As NASCAR heads deep into the summer, that means the Silly Season — when people will figure out where they will be and what they will drive in 2019 — is getting into full gear.
Here are 19 things to watch as the second half of 2018 begins while looking ahead to 2019:
1. Jimmie Johnson‘s sponsor: Who will replace Lowe’s as Johnson’s sponsor? It most likely won’t be a single company, as the days of one company writing a check for $20 million or more likely are over. Red Bull has been mentioned, although Hendrick Motorsports announced the renewal of Mountain Dew with Chase Elliott on Wednesday, which means that would be unlikely. It would seem Gatorade, a Johnson sponsor, would be a natural fit. But logic doesn’t always play a role. And does Johnson race without a sponsor or decide just to hang it up? As bad as this season has been, Johnson looks at me like I have three heads anytime I make such a suggestion.
2. Johnson’s crew chief: Hendrick Motorsports hasn’t announced anything yet about Chad Knaus and whether his deal has been extended. Knaus typically doesn’t want news releases on his contract status and won’t talk about it much. He did tell NASCAR.com that he’d like to be a crew chief for a few more years but wouldn’t want to do it when he is 55. Knaus, who turns 47 in a couple of weeks, has said in the past that he wouldn’t do it beyond 50. So it appears that despite the “struggles,” there is a decent chance of them sticking together.
3. Trevor Bayne: Bayne had his seat pulled out from under him, as Roush Fenway Racing opted in April to have Matt Kenseth do about half the races this year. Bayne had the AdvoCare sponsorship. Bayne likely is out of a ride at Roush Fenway after this season; AdvoCare, with a new CEO, also is a question mark for the team and the sport next year.
4. Kenseth: Would Kenseth, who has averaged a 25th-place finish in four races this year at Roush Fenway, really want to run a full season for the team next year? The next few months could determine that.
5. Roush Fenway: If Kenseth continues to struggle, would Roush Fenway make some competition changes among its leadership? And if AdvoCare bolts, what would happen to the No. 6 car? Wyndham Resorts signed a multiyear deal, but this team continues to be one in transition.
6. Bubba Wallace: Wallace signed a one-year deal with Richard Petty Motorsports. While he is 25th in the standings, he has done a decent job with an organization that still is in transition to Chevrolet, is a Richard Childress Racing affiliate and doesn’t have the funding.
7. Richard Petty Motorsports: If the team can’t get the funding to be competitive, what happens? The team likely will lose its six-race Smithfield sponsorship after this season, as Smithfield likely will focus on its Stewart-Haas Racing relationship. RPM would like to keep Wallace, but money talks.
8. Kurt Busch: Speaking of SHR, Busch is the one driver there who might need some sponsorship to remain with the team. With Monster Energy having one more year as the series sponsor, though, it would seem that one more year with Busch at SHR is in the making.
9. Furniture Row Racing: Furniture Row is in its final year of its deal with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing. It has been a good deal, at least from a performance standpoint, for Furniture Row. If you’re Joe Gibbs Racing, you jack up the price, though, right? These are never easy negotiations. The 5-Hour Energy deal for next season also isn’t done yet.
10. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex would be stupid to sign a contract extension until the team’s contract with Toyota is done. He doesn’t want to go anywhere else, but the 2017 Cup champion also wants to be competitive. If for some reason the Furniture Row-Toyota deal doesn’t get done, it would be interesting to see what team makes room for Truex.
11. NASCAR: Will NASCAR be sold? Will it be a sale of a majority ownership stake or a minority stake? It is too early to tell what will happen and what the impact will be.
12. BK Racing: Speaking of sales, BK Racing is expected to be sold. It might be soon, or it might just have a new top executive in the coming weeks, depending on how things play out as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.
13. Kasey Kahne: Kahne signed a one-year deal with Leavine Family Racing for 2018. The team seems happy with the driver, as it recently replaced the crew chief. It’s been a frustrating season, so the next few months are critical.
14. Jeff Gordon: Will Gordon stay in the Fox Sports booth? His deal is up, and he could decide to take a more active role at Hendrick Motorsports.
15. Mustang: Ford will unveil its new Mustang body style for the NASCAR Cup Series on Aug. 9. It will be interesting to see how the nose of the car looks (and if it looks like the current Camry and Camaro).
16. Charter swaps: The annual game of charter leases will come up again this offseason. The leases that return to teams: StarCom Racing leased a charter from Richard Childress Racing, while TriStar leased one from Front Row. Both organizations could do lease deals for other charters for 2019 that have not been leased previously.
17. Elliott Sadler: Sadler needs sponsorship to stay at JR Motorsports, as OneMain Financial will scale back for next season.
18. Gander Outdoors: How will NASCAR and Gander Outdoors work together in transitioning the title sponsorship of the Truck series? Obviously, there will be a lot of new branding to come out in the offseason.
19. ????: Silly season always brings surprises. Stay tuned.