By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
It’s been one of those days where the latest twists and turns impact the future landscape in both the NTT IndyCar Series and NASCAR.
One former champion is making its return when it didn’t have to come down that way to be honest. Another is perhaps the right move all things considered and last but certainly not least, further escalates the whole Denny Hamlin ownership rumor.
With that, let’s dive into the three biggest news from Tuesday and how I feel about each those decisions.
Bourdais Returns to IndyCar Full-Time with AJ Foyt Racing
Four-time champion Sebastien Bourdais was announced as AJ Foyt Racing’s full-time driver next season, piloting the No. 14 Chevrolet. Not just he’ll be back in the sport on a full-time basis, but he’ll finally make his team debut in next month’s Harvest Grand Prix at Indianapolis (October 2-3).
Bourdais will run the final three races in what felt like he was the only one that got the short end of the stick because the COVID-19 pandemic halted everything, including a trip to Portland.
“I think there were greater or bigger problems in the world, and there are still a lot of issues. Obviously was looking forward to the things that I was talking about with Larry, trying to explore the perspectives, really trying to come through on the 2021 project,” said Bourdais.
“Obviously we knew the more we could run, the more we could prove of where the team was at. Getting experience in ’20, that was kind of critical. When the opportunity was denied, it didn’t really stop the plans to try and pursue that avenue.
“Really at that point of course I was disappointed not to be able to race, but I was looking more at the big picture, the long game. Kind of all worked out. I guess I’m glad I did.”
I’m not going to lie, this is quite the big deal for Foyt’s squad because they sorely need a guy who can get the job done and provide some sort of stability. Let’s face it, the team isn’t going to get it done with Dalton Kellett, who to no one’s surprise, has been very underwhelming to watch.
Having the Frenchmen who should’ve not been reduced into a sporadic driver is going to do many wonders for the team going forward.
Do I expect the combo be front running contenders right out of the gate? Probably not, but if Charlie Kimball has had some flashes of brilliance this year, why not Seb?
If anything, they’ll further improve without going to such transitional changes every race in the main ride because whoever pilots “Super Tex’s” legendary number, expectations are high in my book.
Kellett clearly wasn’t it, so hiring Bourdais is the greatest upgrade you can have right now. The team needs a no nonsense determined racer that wants nothing but success. We’ve seen it at Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan, I can certainly see it at AJ Foyt Racing.
Mayer Set to Become an Xfinity Series Regular Next Summer
Sam Mayer has agreed on a multi-year deal with JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with him competing during the second half of next season before making the full-time leap in 2022.
If you’ve watched national or regional ARCA over the past couple of years, you’ll know that this 17-year-old racer is no joke. Mayer is the type of guy that’ll actually be transcendent because he’s been a contender at any type of circuit which is very important from a young up-and-coming racer.
“Having the opportunity to return to JR Motorsports after racing late models with them in 2018 is definitely very special to me,” said Mayer in a press release. “Being able to share this news makes me very excited for the coming year. I hope I can learn as much as I can in the second half of next season and to be ready to go race full-time for the NXS championship in 2022.”
Although he has a single top-10 in six Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series (which will be the Camping World Truck Series again in 2021) and probably quite the massive leap to go from ARCA to Xfinity, I’d imagine what the Earnhardt family are doing.
They see a potential star in the making and when you look at the JRM roster right now, aside from Noah Gragson, Mayer may be the guy who can be a Chase Elliott or a William Byron and that’s being the next champion.
What does it mean for Jeb Burton and Daniel Hemric, who’re currently sharing the No. 8 Chevrolet and I’d imagine may be the ride Mayer will be?
Time will ultimately tell, but it doesn’t look great on their end because I do feel like they bring more to the table than what the results tell you. More so Burton, who hasn’t had the greatest bit of luck since going to Cup in 2015.
Other than that, I totally love that announcement and while the waiting game is understandable, I don’t see why this partnership will fail when June 2021 rolls along. Now let’s hope Mayer runs a few more Truck Series starts so folks can really see what I and a few others have seen from him in ARCA. Don’t sleep on the Wisconsin racer at all folks.
Suarez Once More A Free Agent After 2020
For the third straight year in a row, Daniel Suarez pulled the shortest straw as he announced on Twitter that he’ll be leaving Gaunt Brothers Racing after just a single year in the NASCAR Cup Series.
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) September 15, 2020
It’s been a rough year for the 2016 Xfinity Series champion and the No. 96 Toyota squad. When they’re running a year-old Camry and suddenly made the commitment of running full-time, I knew they had a tough road ahead.
Definitely not good seeing Suarez, who in my eye can probably still win a Cup race someday, go through another round of uncertainty. He lost his ride at Joe Gibbs Racing following the demise of Furniture Row Racing that led to Martin Truex, Jr. taking the No. 19 ride in 2019. He then loses his No. 41 seat to Cole Custer, who was tearing it up in Xfinity with Stewart-Haas Racing.
Now what? Is he out of a ride in favor of who? Bubba Wallace?
Yes, according to Motorsport.com’s Jim Utter, Wallace could be a contender of taking over the No. 96 Camry. In a way, it’s a sign GBR are looking for a guy that’ll make them relevant from a competition stand point. They have a long way to go, but if the wild rumor of Denny Hamlin wanting to be involved on the team ownership side becomes a reality, I can understand why Wallace may not be a bad choice.
However, why would Wallace leave Richard Petty Motorsports to go with a team that hasn’t set the world on fire yet?
Wallace does bring sponsorships which will help GBR, but isn’t that what Suarez provided to make the No. 96 full-time? What difference will it make this time?
Your guess is as greater than mine, but if Wallace ends up going there, you better hope Hamlin has a role in that because if he doesn’t, then it’ll be a hellacious decision to go from a ride that is modestly good into an unproven squad.
Speaking of RPM, that’s where some are feeling Suarez might end up. To me, that’s an improvement but the whole No. 43’s future is as unknown as Hamlin’s interest of having ownership.
Either way, it further creates a lot of suspense going into the fall and I guess we’ll have to see how it unfolds because I could see this impacting more guys and teams than it already has.