Once again we have rumors swirling about the possibility of JR Motorsports making the jump to the Cup Series. He was asked about it this past week at Darlington where he seems to be edging closer and closer to the idea. Jr. even said that this decision is a “now or never” type with the next-gen car coming.
The big hurdle for him seems to be finding a charter for the team to run, but with teams like Rick Ware Racing running four, I’m sure that Dale Jr. and Rick Hendrick can pull some strings to make it work. Obviously if JR Motorsports did make the jump then they would be a Hendrick affiliate in the same way the Wood Brothers are for Penske or 23XI for JGR.
I’m going to piggyback off of an article I posted on tuesday discussing the realistic possibility of Brad Keselowski leaving Penske. If that was the case, Stewart-Haas was the most likely fit, but becoming the first driver for JR Motorsports would possibly be a great full circle story.
Brad Keselowski was one of Dale Earnhardt Jr. first projects at JR Motorsports and was only a few weeks late of being the team’s inaugural winning driver; Mark Martin beat him to that punch 12 races early. Still, Keselowski was an important part of JR Motorsports’ development.
One of the biggest questions for JRM is who would drive the car? Currently Hendrick does not have any development drivers coming up so there is nobody to filter through. With four drivers in the JRM stable, none really serve as enticing options. Noah Gragson has the most potential, but he’s still not showing that he’s ready to step into Cup and be a competitive force. Allgaier is a solid driver, but I think at this point it’s clear that he’s not a Cup level winning talent. I don’t believe that Annett is even worth mentioning.
Josh Berry is the guy that I think Jr. would love to put in a Cup car, but even he knows that Josh is not ready. Berry has talent and might be capable of driving in Cup someday, but he needs a full year of Xfinity competition to gauge him.
Brad Keselowski being a free agent at the end of the year presents JR Motorsports with an amazon opportunity to start their team with a veteran champion who is currently in his prime. Dale Jr. gave Brad his first big break in NASCAR, I think it would make for an amazing story if Brad returned the favor and gave Dale Jr. his big break as an owner.
While there has not been anything linking the two together, it really does seem like the timing would be perfect. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has an opportunity to start a Cup team as a Hendrick affiliate while the sport transitions to a cheaper business model for owners. Brad Keselowski has the opportunity to essentially jump over into Hendrick equipment and be the face of a new team that will become the favorite for fans. Being Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s driver is a heck of a lot more favorable to race fans than being Joey Logano’s teammate.
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