By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Just when you thought this week’s NASCAR news was done, think again. This time, it impacts the future of three Ford drivers as Thursday’s announcements gets us a step closer of finishing out the silly season puzzle.
Matt DiBenedetto will stay with the Wood Brothers for only one more season as Xfinity Series star Austin Cindric will make the move to the Cup Series in 2022. Therefore, Cindric will stay in the second division with Team Penske as he signed a multi-year deal. Finally, Clint Bowyer will hang up the firesuit and put on the broadcasting suit next season, leaving the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang vacant.
Let’s jump in and give my thoughts on each breaking news that all involved the “Blue Oval” brand.
One of the most popular drivers in the Cup Series will call it a day after 15 full seasons as Clint Bowyer will step down from racing to join the FOX NASCAR booth.
Following some surprising chemistry with his former enemy Jeff Gordon during the pandemic, Bowyer’s quest to television rose. If you would’ve told me those two will make for good programming in 2012, I would’ve give you a mean stern look because it was so not happening.
Fortunately, they’ve patched things up and should be quite the scene next year with those two guys and Mike Joy telecasting the race which I might say improved quite a bit. If only the visual productions can get it together, they may take the spot from NBC as the best NASCAR telecast.
— Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) October 8, 2020
Television aside, Bowyer’s performance haven’t been quite ideal compared to the rest of his SHR teammates. The past two years have been real underwhelming as he’s gone winless since the rain shortened race at Michigan two years ago.
Bowyer is in a must win situation at the ROVAL to make the Round of 8, which is easier said than done. I don’t think he’ll make the next round of the playoffs, but he’ll at least have five more races to bring home one final victory.
If not, he’ll be the third guy to get their last win in a weather altered race, potentially joining Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (Phoenix Fall 2015) and Carl Edwards (Texas Fall 2016) on that list. In fact, out of the last six races that didn’t complete its race distance due to weather, only Denny Hamlin has continued winning races while Justin Haley and Chris Buescher still has plenty of years to get their second win. Something to keep in mind right now and in the foreseeable future.
Then you have Chase Briscoe making the dream call of needing to win eight races to have a future in the sport. He did that at Bristol last month and now it seems almost obvious he’ll get the nod to replace Bowyer.
The only other guy who could land that No. 14 ride is Kyle Larson because it has been publicized that Tony Stewart would like to have him at SHR. At this rate, it could be that team or the fourth car at Hendrick Motorsports, but there’s one thing Briscoe is thinking about. That being his bid for the NXS championship to cap off one of the best campaigns in history.
22 for 2022
Austin Cindric has come a long way since being the guy who really rubbed people the wrong way when he punted Kaz Grala for the win at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in 2017. Like really, he has grown to be a legit strong driver that can get the job done on any type of circuit.
All that hard work has led him to this moment that in 2022, the pilot of the No. 22 Ford Mustang in Xfinity will move up to the sport’s premiere level.
— Austin Cindric (@AustinCindric) October 8, 2020
Although we’ll have to wait for Cindric to make his full-time debut for the Wood Brothers, next season (with or without Briscoe) should be the year of more growth and development. He has benefitted by being an Xfinity Series veteran to mature and it has shown.
Couldn’t be more impressed with that and when you think about it, Cindric has played a vital role in Ford’s success despite being one of only two guys representing the brand in Xfinity.
Now if only Thursday morning’s announcement means he’ll be “one step closer” of being a future competitor in the Indianapolis 500. Time well tell.
Matty D Continues His Career…For Now
Thanks to a superb performance in last Sunday’s closing fiasco at Talladega, Matt DiBenedetto will still be a part of the Wood Brothers next season, but that’s it.
After 2021, Cindric takes his No. 21 Ford Mustang, so it’ll be another season for DiBenedetto where he’ll have to put on a convincing campaign in order to stay in Cup.
For IMMEDIATE release. Release it far and wide. Wrote a poem about it. Here ‘hit goes:
Put on your shoes,
Put on your hat..
Take a big deep breath,
SURPRISE! We’re keeping MATThttps://t.co/A9GJ9LPoAm
— Wood Brothers Racing (@woodbrothers21) October 8, 2020
Yes, DiBenedetto has had a career season and made the playoffs, but can the fan favorite back it up next season?
It’s possible, but each season has its own different vibe where things either continue clicking or see a dip in performance. What cannot be denied is his passionate spirit of trying to be a top level driver and now more than ever, he’ll have to step it up a notch.
When the time comes where DiBenedetto wins his maiden Cup race, I can’t imagine how hyped the crowd will be because it’ll be such a super popular win all across the board. Not only that, it’ll mark the Wood Brothers’ 100th Cup win which is something DiBenedetto wants to fulfill.
Everything will be on the line where any sign of regression may not be a great look for the veteran racer should he want a Cup career after 2021.