Having seen the confirmation recently of Aric Almirola staying in the No.10 car for next year, there’s still only one seat up for grabs right now, which is the No.14 crew.
As it stands alongside Almirola, Kevin Harvick in the No.4 and Cole Custer in the No.41 will stay on at least for another couple of years.
Who will be the likely options to join these three ahead of the upcoming Stewart-Haas campaign in 2021?
He lives and breathes the famous No.14 numberplate from his idol Tony Stewart who grew up in the same state as him in Indiana.
Two years ago, Stewart-Haas gave Briscoe a part-time deal in the Xfinity Series. One of those races he drove for them, he won a Charlotte roval race there.
That was enough to put him a full-time Xfinity ride at Stewart-Haas going into 2019, where he won a race again plus regularly battling plenty of Top 5 & 10 finishes that put him in 5th at season’s end in the drivers’ standings.
Now he’s one of the current big three racers in the Xfinity Series with six wins, 13 Top 5 & 17 Top 10s that saw him sit his drivers’ standings position at P2 as of Daytona last week.
Regardless if he does win the Xfinity Series title or not, it does look like Briscoe has the agility and motivation based on his performances on paper to test himself at Cup level next year.
But the question is, which direction he will land would be the correct development for Briscoe during his rookie Cup year?
Some say, put him in the No.14, it would be a dream for Briscoe to echo his hero Tony Stewart in that race car & back up his natural game.
Others would think Briscoe should go to Stewart-Haas’s affiliate Cup side at GO FAS Racing, where Corey LaJoie won’t return in 2021.
If Briscoe stepped straight in at Haas, then it would represent somewhat a gamble for someone with little to no Cup experience.
And putting him at GO FAS would be a safe pair of hands for at least a season before moving up to the dream-loved No.14 crew in time for the Gen7 model in 2022.
It’s no secret that Tony Stewart admires Larson having shared the same dirt-track roots.
Stewart once wanted Larson to drive the No.14 car once he retired after the 2016 season, but Larson stayed at Ganassi.
Larson looked likely to stay or go when his contract expires at Ganassi after this year.
But his unexpected racial slur during an iRacing event while not realizing it is still on the air saw his contract ripped off immediately.
Right now, I don’t know when NASCAR will lift his suspension.
If this can happen soon enough, at least towards the end of the season & Clint Bowyer goes, then there’s a spot ready for him next year.
Larson would be the perfect candidate to lift Stewart-Haas to the next level, which brings plenty of talent & speed to have the opportunity to win both the Daytona 500 & the championship.
He’s 28 years of age, so Larson hasn’t lost anything at all; despite not present on the Cup scene, for now, he’s still dominating the sprint dirt car field every week.
Clint Bowyer (ends up staying)
He’s in the Playoffs for another year, despite not winning anything over the last two years.
Like Harvick, Bowyer is in his early 40s who still possesses some speed and experience to the squad.
Now it’s the time for Bowyer to unleash his best in the Playoffs in staying ahead with some consistent results, so he doesn’t get to face elimination.
Contract-wise, it seems Bowyer is keen on staying in the No.14 camp for another year.
And it doesn’t look like that he’s willing to move into a booth/analyst role at Fox anytime soon.
It’s safe to say that Bowyer isn’t losing a yard or two in speed who can still have enormous potential to finish Top 10 of the drivers’ standings by season’s end.
He’s very loyal to the Stewart-Haas squad for a few years now since 2017.
And they do expect to see Bowyer stay alongside the existing backing onboard to try and get as many decent results possible.
That way, Bowyer can provide close competition to his team-mates and other front-runners.
As it stands right now, I think Stewart-Haas will renew Bowyer’s contract for another year.
It may be the last season for Clint Bowyer in the No.14 considering the current Gen6 model also retiring at the same time.
So it would make sense for Stewart-Haas to then promote Chase Briscoe in his dream job for the 2022 Cup season after his year-long rookie experience at GO FAS Racing.
I would like to say Kyle Larson considering Stewart’s loyalty and praise to this talented racer who deserves a second chance after owning up to his verbal mistake in April.
But again, if he did join Stewart-Haas, it would be on a multi-year deal.
Then that would mean blocking the youngsters in the Blue Oval production line like Briscoe.
Briscoe deserves an opportunity over Larson because Larson has already made a name for himself both in NASCAR and Sprint cars.
Briscoe has yet to test the waters at Cup level, has proven an excellent challenger upfront in climbing the ladder system based on merit.
And it’s something Stewart-Haas would favor over the loyalty of a particular driver at the end of the day.
Though it doesn’t mean Larson shouldn’t come back to this sport.
Larson’s best bet would either be in the second Richard Petty seat in the Toyota alongside Bubba Wallace or the No.6 Roush Fenway Ford if Ryan Newman decides to retire.
For the likes of Erik Jones, Matt DiBenedetto & Corey LaJoie, they’re all talented racers in finding a new ride.
But I think Stewart-Haas won’t gamble on these three as they did on Suarez last year, didn’t deliver something spectacular, and then left.
Instead, the best way forward is promoting young talent within the Ford Performance academy.
We’ve already seen Cole Custer graduated to the No.41 team at the start of this year.
Chase Briscoe should be up next when he learns during his first year of Cup level experience at GO FAS Racing next year before moving up to Stewart-Haas in the No.14 car for 2022.
And to roll off an impressive production line, Hailie Deegan should drive the No.4 car once Kevin Harvick retires either at the end of 2023 or 2024.