The Lottery for No. 48 is highly sought after by several potential NASCAR Cup Series drivers. It’s a big win for one lucky driver. And perhaps for Hendrick Motorsports too.
Since seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson has said the 2020 season is his last full-time year in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. The question most ask is who will replace him? Without an answer from team owner Rick Hendrick, speculation in the rumor mill is running rampant on social media.
So, who holds the winning ticket?
One name removed on Friday was that of Ryan Blaney as he re-signed with Team Penske in a multi-year deal. But that still leaves several names out there as high possibilities in The Lottery for No. 48. One is Blaney’s Penske teammate.
Keselowski is high on everyone’s list for a variety of reasons. He has ties to Hendrick as a former Xfinity Series driver with JR Motorsports. He signed on full-time with Team Penske for the Cup Series in 2010. And continued to race in the Xfinity Series for the organization. Keselowski won the Cup Series championship for Roger Penske in 2012 which was Dodge’s final year in NASCAR. With the Ford Camp, Keselowski has steady results, averaging three wins per year. But since winning the title he’s never really returned to championship form, his highest points finish is fourth in 2017. Now couple that with being outshined by his teammate Joey Logano, who won the championship two years ago. It appears there may be some tension between the teammates in the shop.
Larson’s name comes up every time there is an open seat. But no one offers him what Chip Ganassi Racing does. And that is the freedom to run races outside of NASCAR. And he runs a lot of them. Expect to see him stay where he is.
DiBenedetto is getting his first opportunity with a top ride in the Cup Series with the No. 21 Wood Brothers who have a close alliance with Team Penske and he is making the most of it. If that trend continues for the rest of season, expect to see DiBenedetto back in a Ford next year. Possibly with a multi-year contract.
Chastain is drawing a lot of attention over the past couple of years. He nearly won the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship after declaring eligibility partway through the season. Currently, he’s the driver tabbed to fill-in for Ryan Newman in the No.6 Roush-Fenway Ford. That is interesting by itself. Since Chastain is a Chevrolet driver in the Xfinity Series and with Chip Ganassi Racing on the Cup side. Seat availability could determine Chastain’s future.
This name comes up every year as on the ‘Hot Seat’ to earn his ride for the next year. Yet Jones is still in his No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing. Toyota has believed in, invested in, and supported this young driver from the beginning. Don’t anticipate that to change.
Gragson is in his second full-time year in the Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports. He was in the playoffs last year finishing eighth while winning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award. Gragson has come out strong so far in 2020 picking up his first career win in the season-opener at Daytona. He is still young with a lot of raw talent. So it might be a little early to bring him to the Cup Series. A trend we have unfortunately seen too often in the past several years.
Rick Hendrick has spent years building an empire with Hendrick Motorsports. His teams are at or near the top of NASCAR’s premier level by making calculated and thought out decisions. Mr. Hendrick has shown that he is willing to take a chance on young, unproven drivers. Drivers like Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson come to mind. He recognizes talent, determination, leadership and brings what’s needed to his organization. With drivers like Alex Bowman, William Byron, and Chase Elliott, Hendrick is building his future.
Whoever wins The Lottery for No. 48, they will be exactly who is needed and be successful. Their success will likely feel as if they hit the lottery.