Splitting Wood: Who will
drive the 21 car in 2015?
Photo by Getty Images.
Trevor Bayne will move to the Sprint Cup Series full-time next season. Who will be the next driver to run the iconic No. 21?
By Brandon Caldwell
June 4, 2014
Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
Once Roush Fenway Racing announced that 2011 Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne, would be moved to the Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2014, it left us to wonder who will take over the legendary No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford.
Bayne has been piloting the Wood Brothers car since the fall Texas race in 2010. Roush-Fenway Racing had pull to put Bayne in the ride, since WBR is a subsidiary team to RFR.
Now that Bayne is moving on, let’s take a look at the viable candidates to replace him:
Ryan Blaney, 20
Ryan Blaney is likely a candidate for the Wood Brothers ride, because he’s under contract with another Ford team. He is a development driver for Team Penske. Ford Motorcraft is the sponsor of the Wood Brothers’ car, and ultimately may have a decision in who will drive the car. With Penske being the best Ford team right now, Blaney should not be ruled out.
However, The Wood Brothers are associated with Roush-Fenway Racing, and not Team Penske. With Jack Roush’s team behind to Penske this year, the last thing Roush would want to lose is the Wood Brothers, and he may try and put the kibosh on that move. But again, he could be overruled by Ford.
Chris Buescher, 21
Chris Buescher is a candidate for the ride because he’s a Roush-Fenway Racing developmental driver who drives full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Buescher, a rookie in that series, could see a long-term deal with Jack Roush’s organization, and might absorb experience in the No. 21.
But his inexperience might be his deterrent, as younger drivers typically put wear-and-tear on equipment. Even though the team is associated with Roush, it’s still the Wood Brothers’ money, and with his inexperience, they could ultimately be the leader against Buescher running this car. But again, they may be overruled.
Regan Smith, 30
The veteran Smith’s contract with JR Motorsports is up at the end of the season. He likely wants to get back to the Sprint Cup Series.
Jack Roush could court Smith to drive in the Nationwide Seires, if he finds sponsorship to replace Advocare, which is leaving to go with Bayne. He could also offer Regan Smith the Wood Brothers’ ride as part of the deal. That may sell Smith on going to Roush.
Regan Smith is a candidate, but he may want to stay at JR Motorsports because they have an association with Hendrick Motorsports. Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle are on their way out, and Matt Kenseth left at the end of 2012. That may leave Smith to say no to Roush.
Bobby Labonte, 50
The final candidate for the Wood Brothers Racing Ford is Bobby Labonte.
The 50-year old driver is the 2000 Series champion, and is supposed to do more races for HScott Motorsports in 2014. But so far, his schedule has been trimmed. The Texas native hasn’t been heard from since Daytona in February, but he has expressed some desire to keep racing.
What he would bring to the Wood Brothers is the professionalism that is synonymous with the team since its inception. He’s a veteran that won’t tear up equipment, and could hold the seat down in 2015, before Chris Buescher is more experienced in 2016.
What Labonte has against him is, of course, his age. He’s 50-years-old, and hasn’t been to victory lane since 2003. Bobby also hasn’t raced much in 2014, due to sponsorship issues on Justin Allgaier’s No. 51 car. If Labonte wants to continue racing passed this season, he needs to prove to the Wood Brothers and to everyone involved that he is interested in continuing on.
He needs to get to the race track and show he can still be competitive. But if Jack Roush wants one of his young drivers in this car, then Bobby will no longer be an option.