NASCAR: Driver change highlights 2022’s ‘missing car’

Ty Dillon, Petty GMS Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, Petty GMS Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

It was confirmed on Friday that Ty Dillon will not return to Petty GMS Motorsports for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

While not as shocking as the announcement that Tyler Reddick will be leaving Richard Childress Racing for 23XI Racing ahead of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, it was confirmed that Ty Dillon will not be back for what would have been a second season with Petty GMS Motorsports in 2023.

With the uncertainty surrounding Aric Almirola’s future at Stewart-Haas Racing, even though he said before the 2022 season began that he would retire once it ended, the confirmation that Dillon won’t be back behind the wheel of the #42 Chevrolet next year is technically the first confirmed driver change for the 2023 season.

However, it’s actually not the first change involving Dillon’s role in the Cup Series driver lineup this year.

Last October, GMS Racing announced that they would be making their Cup Series debut in the 2022 season and that they would be doing so with Dillon behind the wheel of the #94 Chevrolet.

Dillon, who tested a Next Gen #94 Chevrolet late last year, did not compete full-time in the 2021 Cup Series season after Germain Racing, the team for which he drove the #13 Chevrolet from 2017 to 2020, shut down and sold their charter to the new Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan-owned 23XI Racing following the 2020 season.

But later on, it was announced that GMS Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports would be merging to form Petty GMS Motorsports.

The driver of Richard Petty’s #43 Chevrolet, Erik Jones, retained his seat. Additionally, using the charter that had been used by Rick Ware Racing (Petty Ware Racing), the Petty GMS Motorsports team announced that Dillon would drive the #42 Chevrolet, not the #94 Chevrolet. The number 42 was added due to its significance to the Petty family.

Prior to the 2022 season, however, the number 42 would not have been available. This number had been used by Chip Ganassi Racing for many years, but during the 2021 season, it was announced that Trackhouse Racing Team, which were in their first Cup Series season at the time, would be acquiring the Chip Ganassi Racing organization after the season ended.

Trackhouse Racing Team technically did not own the charter they had used to run the #99 Chevrolet for Daniel Suarez in 2021, and they were due to lose it at the conclusion of the season, so their purchase of the two-car Chip Ganassi Racing operation allowed them to expand from one car to two for 2022.

It was not a planned acquisition; Chip Ganassi Racing wasn’t up for sale at the time. But when presented with the vision that Justin Marks had for his team and for the sport, team owner Chip Ganassi couldn’t say no.

In their expansion from one car to two, the Marks and Pitbull-owned team opted to keep the number 1 as opposed to the number 42 from Ganassi’s team. They signed former Chip Ganassi Racing driver Ross Chastain, ironically the driver of the #42 Chevrolet in 2021, to drive the #1 Chevrolet in 2022.

As a result, the number 42 was able to be taken by Petty GMS Motorsports for their newly added second entry for Dillon, and there was never a #94 car on the race track during the 2022 season.

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Now the big question is this: who will become the fifth driver of the #42 Chevrolet in the last four years next season?