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Melillo’s Mind: Bristol recap & Silly Season rumors

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race
BRISTOL, TN – AUGUST 18: Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford, celebrates after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 18, 2018 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Bristol has come and gone, and Kurt Busch walked away, beaten and battered, with the victory at the “Last Great Colosseum” this past Saturday night.

Little brother, Kyle, put on the show, with an eventful night and result that didn’t reflect the performance of the No. 18 Camry on Saturday evening.

The younger Busch ignited a lap 2 incident, battled back from multiple laps down to battle inside the Top 3, took out Martin Truex, Jr., and ultimately got collected in some late race contact that took him back out of contention.

At the end, it was the elder Busch, Kurt, hoisting the trophy, after an intense battle with his teammate, Clint Bowyer.

“I love this place,” Busch said. “We now have won six times here, and I have great teams that have always helped me win.”

“This group of guys, Billy Scott, my crew chief, this is his first win and to be able to do it with Ford and Monster and Haas Automation is just what it’s all about is executing as a team and we had good restarts when we had to, and then you’ve got to get clever and start throwing everything at it.”

Busch became the ninth different winner in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Season, and is the third to do so of the Stewart-Haas Racing clan. Only teammate Aric Almirola has yet to find his way to the winner’s circle.

Overall, it was a fantastic race from start to finish, with multiple drivers taking command, truck loads of drama and implications, and a winner not names Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Jr., or Kyle Busch.

All three National Series events were fantastic to watch, with a spirited battle involving Johnny Sauter, John Hunter Nemechek, and Stewart Freisen in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and a dominating performance almost taken away by a late race restart for Kyle Larson in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Sauter, Larson, and Kurt Busch all walked out of Tennessee as winners in their respective series, on a weekend filled with fantastic racing at the concrete half-mile.

 

Truex celebrates Pocono victory
Martin Truex Jr. does a burnout after his victory in the 2018 Pocono 400. (Tyler Head | The Racing Experts)

SILLY SEASON STOVE IS BURNING DOWN

Now two-thirds of the way through the 2018 season, the 2019 NASCAR Silly Season is in full swing heading into the MENCS off week.

Scouring the depths of the internet, talking with friends, and discussing with co-workers about the outlook of the series next year, I’ve taken away some interesting takes, and without going to anyone to ask because they probably wouldn’t say anyway, at least not until it’s the right time to make an announcement, here are some things I can see happening over the off season.

 

  1. GMS to Cup: GMS Racing, which currently fields four full time Truck Series teams, and one full time and one part time Xfinity Series teams, has been rumored to enter the Cup Series level since last year’s Silly Season.

    Mike Beam, the President of GMS Racing, entered a bid on the assets of the now-defunct BK Racing, but ultimately lost to Front Row Motorsports, who had placed a higher bid.

    Regardless, I’m sure GMS is still exploring options to move up in 2019, and that could possibly include purchasing Furniture Row Racing, AKA the No. 78 car AKA the 2017 MENCS Champion, Martin Truex, Jr.

    This rumor flared up after a report from Adam Stern of Sports Business Journal saying that it was possible that GMS could be taking over FRR, and whether this is the case or not, it just goes to show that GMS Racing is fully invested in trying to be at the top level sooner than later.

    If this were to happen, where does that leave Martin Truex, Jr.? I’ve heard rumors about the 41 but I’ll get to that later. Maybe Truex, Jr. stays another year and helps the GMS transition… who knows?

    AJ Allmendinger races during the 2018 Pocono 400. (Tyler Head | The Racing Experts)
    AJ Allmendinger races during the 2018 Pocono 400. (Tyler Head | The Racing Experts)
  2. Ryan Preece to JTG Daugherty: Ryan Preece has been lighting it up in the NASCAR Xfinity Series the past two seasons, collecting two victories and eight Top 5 finishes in 10 races with Joe Gibbs Racing.

