You’ve heard about the big fish in silly season for weeks now, Brad Keselowski is moving to Roush Fenway Racing. It has been all but confirmed, and I think there has been plenty of speculation about what dominoes will fall with the #2 car being vacated. I’m going to add my take on how I think things will shake out once the dust settles.
There are three different seats I believe will be affected by this news. First things first, I think Matt DiBenedetto will remain with the Wood Brothers. I believe Penske will pick up that extra year option on his contract because there is no better option out on the open market. While his talent is still in question, he has become a big fan favorite and able to attract sponsorship.
What this means, is that Austin Cindric will be moving straight to Penske, no middleman. However, I do not believe he will be replacing Brad Keselowski in the #2. I instead think that he will be driving the #12 and Ryan Blaney will take over the 2. The primary reason for this all comes down to sponsorship.
Austin Cindric is very talented, but he is not currently sponsored by any companies outside of the general Penske stable. He’s had PPG, Menards, Money Lion, Car Shop, and Verizon on his car, but he currently doesn’t bring any funding on his own. Ryan Blaney on the other hand is arguably the most marketable driver outside of Chase Elliott in the sport.
- Advance Autoparts
- Black Buffalo
- Flag & Anthem
These are all the brands that support Blaney independently. Technically Menards sponsors Matt DiBenedetto as well, but Blaney is certainly their primary driver since Paul Menard’s retirement.
The #2 is the flagship car for Team Penske, and while Joey Logano will be considered the leading driver for the team heading into 2022, his sponsor Pennzoil seems entrenched in the #22. Blaney has shown the potential that he’s worthy of being a flagship driver, and his sponsors will be enticed at the opportunity to put their colors on an iconic number.
Cindric is talented no doubt, but he still has a lot to prove in the Cup series. I think that with the #2 holding such high regard we will see Roger Penske give it to a driver and a sponsor in Menards that has invested so heavily in his race team. Menards would then have their color on two of the most iconic cars in NASCAR history including the #21.
We’ve seen things like this happen often in NASCAR. Just last season, despite Kyle Larson taking over Jimmie Johnson’s team, the number was switch to 5 and the 48 was given to Alex Bowman because Ally didn’t want to sponsor Larson.
Richard Childress Racing did something similar when Clint Bowyer was moved from the #07 Jack Daniels car in favor of Casey Mears because Cheerios did not want Mears to drive their car.
Team Penske already has done this in the past as well. They moved Brad Keselowski out of the #12 car and into the #2 after moving Kurt Busch into the #22. Not much detail on why this happened, but it’s assumed to be because of sponsorship.
Sponsorship is what makes NASCAR run, and if sponsors that have invested heavily in one of your drivers want to be on the flagship car with the iconic number, then you best believe it’s going to happen. Blaney has earned the right to drive the flagship car, he’s won a race in the last five years and has been a consistent contender in the playoffs.
He has shown the potential to win multiple races in a season, but bad luck has gotten in his way most weeks. He runs consistently well, and wins will begin to pile up as he continues to grow into the sport as one of the best drivers.