With the recent announcement of the driver lineup for the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevy in the Nationwide Series, the rumors that the team is planning to move to Sprint Cup next season are starting to surface again.
Last year, team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr created a minor media frenzy when he implied that JR Motorsports would move to Cup if the Nationwide Series moved to a car of tomorrow.
At one point during the 2007 off-season, it was rumored that Dale Earnhardt Jr was going to drive for JR Motorsports with Martin Truex Jr as a teammate. Jr revealed that he would be driving for Hendrick Motorsports shortly thereafter.
As long as JR Motorsports stays in the Nationwide Series, these rumors will not go away. And, the announcement that Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart would be piloting JR Motorsports Chevys has heated that rumor up again.
While I do not doubt for an instant that Jr would consider taking his team to Cup level, I’m not sure he would do it next year.
His team is decent, but I would think he needs to see more consistency, and more wins before considering making the jump. He also is probably seeking a Nationwide Series championship first.
That said, he may look at a team like Stewart Haas Racing, and think that this might be the time to jump to Cup. SHR’s consistency and relatively good performance may make the idea more appealing.
The downside to him moving to Sprint Cup would be that he would lose Newman and Stewart, as they have Cup rides already. He does have Brad Keselowski, who has a lot of potential, and could be groomed into a consistent threat to win. But, Keselowski is green, and there’s more of a win now philosophy in NASCAR, especially with the economy the way it is and sponsors so hard to come by.
Add in the fact that if Jr turned Sprint Cup owner, the calls that Jr is too distracted to win a championship would only get louder.
At the end of the day, whether Jr decides to move to Sprint Cup or not, I would hope that his decision is based on more than just money.