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Limited Options For Keselowski In 2010

keselowski2According to ESPN Insider [1] (login required), Brad Keselowski may be running out of options to compete in the Sprint Cup Series next season. With Tony Stewart’s recent comments [2] that he is not expecting to expand his team, Stewart Haas Racing, to three cars next season, it seems that eliminates the most promising option for Keselowski to compete.

Keselowski is hoping to stay with Chevrolet and would prefer to stay with a Hendrick Motorsports affiliated team. In order to do that, he would need to stay with his current team, Phoenix Racing – a Hendrick satellite operation. Other than that, there are no options that would keep him with Chevy and Hendrick.

Phoenix will allow him to keep his HMS affiliation and drive a Chevy, but the team couldn’t guarantee it would be competitive week in and week out. Phoenix would need some help. And, that help could come in the form of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Now, this is purely speculation, but with the integration of the car of tomorrow into Nationwide, and the costs associated with that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dale Earnhardt Jr bought into (merged his JR Motorsports team) with Phoenix Racing. The success of Stewart Haas Racing might tempt him to take a similar approach and having the structure in place with HMS; Phoenix might be the key to JRM getting into Sprint Cup.

I should note, however, that Dale Jr has said that it is unlikely [3] his team will move to Sprint Cup. But, a merger with Phoenix might ease the financial burden of moving into Cup, and it might make it more financially feasible than staying in the Nationwide Series as they integrate the new car.

Keselowski has few other options. One could be joining Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in the No. 1, now that Martin Truex Jr is leaving for Michael Waltrip Racing [4]. This move would allow him to drive a Chevy, but I believe that Jamie McMurray, who will be leaving Roush Fenway Racing at season’s end thanks in part to his sponsor Crown Royal moving [5] to Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 Ford to replace a departing DeWalt [6], is the front runner [7] for that ride.

Penske Championship Racing is likely to have an opening [8]. David Stremme’s on-track performance would make it unlikely that he returns to the No. 12 next year. Keselowski could enter the series in PCR’s no. 12 machine, but he would be competing with Justin Allgaier for that seat. I’m not sure who has the advantage in that battle, but you have to assume that Allgaier has a slight advantage by already being signed with the organization.

Keselowski has been linked to Red Bull Racing, as well. RBR is rumored to be considering switching to Chevys [9]. If that happens, Keselowski could move there. RBR GM Jay Frye said that if the team switches manufacturers, it would not look at expanding. But, that doesn’t mean Keselowski won’t end up with the team. After all, Scott Speed’s performance has been anything but stellar. Keselowski could replace him in that seat. But that, of course, is just speculation.

Another option is a fourth Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. I don’t think Keselowski would move to Toyota unless it was the only option. I would believe that his ties to Chevy would make him consider teams running other American makes before considering Toyota. That’s just a hunch, though, and I wouldn’t be completely surprised if he moved to JGR.

I think that it is highly unlikely that Keselowski will race another season in the Nationwide Series. He certainly could, if he wants to. But, his Talladega victory has lifted his stock, and he might want to cash in. The only thing that could lift it more is if he won the 2010 Nationwide Series Championship.

So, I expect him to look for a Sprint Cup ride this season. And, I think that if the right offer comes along, the make won’t matter as much. I think Keselowski will opt for the team that gives him the best chance to win and compete consistently. I doubt that he would leave the Nationwide Series to run part time with a struggling team.

That being the case, he doesn’t have too many options. According to ESPN, Keselowski indicated that he has about six options. My guess is that one of those comes through and we see Keselowski in the Sprint Cup Series in 2010.