting chance in the Sprint Cup Series with Phoenix Racing. Piloting the No.51, Allgaier will team up with Tony Stewart’s former Crew Chief Steve Addington as he runs for Rookie of the Year. Also driving for Phoenix Racing will be Bobby Labonte. This week, it was announced that Phoenix Racing would field a second car for the Daytona 500 with Labonte behind the wheel. No number or Crew Chief has been revealed yet.
JTG DAUGHERTY RACING: Making his return to the Sprint Cup Series full time after being suspended in 2012 for drug use, AJ Allmendinger will pilot the No.47 in 2014, replacing Bobby Labonte. With an alliance with RCR, this team will be in good hands with Allmendinger behind the wheel and this partnership could lead to a few race wins for this team in the coming years.
EARNHARDT-GANASSI RACING: With just one season in the Nationwide Series, Kyle Larson will be making the early jump to Sprint Cup in 2014. Replacing Juan Pablo Montoya behind the wheel of the No.42 Target Chevrolet, Larson will be running for Rookie of the Year against Dillon and Allgaier. Many think he is making the leap to the big leagues too soon and 2014 will be a big learning experience for this young driver.
TOMMY BALDWIN RACING: Michael Annett will be piloting the No.7 Chevrolet for TBR in 2014 and although this team isn’t expected to contend for wins, the full-time sponsorship Annett brings with him will do wonders for this small team. Given that they stay together for a few seasons, having Annett behind the wheel could be a great move for this organization. The organization is still looking for another driver to pilot the No.36.
Tags: 2014 AJ Allmendinger Austin Dillon Bobby Labonte Brian Vickers Driver Changes Jeff Burton Justin Allgaier Kevin Harvick Kurt Busch Kyle Larson Martin Truex Jr Michael Waltrip Michael Waltrip Racing NASCAR Richard Childress Racing Ryan Newman Sprint Cup Series Stewart-Haas Racing