NASCAR’s silly season is in full effect. Drivers are changing teams. Sponsors are leaving and joining the sport and the public is anxiously awaiting an announcement on which driver will take over the No. 48 Chevy next year after Jimmie Johnson retires.
While team owner Rick Hendrick remains tight-lipped during the 2020 playoffs on the No. 48, there are teams with open seats and drivers who will be free agents after the last checkered flag at Phoenix this fall.
The Observer has compiled an early look at 2021 NASCAR Cup team rosters. This file will be updated with the latest contract news (with this year’s changes in parentheses). Drivers in italics are currently in contract years but expected to remain with their teams. This story was last updated Sept. 16.
Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas:
- No. 11 Denny Hamlin
- No. 18 Kyle Busch
- No. 19 Martin Truex Jr.
- No. 20 Christopher Bell (moving from the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota in 2021)
Team Penske Fords:
- No. 2 Brad Keselowski (signed year-long contract extension with Penske through 2021)
- No. 12 Ryan Blaney (signed a multi-year contract extension with Penske)
- No. 22 Joey Logano
Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets:
- No. 9 Chase Elliott
- No. 24 William Byron (signed contract extension with Hendrick through 2022)
- No. 48 TBD (Rick Hendrick indicated the team has made a pick, but is waiting to make the announcement)
- No. 88 Alex Bowman (signed year-long contract extension with Hendrick through 2021)
Stewart-Haas Racing Fords:
- No. 4 Kevin Harvick (signed two-year contract extension with SHR through 2023)
- No. 10 Aric Almirola (signed a contract extension for 2021)
- No. 14 Most likely Clint Bowyer (SHR’s vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said he expects no changes to the driver lineup next season, and Bowyer said he wants to return to the team in 2021)
- No. 41 Most likely Cole Custer (will finish this season as the Cup Series Rookie of the Year with at least one win, but although it is expected, it is not yet confirmed whether Custer will stay)
Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolets:
- No. 1 Kurt Busch
- No. 42 TBD (Matt Kenseth said it’s unlikely he will return to Cup racing next season, leaving speculation over who will fill the driver’s seat that was left open earlier this year by Kyle Larson)
Richard Childress Racing Chevrolets:
- No. 3 Austin Dillon (is having one of his best seasons in 2020. It is expected he’ll return, it has not been confirmed that Dillon will stay at RCR)
- No. 8 Tyler Reddick (said he will stay at RCR for 2021)
Roush Fenway Racing Fords:
- No. 6 Ryan Newman
- No. 17 Chris Buescher
Note: While it is likely both drivers will return for 2021, neither contract extension is confirmed.
JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolets:
- No. 37 Ryan Preece (could also be on the market for a new team in 2021 after signing a “multi-year contract” in 2019)
- No. 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet:
- No. 43 TBD (Bubba Wallace announced he would part with RPM after the 2020 season, but the team has not yet announced its replacement driver nor has Wallace announced a future destination)
Wood Brothers Racing Ford:
- No. 21 Matt DiBenedetto (said the team wanted a long-term relationship and has options for 2021 and 2022, but discussions are ongoing)
Front Row Motorsports Ford:
- No. 38 John Hunter Nemechek (surprised a lot of people with his rookie performance in the Cup Series this year, but Nemechek is believed to be a free agent after the season and could move elsewhere)
- No. 38 Michael McDowell (still unconfirmed whether McDowell will return to the No. 38 in 2021, but he secured this year’s deal late last season)
Germain Racing Chevrolet:
Note: Germain is losing its Geico sponsorship next season, according to FOX Sports, and is considering selling the team.
Go Fas Racing Ford:
- No. 32 TBD (Corey LaJoie announced he would part with Go Fas after the season, but the team has not yet announced a replacement driver and LaJoie has not announced his future team)
Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota:
- No. 95 TBD (Daniel Suárez announced he would part with GBR after 2021, but the team has not yet named a new driver and Suárez has not announced his next destination)
Spire Motorsports Chevrolets:
- No. 77 TBD
- Second car number and drive is unkown
Note: Spire will take over the charter of Leavine Family Racing in 2021, fielding two cars in the Cup Series. The team has an affiliation with Chip Ganassi Racing and would likely pull up drivers from the Xfinity Series to run its Cup cars next season.
