When the 2018 NASCAR season debuts at Daytona in February, several teams will have new drivers and drivers will have new numbers and sponsors.
There were many changes made during the offseason, so here’s a breakdown of the five biggest moves of the offseason heading into the 2018 season.
1) Ryan Blaney will be the third member of Team Penske
Blaney is making the switch from Wood Brothers Racing to Team Penske, and he will join Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano with the team. Blaney didn’t have any teammates last year with WBR in the No. 21 car, and he made the Round of 8 in the postseason.
He’ll be No. 12 for Team Penske, and the expectations will be higher for him as his resources improve. His crew chief will be the same as Jeremy Bullins makes the move to Team Penske, and WBR worked with Team Penske last year, there is some familiarity on both sides.
2) Hendrick Motorsports replaces half of its team
Of all the major teams in the Cup Series, Hendrick Motorsports had perhaps the most change in the offseason. Everything is still the same with Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48, but there were changes elsewhere.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired, and he’s being replaced by Alex Bowman in the No. 88 car. It will take a while for racing fans to get used to Bowman driving the 88 instead of Dale Jr., but crew chief Greg Ives will still be in charge.
William Byron is replacing Kasey Kahne, but Byron won’t be in the No. 5 car. Instead, he’ll take over the No. 24 for Chase Elliott, and Elliott is moving to the No. 9. Elliott’s father, Bill, drove the No. 9 during his career.
3) Erik Jones replaces Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 car
Kenseth had driven the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing since 2013, but the team decided not to bring him back which led to Kenseth retiring.
Erik Jones, who won the 2017 Rookie of the Year, will replace Kenseth in 2018, and the 21-year-old will look for the first win of his Cup Series career next season.
4) Bubba Wallace will make history
Bubba Wallace will become the first African American to compete full-time in the Cup Series since Wendell Scott in 1971.
Wallace signed a deal with Richard Petty Motorsports to drive the historic No. 43 car next season, and he replaces Aric Almirola, who moved to Stewart0-Haas Racing. Wallace raced several times for RPM last season, and he will look to make even more history if he can win a race.
5) Paul Menard joins Wood Brothers Racing
Menard takes over the No. 21 car for Ryan Blaney, and he’ll look to become the next driver to add his name to the historic list of drivers who have won in the No. 21.
Blaney won his first career Cup Series race last year en route to a spot in the Round of 8, so Menard will face high expectations to deliver for WBR next season.