A number of changes to the NASCAR landscape were announced last year before the season ended. There have been a number of other developments over the past month as well, and there are more musical driving slots to announce. There’s some manufacturer news as well as the ubiquitous new year-new rules syndrome.
Chevy Brings the Camaro Back to NASCAR Cup Competition
This is one of the announcements that really get me excited. It was announced late last year that Chevrolet would bring the Camaro back to NASCAR Cup competition this year. Jimmie Johnson, Mr. 7-Time, was the one who drove the 2018 Camaro ZL1 on stage when the company made the announcement at corporate headquarters in Detroit.
Mark Reuss, executive vice president of GM Global Product Development, said: “Chevrolet, Camaro, and ZL1 are all synonymous with winning, both on the track and off. We are thrilled to run the Camaro in NASCAR next year, with the time-honored and track-tested ZL1 badge, and we’re just as excited for our drivers, teams, fans, and customers.”
Bubba Signs with Petty Motorsports
There are actually two announcements out of the Petty Garage. The first is that Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., who took over for Aric Almirola after he was injured in a crash last year, will be the full-time driver of the iconic Petty Number 43. Frankly, Bubba’s showing while he was in the seat was better than Aric had done before being sidelined. Wallace follows in the footsteps of Wendell Scott to be the second black man to drive in the Cup Series full time.
In a surprising move, Richard Petty Motorsports announced that they were ending their longtime affiliation with the Ford Motor Company and switching to the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The team will receive engine and chassis support from Richard Childress Racing, and as a result will move their headquarters to Welcome, N.C. so the two shops are closer. In fact, the two shops will be next door to each other.
A related announcement that came as a surprise to many in the NASCAR fan base was that Aric had signed with Stewart-Haas Racing to take over from Danica Patrick in the Number 10 Ford. Many are asking why Tony and Gene would hire someone who has been in the Cup for seven full seasons and has only one win. Well, Almirola did bring his primary sponsor Smithfield with him when he left RPM.
Wood Brothers Signs Paul Menard for Legendary Number 21
Paul Menard and Childress Racing announced last year that they were parting company. Late last year, the Wood Brothers and Penske declared that Ryan Blaney would be moving over Penske in 2018 on a development deal with the Wood Brothers and Ford.
Earlier this week, the Wood Brothers announced that they had acquired a long-term charter by leasing the charter held by Go FAS racing. In the same announcement they said that this acquisition would guarantee Paul Menard a starting spot this year. Len Wood, legendary co-owner of the Wood Brothers team, said “This charter is a game-changing step for Wood Brothers Racing. It’s the critical piece needed to thrive as a top owner in our sport. We have been fortunate enough to have extremely fast cars and are blessed with the best sponsors in NASCAR. Pair that with our support from Ford and nearly every piece is in place.”
Changes to Team Format Made
Over the wall, pit crews will now be limited to five people from the six we’re used to now. The gas man will also now no longer be able to help the rest of the team with adjustments. These changes were made primarily to improve the sport’s parity, according to executive vice president Steve O’Donnell. So that the over the wall guys get more attention and praise, they’ll also all be required to have their names prominently displayed on their uniforms.
Many people have been complaining over the years that larger teams have an unfair advantage in that they have larger crews working for them. To address this, teams that are one or two car operations will be given three roster spots for what NASCAR calls “organizational personnel” such as technical directors, competition directors, team managers and the like. Three and four car teams will be allowed four.
NASCAR is also limiting what they call “road crew.” These are positions such as car chief, crew chief, mechanic, tire specialist, engine tuner and similar specialist jobs. These are now limited to 12 positions in this group. O’Donnell said, “The drive toward parity is to have more teams have the ability to win. We want everybody to have the same amount of resources at the track. And we want to put focus on other team members, as well.”