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Earlier in this countdown series, we shared eight faces who could be on the move in 2020. This go-around, let’s analyze five drivers whose contract status is unknown (as of this present moment) for 2021 and beyond.
5. Erik Jones
With Christoper Bell waiting in the wings, Jones signed a one-year deal last season, keeping him in the No. 20 car for Joe Gibbs Racing. It’d be difficult to give the former Truck Series champion the boot on the heels of his Southern 500 and summer Daytona victories.
But Bell is still under contract with JGR, only with Leavine-Family Racing for a one year deal. If Jones' performance is at all lackluster this season, don’t be surprised if JGR goes in favor of Bell instead of Jones due to potential--even though Jones is actually younger than Bell!
4. Alex Bowman
Although his contract is up at season's end, sponsors are in place for Bowman to return to Hendrick Motorsports. However, stranger things have happened throughout the years. Plus, in his third full-time year with HMS, results need to happen sooner rather than later.
He did earn his first win last season at Chicagoland, but couldn’t get past the Round of 12 in the postseason. Competing with teammate Chase Elliott on a more regular basis could do wonders for Bowman’s future at Hendrick beyond 2020.
3. Corey LaJoie
If you were to pick one driver on this list who may not belong, it’d be Corey LaJoie.
But that’s to no fault of his own: he just hasn’t gotten the opportunities the other drivers have. He’s driven for now-defunct BK Racing and finished 29th in the standings for Go Fas Racing last season. Those may not be eye-popping numbers, but those in the sport know what LaJoie can do behind the wheel of a car capable of contending for wins weekly.
He did it in 2012 on his way to a runner-up finish in what was then known as the K&N Pro Series East and is talked about in the same sentence as Landon Cassill as drivers who will more likely than not do well if given that sought after opportunity.
With some rides open, LaJoie might get his chance. But the lack of sponsorship he would bring may be a deciding factor for certain teams. It’d be a risk, but the reward could be big.
2. Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney
I know, I know, I said five and this means there’ll be six drivers on this list. Please forgive me.
But this could be a huge development as the season rolls on. Team Penske’s leader for years, 2012 champion Brad Keselowski, as well as their young prodigy, Ryan Blaney, could be on the free market. Given their cache, they’ll be at the top of the list if available.
1. Kyle Larson
The most intriguing free agent after 2020 is without a doubt Kyle Larson. He hasn’t necessarily been as successful as Keselowski, but the hype behind Larson since he entered the sport has been second to none--and for good reason. The dude can drive.
One of the main factors that’ll go into his decision-making process is his passion for dirt racing and which teams will and won’t let him race. Chip Ganassi Racing has, but Hendrick Motorsports (who will have a pretty high-profile seat vacant in the No. 48) historically hasn’t.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) February 11, 2020
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