Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Allmendinger's move creates even more questions in wild NASCAR offseason

The twists and turns of a crazy NASCAR offseason continue as a driver who already had a ride for 2012 landed in the #22 Dodge formerly driven by Kurt Busch.

A.J. Allmendinger gets the upgrade and will drive the yellow Shell/Pennzoil car for Roger Penske.

After Penske and Busch parted ways, much of the speculation for who would replace Busch logically steered toward drivers currently without a ride such as David Ragan, David Reutimann and Brian Vickers.

But this year has left no room for logic. Once Paul Menard won the Brickyard 400 we should’ve known something in the universe must be a bit sideways.

This offseason continued the wild ride and has been full of shocking announcements. From Busch leaving the #22 to Allmendinger taking that ride, this year’s offseason has been similar to a restrictor-plate race. After a few laps someone new and totally unexpected comes to the front.

Ragan reportedly had discussions with Penske Racing to drive the #22 car, but Allmendinger joined the party after his sponsor for the #43 car, Best Buy, left to be a part-time sponsor for other Ford drivers Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards.

Allmendinger should do well in the #22 car and a Penske team of Allmendinger and Brad Keselowski should be exciting to watch.

However, this move is really just the first in what will be a fairly long line of driver moves. The three previously mentioned unemployed drivers don’t yet have a ride, and Busch is still trying to find a place to settle.

More logic reasoning would point toward Ragan taking over the #43 car since it is a Ford and he has driven a Ford his entire career, but once again, nothing should be taken for granted this offseason.

Reports last week said Busch might go to Richard Petty Motorsports, and now they suddenly have a spot open.

But, the problem in all of these ideas is the #43 car doesn’t currently have a sponsor. It was amazing Kenseth never attracted a sponsor until Best Buy jumped from one Ford to another, and now the job of finding a full-time sponsor with Daytona testing just three weeks away is going to be quite the project for the people at Richard Petty Motorsports.

The loser in all of this for the moment is Richard Petty Motorsports. One of its main sponsors left early in the week to go to other affiliated teams, and later in the week one of its drivers left.

After coming back a year ago from near bankruptcy to win a race and place both cars in the top 20 in points, the organization is suddenly right back in a very unstable situation.

In any case, the next couple of weeks are going to be interesting. Two teams, the #43 and #51 still need to announce their driver, but several drivers are still going to be without a ride.

Many people went into the offseason with the view that there weren’t many opportunities for drivers looking for a ride. That will still be true as the 2012 season starts, but there will several more drivers in a different uniform than we expected.

Hang on tight, folks. This offseason rollercoaster still has a lot of twists and turns left.

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