Sprint Cup Expansion-Mania a Series of False Alarms

Christopher LeoneSenior Analyst IJune 23, 2008

I think we should all give this speculation about NASCAR Sprint Cup teams adding one more car a break. At this point, it's pretty much a certainty who will be expanding next season and who won't be. With the silly season starting earlier and earlier every year, the 2009 driver lineup will, in all likelihood, be finalized by August 1.

I understand that the last time I played out the silly season, I made a lot of inaccurate predictions - had I only waited one more stinkin' day, I could've been 15 for 15. One more stinkin' day till Martin-to-HMS broke!

But I digress. The point of this article isn't to lament over predictions I made a couple days ago, so much as it is to start revising my predictions. This article centers on the teams that have been rumored to expand in 2009. Some of the claims are accurate, but some are simply a load of crap.

So, without further ado, here's what you need to know about how much more crowded NASCAR's top division will get next year:

Richard Childress Racing WILL expand

We've known about this one for a long time. The car will be #33 and carry Cheerios sponsorship. Rumors have placed David Reutimann, Aric Almirola, and Scott Wimmer in the car, but in the wake of Mark Martin's projected arrival at Hendrick Motorsports, the newest name linked to the drive is Casey Mears.

The logic behind this seems to be that Mears is an attractive driver to General Mills, which has the potential to snag a future star from rival cereal manufacturer Kellogg's. While Mears' 2008 season suggests anything but star potential, he appears to have the edge based on experience and the win column.

Bill Davis Racing WILL expand

BDR gives expansion the old college try every season, and 2008 will be no different. For one, the US Army sponsorship is rumored to be heading to BDR. For two, it's becoming more and more apparent that Scott Riggs and/or State Water Heaters will not be back at Haas CNC Racing after this season, and as Toyota's #2 team (given its extensive history with the manufacturer, all the way back to when it first developed Tundras to go Craftsman Truck racing), BDR will have the resources to accomodate both if necessary.

Not only is the Army a past sponsor of BDR with Bill Lester, development driver Michael Annett appears to be just the face they're looking to market. It's still entirely possible that the Army wants to put its weight behind Aric Almirola at DEI, but given that organization's relative insecurity, the Army may want to jump ship. Annett should be in Cup full-time by 2010. The Army would only have to sit through one mid-pack year with Dave Blaney in 2009, not unlike its many mid-pack years with Joe Nemechek in the early 2000s.

Either way, BDR will bring the #23 Toyota to Daytona with the intention of competing in all 36 races. The only question is how long the car will last.

Hall of Fame Racing WILL NOT expand

Early in the season, HOF signed top young driver Brad Coleman to a development contract with the intention of running him full-time in Sprint Cup in 2009. However, a subpar Nationwide Series season from Coleman, no word on prospective sponsorship, and current Cup driver J.J. Yeley's failure to keep the team's #96 car in the top 35 in owners' points suggest that HOF will not run two cars in 2009.

Rather, the writing appears to be on the wall for Yeley, who may be replaced if Coleman does move up to Cup in 2009.

Team Red Bull WILL NOT expand

When the Martin rumors broke, his alternate landing spot appeared to be at Team Red Bull, as a mentor for Scott Speed in a third Sprint Cup car.

It simply won't happen.

Not only is Speed not ready to drive the Sprint Cup car, he hasn't yet had a full season of Craftsman Truck experience. To even suggest throwing him into the fire before giving him a 25-race look-see over the course of an entire year is a disastrous proposition.

Meanwhile, with Martin apparently set at HMS, Mike Skinner quite happy at BDR, and no other veteran driver readily available as a mentor, the idea of even splitting a season with Speed isn't likely.

There you have it folks: We'll only see two more cars from established teams in the Sprint Cup garage come Daytona next February... and potentially only one at Fontana the next weekend.

Much ado about nothing!