Roger Diez: A review of the racing season
And it’s a wrap! The 2018 racing season is officially over for all the top-level professional motorsports organizations. The Formula One race at Abu Dhabi last Sunday was a bit of an anti-climax, as both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships had previously been settled. Lewis Hamilton won handily from the pole, notching another victory in his pursuit of Michael Schumacher’s record. Hamilton did some celebratory donuts after the race, joined by arch-rival Sebastian Vettel and the retiring Fernando Alonso. It was quite a sight.
Alonso wasn’t completely finished, however. He departed for nearby Bahrain, where he swapped rides with NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, who was a guest of the McLaren team at Abu Dhabi. Johnson strapped into a 2013 McLaren F1 machine, while Alonso took the wheel of Johnson’s Camaro ZL1 road racing car. Johnson said he was impressed with the braking and downforce of the F1 machine, while Alonso was less effusive about the stock car’s performance. And the session ended with another synchronized donut session. There’s video on YouTube if you missed it.
As promised last week, here’s a fairly comprehensive update on the NASCAR silly season as of last week. Some of the changes have already been noted here and other things may have changed since this was compiled.
In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series, there are drivers coming and going, at least one manufacturer swap, and a notable crew chief/driver pairing splitting up.
The biggest news is Chad Knaus is leaving the No. 48 car and Jimmie Johnson to run operations for Alex Bowman in 2019. Kevin Meendering will be Johnson’s new crew chief.
Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Dale Pearn will stay together, but will move to the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota.
Ryan Newman is leaving Richard Childress Racing to pilot the No. 6 Roush-Fenway Ford, while Daniel Hemrick moves up to Cup to take over the No. 31 RCR Chevy.
Matt DiBennedetto is moving to Levine Family Racing to take over from Kasey Kahne, who’s retiring from NASCAR competition. The team is also switching from Chevy to Toyota, with technical assistance from Joe Gibbs Racing.
Front Row Motorsports is adding a team, and Matt Tifft has been tapped to drive the No. 36 Ford. He will team with David Ragan and Michael McDowell.
Tommy Baldwin Racing will be returning to Cup competition, with driver and sponsorship to be announced.
Jamie McMurray won’t drive the No. 1 Chevy for Chip Ganassi Racing next year, although he has been offered a management position with the team and a ride in the 2019 Daytona 500. No replacement has been announced, but Kurt Busch is rumored to be the frontrunner. Busch says he has two offers on the table, but has not disclosed them.
Ryan Preece will take over driving duties in the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Chevy, replacing A.J. Allmendinger.
Looking for a ride in 2019 are: Almendinger, Daniel Suarez (released from the No. 19 JGR Toyota), Trevor Bayne, and Matt Kenseth.
There are also changes In the Xfinity series for next season.
Chase Briscoe will drive the No. 98 Stewart Haas Racing Ford full-time.
Ross Chastain has a full-time ride in the No. 42 Ganassi Racing Camaro.
Austin Cindric takes over the No. 22 Ford for Penske on a full-time basis.
Tyler Reddick is moving from JR Motorsports to Childress.
Noah Gragson moving up from Trucks to drive No. 1 Camaro for JR Motorsports, replacing the retired Elliot Sadler.
And Harrison Burton will drive the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 18 truck in NASCAR’s truck series, to be sponsored by Gander Outdoors in 2019.