Now that Kurt Busch has officially moved on from Furniture Row Racing to Stewart-Haas Racing the best ride still available for 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series might just be the No. 78 of Furniture Row Racing. Motorsports 101 debates who will fill the seat vacated by Busch.
Regan Smith – By Clayton Caldwell
Furniture Row Racing has blossomed into a very competitive race team in 2013 with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion driver Kurt Busch behind the wheel. The truth is that the seeds were already in place for the team to have a very good 2013 season with the momentum the team started building during the 2011 and 2012 seasons with Regan Smith as the driver.
Smith has the team's only win in the 2011 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. So will the team bring back Smith for 2014 after setting him aside to get the talented Busch into their car for a year? Would Smith even want to return to the team? The fit would be nice but usually a driver doesn't end up back at a team he raced for previously in this business.
So who else could Furniture Row Racing go after? Ryan Newman certainly has to be the best free agent left on the market. He has 17 career Cup wins. Since reports are saying that Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing will promote Kyle Larson to fill the No. 42 Chevrolet's seat Newman's last spot at a competitive ride could be FRR. That is if Richard Childress Racing doesn't go to a four team operation and then Newman would be the top candidate to fill that spot.
Other free agent drivers on the market are the Richard Petty Motorsports duo of Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose. Both drivers are most likely in line to stay with RPM though. Juan Pablo Montoya is available and could be on the No. 78 team's radar. It almost seems more likely that Montoya will end up back in the IndyCar ranks though. David Ragan, a two-time race winner, is a free agent so the current Front Row Motorsports driver certainly has to be looking for an upgrade in the team he races for.
The 2000 series champion Bobby Labonte is also a free agent but it is doubtful Furniture Row will go after Labonte. AJ Allmendinger is an interesting name. He seems to be in line to take over full-time at JTG/Daugherty Racing after already stepping in an driving some of the races in 2013 for the team in place of Labonte. There is also the rumor that the No. 47 team could be switching to Chevy and aligning with Richard Childress racing much like Furniture Row Racing currently does.
After ironing it all out it seems as if the scenario that makes the most sense is that Ryan Newman ends up the driver of the No. 78 for Furniture Row Racing. RCR can keep their three-team in house operation with Jeff Burton, Paul Menard, and Austin Dillon and then have Newman and possibly Allmendinger driving on satellite teams.
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