This final NASCAR national series weekend is all bittersweet.
With the Camping World Truck Series, the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series, three new (or repeat) champions are crowned this November weekend. But this weekend is also something else to a lot of the other drivers on the track — the end of rides, relationships and sometimes careers. 2013 is no different. If anything, there’s more movement than years past.
In the Nationwide series, we know Travis Pastrana is calling it quits after a frustrating season of wrecked cars, and a single pole:
Travis Pastrana’s Announcement on Facebook
In the Sprint Cup series, there are a ton of changes, and a lot of drivers will be jockying for position to leave their current rides on a high note:
Mark Martin: Starting the year driving the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 and ending the year driving the No. 14 for an injured Tony Stewart, the aging Martin says he has no plans to drive next year in the Cup series, though he thinks he’ll be getting some phone calls.
Kevin Harvick: Harvick is leaving RCR, where he’s been a mainstay of the RCR organization for the past 13 years. Harvick is joining Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch to make Stewart Haas Racing one of the few four cars teams in Cup racing, driving the No. 4 car.
Harvick is still mathematically in the hunt for the Chase championship at Miami, and winning would be a huge way to go out on top, though one could argue he’s already doing with four wins in 2013. If only he hadn’t have called Childress’ grandsons spoiled rich kids after the Martinsville truck race.
Jeff Burton: Jeff Burton is leaving his fulltime No. 31 ride with RCR and has yet to announce plans for 2014. Rumor is he will be driving part time for MWR in their third car. My guess is MWR will resurrect the double zero car as its third Cup car.
Ryan Newman: Ousted from Stewart Haas Racing, Newman is taking over at RCR in the number 31. A win at Miami would have the Rocketman leaving SHR on a high note.
Kurt Busch: SHR when they told Ryan Newman they didn’t have room for a fourth team, they must not have told Kurt Busch, as he’s stepping in as the fourth SHR driver, piloting the No. 41 car.
Martin Truex, Jr.: Taking over the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevy from Kurt Busch is Truex, forced to find a new ride after all the controversy that MWR brought on themselves just prior to the Chase in Richmond, and NAPA subsequently pulled their sponsorship. Late in the season, Truex seemed genuinely thankful, grateful and enthusiastic about going to the Denver-based single car team — the only single-car team to make the Chase (thanks to the elder Busch brother). Truex signed a multi-year deal, bringing his pit crew with him from MWR that hopefully elevates his career and allows him to prove himself behind the wheel of a RCR-powered Chevy.
Juan Pablo Montoya: Montoya’s struggles in stock car racing has Earnhardt Ganassi looking to put fresh blood in the No. 43 Chevy, namely Nationwide racer Kyle Larson. Larson dipped his toes in the Cup series water a few times late in the season, but struggled to finish the races. Here’s to hoping they’re not firing one mediocre stock car racer and in turn putting too much pressure on a young, but talented driver, bringing him up to the premier racing league too early.
Like any sport, personnel on teams change year-to-year, but 2014 seems to be quite the reboot for a lot of drivers at new teams and in new cars.
The list above covers the major changes known about as one week is left in the 2013 season. Also worth mentioning are a few drivers who were in one year contracts for 2013 and/or unknown futures: Dave Blaney, Travis Kvapil, Bobby Labonte, David Reutimann, David Stremme.