    Preece recently picked up sponsorship from Craftsman tools, which added a handful of races to his tenure in the No. 18 Camry in 2018.

    This may seem off the wall right now, but Preece is the biggest thing to talk about up here in the Northeast, so if a lot of people “in the know” are saying it, I’ll tend to start to believe it.

    The rumor I’ve heard is that Preece will take over the No. 47 car from AJ Allmendinger in 2019 with backing from Craftsman and Toyota.

    Think about it; if Furniture Row Racing is struggling to even keep the champ, MTJ, signed for next year, it is a distinct possibility that the deal between FRR and Joe Gibbs Racing could be ending after this season. JGR could be moving it’s resources over to partner with the two-car operation at JTG Daugherty Racing, allowing them to have a deal similar to the Erik Jones in the No. 77 at FRR one in 2017.

    Toyota already let talent in the likes of William Byron run off with Hendrick Motorsports, and another rumor that is floating around is Noah Gragson, current driver of the No. 18 Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series, could be moving over to JR Motorsports in place of the retiring Elliott Sadler.

    Toyota needs to be able to keep their future stars in the fold, and this could also be critical to keeping Christopher Bell in the coming years.

    JTG Daugherty has an incredible partner already in Kroger Clicklist, and having already been in the Toyota camp once before could mean an easy transition back.

    Like I said, it’s all anyone is talking about up here, and if it ends up being the case, it will be an incredible opportunity for the Connecticut native Preece.

    Jamie McMurray races during the 2018 Pocono 400. (Tyler Head | The Racing Experts)
    Jamie McMurray races during the 2018 Pocono 400. (Tyler Head | The Racing Experts)
  3. Kurt Busch to Chip Ganassi Racing: Jim Utter from Motorsport.com posted a story two weeks ago stating that Kurt Busch and Monster Energy were taking their talents to Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2019 season.

    In the hours after the report, denials and rebuttals flooded the twitterverse, stating that nobody had signed anything and nobody knew anything.

    Stewart-Haas Racing had said earlier this season that it was looking to retain all four of their drivers for next season.

    Fresh off a Bristol victory, Kurt Busch doesn’t seem to be slowing up anytime soon.

    Last year, Busch’s contract option was originally not picked up by SHR, allowing them to re-negotiate and settle on a one year deal that will end after Homestead.

    I think that this has more traction than anyone is letting it have, including Busch, Ganassi, or even anyone from SHR. After the whole “Kevin Harvick to the 5” meme that happened two years ago, most beat reporters haven’t lied to us about big things like this. Last time I can remember a report being false was the time someone said Brennan Poole was going to Childress, and we all know how that turned out.

    It seems like the plan was to always bring Cole Custer up the ranks to the top of the mountain at some point, and seeing that both Busch and Custer share the Haas sponsorship, it could be that SHR is opting for the younger talent next year as opposed to the former champion.

    On the CGR side of the coin, Kyle Larson, albeit winless this season, is outperforming teammate Jamie McMurray by a landslide, with Larson safely in the Playoff picture, and McMurray praying to win one of the last two to get in.

    It could be that due to performance, along with sponsors having a say in the future, being that McDonald’s is shared between the two currently, that McMurray could be out and looking for a ride next year and Busch, along with the Monster Energy sponsorship, filling the seat.

    Back to the No. 41 for a second, I mentioned before that Truex, Jr.’s name had been brought up, but honestly I believe that he will stay with Furniture Row, opening the seat for Custer to move in.

Ultimately, these are all just rumors that I think make the most sense and could burn the proverbial stove down to the ground.

Some rumors that are not even worth mentioning have been so off base that I think they would literally break the internet if they happened, thus leading me to believe there really is no chance for it to happen.

Either way, the upcoming off-season has the potential to be the silliest in quite a while.

SOURCES:
Racing-Reference.info
Ford Performance
Sports Business Journal
Motorsport
NASCAR

DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

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Justin Melillo View All

Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com

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