The source of speculation late in the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Scott Speed took to Twitter in December to verify his 2011 status with Red Bull Racing. After two full seasons of competition with the organization, he was released from his duties. The organization had added Kasey Kahne to its stable a few weeks prior to the end of the season - and signed him to a 2011 contract - and said it planned to run two teams. While it was initially unclear whether Brian Vickers, who missed most of the season with a medical condition, would return in 2011, it now seems that he will do so. That left Speed without a spot on the roster entering the postseason, a time when few rides remain available for the following year.
Getty Images for NASCARJason Smith
What's the deal?
Here’s a look at some of the key moves announced over the course of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, and some of the drivers who have yet to confirm where they’ll drive in 2011:
Allmendinger, 28, has agreed to a multi-year extension to remain driver of the famed No. 43 Ford. Now in his fourth full Cup season, and second competing for Richard Petty Motorsports, the former open-wheel driver has 13 career top-10 finishes to his credit, with two of them being top fives.
Ambrose, 33, and JTG Daugherty Racing announced plans to part company at the end of this season. A former Ford driver in Australia, Ambrose rejoins the make in 2011 after agreeing to a multiyear deal with Richard Petty Motorsports for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The former V8 Supercar champion is in his second full season of Cup competition and has 13 top-10 finishes, seven of them top fives, to his credit.
Busch, 31, has fit well into the Penske Racing system since joining the organization in 2006. So it wasn’t really a surprise when he opted to extend his contract with the organization earlier this season. Busch, the 2004 Cup series champion, has earned eight of his 22 career Cup wins with the organization. He has also tallied 71 of his 151 top 10s and 36 of his 79 top fives with the outfit.
Busch (right, with team owner Joe Gibbs) didn’t even have time to be a subject of speculation before announcing in January that he had extended his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch, 25, is one of the most dangerous racers in the sport, a driver capable of reeling off wins week to week. He has 86 career NASCAR wins to his credit, 19 of them in the Cup ranks. Of those, 15 have come with JGR (the rest were with Hendrick Motorsports, where he started his Cup career). Busch has 103 top-10 Cup finishes, 52 of those with JGR, and 66 top fives, 36 of those with his current team.
Conway debuted in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season, driving for Front Row Motorsports with sponsorship from ExtenZe. Shortly before the Aug. 13 practice at Michigan International Speedway, Conway was replaced in the car by Tony Raines. A news release soon followed explaining that the sponsor "requested a hiatus in its racing agreement with Front Row Motorsports." Conway and his sponsor forged a deal with Robby Gordon Motorsports for the remainder of the 2010 season, but his future beyond that is murky.
Harvick, 34, was expected to be the hottest free agent of the season. He ended all speculation about his Cup season in May, though, when he announced that he would remain with his Richard Childress Racing team. And why not? Harvick (right, pictured with team owner Richard Childress) and the team were championship leaders for most of the seasonand finished third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Overall, Harvick has 14 Cup wins since starting his full-time series career with the second race of the 2001 season. He has 155 top-10 finishes in that span, including 77 top fives.
Sam Hornish Jr.
The three-time IndyCar Series champion gained ground in the Cup ranks this season. Hornish, 31, is in his third full season of Cup competition – all with Penske Racing. He’s slowly and steadily adjusted to the stock cars and has eight top-10 finishes, two of them top fives, to his credit. Hornish recently said that his status beyond this season is currently unclear, although team owner Roger Penske has said Hornish will be competing in NASCAR in 2011. The team has committed to running Hornish in the season-opening Daytona 500.
Kahne, 30, surprised the NASCAR community when he and Hendrick Motorsports announced last April that the driver had signed a long-term contract with the organization – but that he won’t join the team until 2012. He then went ahead and joined his 2011 Red Bull Racing team late in the season. This year, he'll work with that group all season as they shift to the No. 4 Toyota. He ran five races with Red Bull in 2010 with a top finish of sixth. Entering his eighth season of full-time competition, Kahne has 11 wins. He has 87 top-10 finishes, 49 of them top fives, in his career.
Labonte, 46, appeared to be getting lost in the shuffle this season as the 2000 Cup champion competed for TRG Motorsports, Phoenix Racing and Robby Gordon Motorsports in the opening 21 races. However, he has landed a solid home for 2011, announcing recently that he will take over the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota being vacated by Marcos Ambrose. The team operates out of the Michael Waltrip Racing shop through an alliance with that organization. In 18 full seasons of Cup competition, Labonte has 21 wins. He has posted 199 top-10 finishes, 114 of them top fives.
Menard, 29, is in his fourth full-time Cup season with his second organization. He is in his second season with what is now Richard Petty Motorsports after a pair of seasons with Dale Earnhardt Inc. Menard and Richard Childress Racing announced Aug. 11 that they would partner, along with sponsor Menards, in a fourth RCR car for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Menard has eight top-10 finishes, two of them a top fives, during his Cup career.
Reutimann, 40, has remained as loyal to team owner Michael Waltrip as a driver can. He owns the only two wins for the Michael Waltrip Racing organization and recently signed his first multi-year contract with the organization. Reutimann has only driven for MWR in his four years of Cup competition (He previously drove for Darrell Waltrip in the NASCAR Camping world Truck Series). Reutimann has the pair of wins to his credit. He has earned 23 top-10 finishes, 11 of them top fives.
At Chicagoland Speedway in July, Sadler stated that he “has no future plans with this race team” beyond this season. Sadler joined what is now Richard Petty Motorsports for the final 14 races of the 2006 season. He has earned three of his 19 career top-five finishes, and 18 of his 69 top 10s, during his tenure with the team. Sadler, 35, has three career wins to his credit, one for Wood Brothers Racing in 2001 and two for Robert Yates Racing. He is in his 12th full season of Cup competition, but has announced plans to join the NASCAR Nationwide Series full time in 2011 with Kevin Harvick Inc.
After driving a limited schedule with Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2008, Regan Smith moved to Furniture Row Racing in 2009. The budding team opted to run a limited schedule that season, and return to full-time racing with Smith in 2010. This season, Smith finished 28th in the standings with a best finish of 12th at Auto Club Speedway. That was enough to earn the driver a new two-year contract with the team, which will keep him racing with Furniture Row through 2012.