Rick Ware Racing/Premium Motorsports:
Note: Ware purchased the charter of the No. 27, owned by Premium Motorsports, in May, according to FOX Sports. Brennan Poole, Joey Gase, J.J. Yeley, Reed Sorenson and Garrett Smithley have all driven cars for Ware in Cup Series events.
StarCom Racing Chevrolet:
- No. 00 Quin Houff (TBD how team progresses in Cup Series next year based on sponsorship)
MBM Motorsports Toyota:
- No. 66 Timmy Hill (TBD how team progresses in Cup Series next year based on sponsorship)
NASCAR drivers who don’t yet have teams for 2021:
- Bubba Wallace
- Daniel Suárez
- Corey LaJoie
- Erik Jones (will be released by JGR following the current season)
New teams in 2021:
- The Money Racing Team, backed by Floyd Mayweather and launched online in May.
- Trackhouse, backed by Justin Marks and could join the Cup Series as early as next season.
- Denny Hamlin has made comments expressing his interest in future team ownership, which could potentially include running a Cup team with Toyota backing in 2021. NASCAR president Steve Phelps said the sanctioning body would allow it if NASCAR determines the new team would not run as a second shell team for JGR.
Kyler Murray asked DeAndre Hopkins to own up to mistake leading to INT
One of the few mistakes Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has made this season was an interception against the Washington Football Team on Sunday. However, he would like it known it wasn’t all on him.
Receiver DeAndre Hopkins brought up the interception when he spoke to reporters on Tuesday. He took the blame for the turnover.
“I ran the wrong route, so the safety wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for me running the wrong route,” he said, noting the pick was “definitely” his fault. “I definitely hurt my team in that aspect.”
Both Hopkins and Andy Isabella were in the general vicinity of the throw. It appeared to be Isabella Murray was trying to target. He appeared to try and get the ball out quickly to that spot as there was pressure coming in his face. It resulted in a turnover.
Murray wanted Hopkins to own up to the mistake.
“I told him to tell you that because he did run the wrong route, but it’s all good,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury appreciates it, too. “I think first off, as a former quarterback, you definitely appreciate him owning that,” he said on Wednesday. “It shows his security as a player and what he’s about.”
Murray has owned up to mistakes he has made. The fact a superstar like Hopkins is willing to do this for his quarterback speaks volumes as to his character and how people in the locker room feel bout Murray.
Listen to the latest from Cards Wire’s Jess Root on his podcast, Rise Up, See Red. Subscribe on Apple podcasts or Spotify.
Nadal faces tough path to French Open final [Video]
COMPLETE SHOTLIST AND SCRIPT TO FOLLOW
VIDEO SHOWS: PLAYERS PRACTISING AT ROLAND GARROS – RAFAEL NADAL, DOMINIC THIEM, KAROLINA PLISKOVA, GARBINE MUGURUZA, VENUS WILLIAMS AND SOFIA KENIN
PARIS, FRANCE (SEPTEMBER 24, 2020) (FFT – SEE RESTRICTIONS BEFORE USE)
1. WORLD NUMBER TWO AND 12-TIMES FRENCH OPEN CHAMPION, RAFAEL NADAL WALKING ON TO THE PHILIPPE-CHATRIER COURT, WEARING A MASK
2. INTERIOR OF STADIUM, WITH THE ROOF CLOSED, NADAL PRACTISING ON COURT
3. VARIOUS OF NADAL PRACTISING
4. NADAL SAT DOWN, SPEAKING TO COACH, CARLOS MOYA
5. VARIOUS OF NADAL PRACTISING
6. NADAL WALKING ON COURT AND TALKING TO MOYA
7. NADAL WALKING TO HIS TOWEL AND WIPING HIS FACE
8. WORLD NUMBER THREE AND U.S. OPEN CHAMPION, DOMINIC THIEM (WHITE SHIRT) WALKING ON COURT AND TAPPING RACKETS WITH ANDY MURRAY (RED SHIRT) AND MURRAY’S COACH, JAMIE DELGADO, THIEM WALKING ON TO THE COURT
9. VIEW OF SUZANNE LENGLEN COURT AS THIEM PRACTISES
10. VARIOUS OF THIEM PRACTISING
11. WORLD NUMBER FOUR AND SECOND SEED, KAROLINA PLISKOVA (BLACK SHIRT) PRACTISING ON THE PHILIPPE-CHATRIER COURT
12. INTERIOR OF COURT WITH PLISKOVA PRACTISING
13. VARIOUS OF PLISKOVA PRACTISING
14. VIEW OF CLOSED ROOF / WORLD NUMBER 15 AND TWO-TIMES GRAND SLAM CHAMPION, GARBINE MUGURUZA PRACTISING
