Brad Keselowski has to be the hottest commodity in the sport of NASCAR right now. (Technically, Danica Patrick is not in the sport… yet.) Since taking over the struggling JR Motorsports No. 88 Chevy in 2007, he’s put the car in Victory Lane three times. He currently sits third in Nationwide Series points, and has eight top 5s, and 10 top 10s so far this season.
It’s a pretty safe bet to assume that several teams had their eyes on him before he won his first Sprint Cup race, the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, earlier this season. But, winning that race on a one-car team, Phoenix Racing, catapulted Keselowski’s name to the top of the board of next season’s free agents. The win pushed him passed the other big name free agents next season, including Martin Truex Jr and Jamie McMurray.
Keselowski recently had a meeting with Rick Hendrick, of Hendrick Motorsports, to discuss his future. Hendrick mentioned that two options for Keselowski are a third car at Stewart Haas Racing, or moving to the Sprint Cup Series with his current team, JR Motorsports, owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Tony Stewart is warming to the idea of fielding a third car, based on how well his team has performed this season. Originally, Stewart said that he didn’t want to expand too quickly. But after winning a race, and running very well throughout the season, Stewart said he would consider fielding a third team if the right combination (driver, sponsor) were available.
And Dale Jr may be considering a move to Sprint Cup after General Motors announced it would be pulling its factory support from teams in the Nationwide Series. Jr has thought about moving his team to the Sprint Cup before, and was considering it as NASCAR plans to debut the Nationwide Car Of Tomorrow. Jr contends that the new car would make competing in the Nationwide Series so expensive, that he might as well run the Cup Series.
This is leading me to wonder what the chances are of Dale Jr moving his team to the Sprint Cup, with drivers Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. Truex is rumored to be close to signing with Michael Waltrip Racing, but that may just be a rumor. After all, Truex was linked to a potential third SHR car last season.
Both Keselowski and Truex have strong relationships with Dale Jr, and I believe Jr has a lot of confidence in both of them. Before picking Keselowski to drive JRM’s No. 88 Chevy, Truex Jr ran a few races in the car. And, in 2007, one of the rumors circulating was that Truex Jr and Dale Jr would leave Dale Earnhardt Inc and they would both drive for JRM.
I think that if Dale Jr decides to move to Cup, Keselowski would choose him over Stewart Haas Racing because Dale Jr gave him his break, and helped him make a name for himself.
Truex Jr has a history with both Michael Waltrip and Dale Jr, though his history with Jr lasted longer than his history with Waltrip. If Truex chooses JRM, he could stay in a Chevy and have Hendrick power. But, if he chooses MWR, he could be with his brother, who is a developmental driver with MWR.
I’m not sure which either will choose, but if JRM moves to Cup, and I’m still not convinced it will, I would think Keselowski is a lock, and Truex Jr is not so farfetched for a second car.