The promiscuous business of wooing and retaining drivers for the 2009 season and beyond will underpin much of the current Sprint Cup season, even with 16 weeks remaining. This so-called "Silly Season" process, a summer rite that has bloomed in spring the past two years, needs little embellishment, but here are a few plausible scenarios that could make things pretty interesting in the near- and far-terms.
Not to say we're advocating these moves. In fact, a couple are absurd. And we don't have to take calls from insecure drivers, texts from agents also assuaging those insecure drivers, and rue why the sponsor's CEO isn't taking our call. In a garage humming like a reactor, these ideas could bring on a nuclear-like reaction.
David Reutimann to the Richard Childress Racing No. 33 Chevrolet: The 38-year-old has earned more respect than most after one-plus Sprint Cup seasons for his sportsmanlike but sporty race approach and his affable manner. RCR was once firebrand central, but he would fit well on a team with garage sage Jeff Burton and laid-back Clint Bowyer. And who wouldn't buy Cheerios and Hamburger Helper from this guy? The sponsors of the new RCR ride for 2009 would love him. It would be intriguing to see Reutimann free of Michael Waltrip Racing and in a program that figures to be competitive, taking into account RCR's placing all three drivers in the Chase last season and being in a position to do so again.
Ryan Newman acquires a minority share in Tony Stewart's new Sprint Cup team: Thus, Stewart Newman Haas Racing is born, which will be instantly and constantly confused with the Newman Haas Lanigan Indy Racing League team. Perhaps the teams will merge, creating Stewart Newman Haas Lanigan Racing, creating another cross-regimen megateam, allowing Stewart and Newman to play out their Indiana boy open wheel fantasies, and getting 19-year-old prodigy Graham Rahal in a stock car before anyone anticipated.
A.J. Foyt told the St. Petersburg Times -- and he really didn't seem to be joking -- that he might call up his buddy Stewart and suggest they "partner up." Who wouldn't like more Foyt in the garage?
Casey Mears to the No. 12 Dodge at Penske Racing: Sure, test driver David Stremme is the logical choice to replace Newman. He's familiar with the system, the personnel, the cars. But there is something intrinsically pleasing about a Mears racing for Roger Penske. Uncle Rick won four Indy 500s there. Maybe Casey could finally engage his stock car career after fruitless stops at Ganassi and Hendrick.
Martin Truex Jr. to a fourth car at Gillett Evernham Motorsports car: No ill will toward Dale Earnhardt Inc., intended but that organization -- having disgorged Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin the past year -- is waning and GEM appears to be waxing. Apparently George Gillett Jr. was a better partner acquisition for Evernham than Bobby Ginn was for Teresa Earnhardt.
Anyway, GEM is improving, notably with Kasey Kahne having a solid season, and Truex Jr., a two-time Nationwide Series champion, appears to be wallowing on many levels at DEI . And he's denied reports he's re-signed. Plus, another strong Dodge team would not be a bad thing for competitive balance, especially with automakers taking a stringent look at the benefits of NASCAR participation in these hard economic times.
Roush Fenway outsources the No. 26 Ford to Yates Racing: The five-car Roush team has to slough a car by 2009 anyway to adhere to NASCAR's car-cap rule and Jamie McMurray is not keeping pace with teammates Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and David Ragan. Edwards (fifth), Biffle (seventh) and Kenseth (11th) are all within the Chase for the Championship boundary and Ragan, 22, is having a respectable second full Sprint Cup season.
Time to streamline, send the fully sponsored McMurray, who is 20th in points, to Yates, where he will be in a competitive situation with the barely sponsored David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil. Reports circulated this weekend that McMurray -- who has two Cup wins in 206 starts -- may be targeted by Childress, prompting the question, "How does this guy keep getting good jobs?''
Joey Logano to the No. 20 Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing: This figures to happen in 2009, so why not let the 18-year-old, next-greatest-thing-ever get a little head start on his much-anticipated Sprint Cup career. There is the matter of Tony Stewart currently occupying that car, but what if he missed the Chase for the Championship (he's 10th currently) and was interested in hopping over to his new Stewart Haas Racing team for a little 10-week shakedown cruise? Everybody wins.
Scott Speed's performance forces Red Bull Racing to make a move: The Formula One refugee has proved a quick study in the decidedly un-F1 ARCA and NASCAR truck series. He's won three ARCA races to improve to second in the driver standings and claimed his first top-three NASCAR win by capturing the truck race at Dover. That's fully vetted by modern NASCAR standards. So what do you do if you're general manager Jay Frye? Find a Nationwide Series billet for Speed, give him a shot in a third Red Bull car in a few Cup races? How secure is A.J. Allmendinger's seat in the No. 84 Toyota?