15. VARIOUS OF MUGURUZA PRACTISING
16. MUGURUZA’S COACH, CONCHITA MARTINEZ WATCHING ON
17. MUGURUZA PRACTISING
18. SEVEN-TIMES GRAND SLAM CHAMPION, VENUS WILLIAMS ON COURT, WEARING A MASK
19. WILLIAMS HAVING FUN ON COURT BEFORE TAKING JACKET OFF
20. WILLIAMS PRACTISING
21. WILLIAMS’ SHADOW SEEN ON COURT AS SHE PRACTISES
22. VARIOUS OF WILLIAMS PRACTISING
PARIS, FRANCE (SEPTEMBER 22, 2020) (FFT – SEE RESTRICTIONS BEFORE USE)
23. VARIOUS OF AUSTRALIAN OPEN CHAMPION AND WORLD NUMBER SIX, SOFIA KENIN PRACTISING
STORY: Rafael Nadal, who is seeking a record-extending 13th French Open title and a record-equalling 20th grand slam singles crown, was handed a relatively tough path to this year’s final at Roland Garros when the draw was made on Thursday (September 24).
The Spaniard will take on Bulgaria’s Egor Gerasimov in the first round and faces a potential last-eight clash with U.S. Open runner-up Alexander Zverev, who has never made it past the quarter-finals at the claycourt tournament.
Nadal then faces a possible semi-final clash against last year’s runner-up and U.S. Open winner Dominic Thiem.
Top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia will face Swede Mikael Ymer in the first round, where Swiss 16th seed and former champion Stan Wawrinka will take on Briton Andy Murray in the hottest opener.
Djokovic, who was ejected from the U.S. Open after he inadvertently hit a line judge in the throat with a ball after a point, has an easier route to the final than Nadal after being drawn in the same half as Russian fourth seed Daniil Medvedev.
Canadian Milos Raonic, the world number 20, pulled out, organisers said.
Serena Williams, hoping to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title, will start her campaign against fellow American Kristie Ahn.
The sixth seed, who was drawn in the same half as top seed Simona Halep, faces a potential fourth-round clash with U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka.
World number one and 2019 champion Ashleigh Barty has pulled out of the tournament citing the coronavirus pandemic and a troubled preparation.
With Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic a last-gasp withdrawal, only six of the top 10 in the WTA rankings will start the tournament.
The tournament was rescheduled from May 24-June 7 to Sept. 27-Oct. 11 amid the COVID-19 pandemic
It will be the first year with a retractable roof at the French Open which some of the players, including Nadal, practising with the roof closed on Thursday (September 24).
(Production: Tim Hart)
Prosecutors drop prostitution charges against Patriots owner Robert Kraft
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft won’t be facing trial on charges that he paid for sex on consecutive days at a Jupiter, Florida, massage parlor. According to court papers filed on Thursday, Florida prosecutors are dropping the prostitution charges against Kraft.
The decision comes after a court blocked the prosecution from using a video that allegedly shows Kraft soliciting a woman for sex at the Orchids of Asia spa in January 2019. Police had secretly installed the cameras, which the court ruled was violation of his and other customers’ right to privacy. Prosecutors said they would not appeal the decision, which likely left them with essentially no evidence against Kraft.
“Although there was probable cause to make an arrest, the evidence cannot prove all legally required elements of the crime alleged and is insufficient to support a criminal prosecution,” the court papers said, via CNBC.
Charges were originally filed against Kraft in February 2019, and Kraft has fought them every step of the way. He issued an apology in March 2019, but pleaded not guilty. He and his lawyers have been seeking to have the video thrown out since early in the legal proceedings.
Kraft has escaped trial and possible punishment through the justice system, but he may not be totally in the clear. It’s still possible that he could face discipline from the NFL.
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