NASCAR Cup Series
Examining the NASCAR driver job market for 2024
NASCAR Cup Series

Examining the NASCAR driver job market for 2024

Updated May. 8, 2023 10:13 a.m. ET

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Martin Truex Jr.'s victory at Dover a week ago certainly didn't hurt Joe Gibbs Racing as it tries to convince Truex to continue his Cup career into 2024.

Truex was having none of the conversation, though, regarding whether there was any ripple effect from the win on his decision.

"It's just May," Truex said. 

Well, last year he made his decision to come back for 2023 in June. So maybe Truex will have clarity on his future in a month?


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"End of June," Truex said.

OK, two months.

Truex is one of the pieces to the puzzle of free agency that likely will get hashed out over the next couple of months. Right now, it doesn't look to be an exceptionally dramatic silly season — but again, as Truex said, it's just May.

Drivers and team owners are known to make abrupt decisions with little warning. Injuries also can play a role. 

But here's an overview on how things stand in early May looking at the NASCAR driver job market for 2024. 

Truex said after Dover that he is having fun and has enjoyed the 2023 season. That gives Joe Gibbs hope.

"We are constantly talking to Martin about next year," Gibbs said. "We want him to stay with us as long as we can convince him to do that."

"We want him to stay with us"

Joe Gibbs talks about Martin Truex Jr. and why he wants him to continue to drive for JGR next year.

JGR currently has to sign the two biggest free agents in NASCAR: Truex, the 2017 Cup champion, and Denny Hamlin, who just earned his 49th career win Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

Hamlin has said he intends to continue racing for JGR while co-owning 23XI Racing. Both JGR and 23XI will be joined in the Toyota stable next year when Legacy Motor Club makes the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota. That switch was announced Tuesday.

Hamlin said Saturday that 23XI is still negotiating its extension with Toyota. For Hamlin, his driver deal also depends on 23XI getting a deal done with Toyota, so it isn't as simple as other contract extensions.

"We're working on it," Hamlin said. "It's going to take time."

The one team that knows it will have an opening next year is Stewart-Haas Racing as Kevin Harvick already has announced his decision to retire.

JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry is the top candidate to replace Harvick at SHR, which also potentially could lose Anheuser-Busch as a sponsor as Trackhouse Racing and Ross Chastain are the front-runners to land that deal.

That won't stop SHR from signing a driver and it has eyes on Berry, whose career has been made by JRM the past few years. And while Berry probably would like to remain in the Chevrolet stable, it wouldn't come at the expense of not landing a coveted Cup ride.

"I'm just focused on the Xfinity car," Berry said when asked a week ago about next season.

SHR also awaits a decision on whether Aric Almirola returns for 2024. Almirola indicated at the start of the season that he, like Truex, would take his time before making a decision. 

Zane Smith is considered the top prospect in the Ford camp, and the 2022 truck series champion could land at SHR. He is under contract with Front Row Motorsports, another Ford team, and is running select Cup events for them this year in addition to the full truck schedule.

Toyota's top "prospect" is likely John Hunter Nemechek, who ran in Cup in 2020 and will be a potential replacement if Truex opts not to return or if things don't work out with Hamlin.

Among other prospects, based on performance and funding, who would eye 2024 Cup rides (and would get serious looks from teams) are Austin Hill, Riley Herbst and Cole Custer.

Barring a collapse from one of their drivers, there are seven organizations whose driver lineup is expected to return intact for next year: Trackhouse, 23XI Racing, Legacy, Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske, RFK Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing.

Truex on his future

Martin Truex Jr. said his Dover win has no effect on whether he'll return to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2024.

Justin Haley is a free agent at Kaulig Racing. At 27th in the standings in his second full-time Cup season, he has had respectable runs. He also is just four points behind AJ Allmendinger, who is in the first year of a multiyear deal. If Haley doesn't return, that could be a landing spot for Hill. 

Harrison Burton is struggling for a second consecutive year at Wood Brothers Racing, a Penske affiliate. Everyone went into the 2022 season knowing Burton would need time to develop, but he most likely needs more breakout performances for Penske and the Wood Brothers to feel good about doing another season.

Corey LaJoie (Spire Motorsports, 22nd in the driver standings) and Todd Gilliland (Front Row, 23rd) have helped their stock this year. Both likely could continue with their teams — something Gilliland probably didn't feel at the start of the year when he learned that Smith would replace him for six races — but also could get a look from other organizations if an opening or sponsorship solidifies. 

There is always the possibility of a team selling its charter — NASCAR's version of a franchise — but those decisions likely wouldn't come until the team owners and NASCAR reach a new charter agreement that would be effective starting in 2025.

Thinking Out Loud

Noah Gragson wanted NASCAR security to let him and Ross Chastain to continue throwing punches after the race Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

Fast Thoughts on Gragson-Chastain fight

Bob Pockrass discusses the incident and aftermath of the Noah Gragson-Ross Chastain fight.

There are some who would want NASCAR fights to be like hockey fights — where officials don't break them up until both players are on the ground.

But this isn't hockey and drivers are the most critical members of the team when it comes to drawing fans as well as the standings and the playoffs. NASCAR can't risk drivers getting hurt in fights.

So while it might be fun to see them throw haymakers occasionally — this isn't a sport that needs a boxing ring every week — the responsible thing for NASCAR to do is to stop the fighting once it can.

In The News

-- Ryan Newman will return to the NASCAR Cup Series for the first time since 2021 as he drives for Rick Ware Racing next week at Darlington. He is slated to run the No. 51 car in the first of select races for the organization, which is bringing in some experienced drivers. Its sports-car program recently hired Juan Pablo Montoya.

-- NASCAR followed through with its promise to bring illegal pieces to the racetrack as it displayed in the hauler Saturday the piece from Austin Dillon's car from Martinsville. Last week an appeals panel confirmed the part as illegal and upheld a 60-point penalty on Dillon. It was a locking nut assembly on a splitter rod that didn't lock, which theoretically could allow the team to adjust the height of the splitter after it had been through tech. 

-- Bubba Wallace will drive in the next two truck series races, at Darlington and North Wilkesboro, for Tricon Garage in the organization's No. 1 car that has had a rotating list of drivers this year.

Social Spotlight

Stat of the Day

Joe Gibbs Racing now has 400 victories in the history of the organization (Cup and Xfinity).

They Said It

"I wish it wasn't contact that decided it, but who knows what happens in Turn 3 and 4 I would have loved to have had that opportunity, but he may have got the better end of it." —Denny Hamlin on his late contact with Kyle Larson before winning in Kansas

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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