NASCAR: Top free agent seeking a new ride for 2024

Zane Smith, Front Row Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Zane Smith, Front Row Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) /

Truck Series driver Zane Smith has emerged as arguably the top remaining free agent for the 2024 NASCAR season, but there is no clear landing spot for him.

With many of the big-name NASCAR Cup Series drivers, including Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Ross Chastain, having signed contract extensions to remain with their current teams after entering the season as pending free agents, the top remaining free agent is arguably no longer a Cup Series driver.

And with John Hunter Nemechek having signed with Legacy Motor Club to move up from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series, the top free agent might not even be in the Xfinity Series.

Zane Smith is currently in the process of trying to land a new ride for the 2024 season. The Front Row Motorsports Truck Series driver had been linked to his organization’s Cup Series team, but they ultimately decided to stick with Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland next year.

Smith has competed for the Bob Jenkins-owned team in five races so far in the 2023 Cup Series season, and he has plans to compete in two more. But with a full-time ride for 2024 out of the question, he was granted approval to search elsewhere, even after signing a contract that ties him to the team through 2026.

The 24-year-old Huntington Beach, California native reportedly made contact with Trackhouse Racing Team about a 2024 Cup seat, but they simply don’t have room for him after re-signing Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

And while a third full-time seat is possible for the Justin Marks and Pitbull-owned team, PROJECT91 race winner Shane van Gisbergen has already been signed.

There are still a few good Cup Series possibilities for Smith next year, including the No. 10 Ford at Stewart-Haas Racing if Aric Almirola decides to retire. But Almirola’s decision is still up in the air, and even if he calls it quits, there is no guarantee that Smith will get the seat.

Among other possibilities is the No. 31 Chevrolet at Kaulig Racing, which Justin Haley is set to leave upon moving to Rick Ware Racing.

All things considered, we are not going to be the ones to doubt Zane Smith and his ability to find the right fit and get a deal done for the 2024 NASCAR season.

Back at the end of the 2021 season, after he lost his ride with GMS Racing despite back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Truck Series championship standings, he made over 100 phone calls in an attempt to land a ride for the 2022 season.

Despite the apparent hopelessness of the situation, his call to Front Row Motorsports was returned, and the two parties agreed on a deal. Smith rewarded them with a championship in 2022, and with multiple wins in 2023, he has a good chance to defend his title.

Now he could end up in a similar situation.

Outside the Cup Series, he could certainly be a viable candidate for a number of Xfinity Series teams. While it would require a switch back to Chevrolet from Ford, which could present a challenge given his contract, JR Motorsports stands out as arguably the best one, with Josh Berry set to leave the No. 8 Chevrolet to join the Cup Series full-time as Kevin Harvick’s replacement at Stewart-Haas Racing.

Joe Gibbs Racing could also make sense, given the fact that Nemechek is set to move up to the Cup Series and the team will have an open seat. Again, a switch to Toyota would make things a bit more difficult, but it’s not out of the question. Smith made his first ever NASCAR start with Toyota back in 2018.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

And let’s not forget one simple fact: he hasn’t been kicked to the curb or released by his current team, nor has he spurned them by saying he is leaving; he could still end up back at Front Row Motorsports in the Truck Series for another year. They have simply given him approval to search elsewhere; it’s not like they have reneged on their contract.