By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The NASCAR season may be over, but there’s still plenty of fireworks on what’s already been a chaotic yet compelling silly season. This time, it involves Thursday morning’s news involving the Xfinity Series as Brett Moffitt and Daniel Hemric will be full-time competitors in 2021.
After a crushing Truck Series finale last Friday, Moffitt won’t be back with GMS Racing, but will make the jump to the Xfinity Series full-time with Our Motorsports, a team he’s driven for nearly the entire season.
As for Hemric, he’ll go from a partial schedule with JR Motorsports to a full-time ride with Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 team. That meant Riley Herbst is out of a ride for the time being with rumors suggesting he’ll be the one replacing Chase Briscoe in the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang.
No word on Herbst’s 2021 plans currently, but there’s some thoughts on both announcements and how I feel about which mostly focuses on a single phrase — sink or swim.
The Next Step for Our Motorsports
What was supposed to be an opportunity for Andy Seuss to get more national exposure became an overnight success for Moffitt as an initial five-race plan turned into 29 out of 33 races where he scored a top-five (fifth at Talladega in June) and seven top-10 finishes.
Half of the four races Moffitt didn’t compete were driven by Andy Lally, who score a pair of fifths at Road America and the Daytona road course. As you can tell, Seuss never got a chance in piloting the No. 02 Chevrolet Camaro because he left a race team he build a brand upon in ARCA by the time summer rolled along.
Before this announcement, I was concerned that Moffitt’s comments on his Truck Series crew was going to cost him a job. He was rightfully upset at Phoenix when another pit strategy bit the team again, leading to him throwing them under the bus. At the same time, it just wasn’t ideal when at that point nothing was set into stone for 2021.
GMS Racing confirmed Moffitt wouldn’t come back after Our Motorsports announced their 2021 driver. The No. 02 isn’t a top-tier Xfinity Series team, something Moffitt has been vocal about that if he moves up the ladder, top team is key.
However, the No. 02 has shown flashes of brilliance with Moffitt this season and now that it’s set into stone he’ll go full-time, things can only go up from here. It gives the former Truck Series champion a challenge to prove why he’s one of the better drivers in the sport.
The driver/team combo have a year under their belt, so I can’t imagine them not doing well. If he doesn’t deliver, which will surprise me, then his career may be on the rocks which I hope it doesn’t come into fruition.
Do or Die Season Ahead for Hemric
As pleased as I am for Hemric getting a top-tier ride on a full-time basis again, this is it for NASCAR’s elusive one.
The 29-year-old has been a sport regular since 2015 and still hasn’t won a single race. He’s bounced team-to-team, shown strong runs as well, but how many more opportunities he’ll get when a win has been his kryptonite?
It’s two wins or bust for Hemric.
The No. 18 team are known for winning, something Herbst flat out couldn’t do. I know a lot of people don’t like the Nevada racer, but he’s occasionally quick which lies the problem. Joe Gibbs Racing isn’t a team that seeks for the occasional blistering pace, they want regularly quick guys.
Hemric has it, but now more than ever, he must be quick and victorious. In 21 races with JR Motorsports’ No. 8 team, he scored seven top-fives with two runner-up finishes at Charlotte and Kansas. That’s seven-career runner-up finishes in NXS which is three fewer than Dale Jarrett before scoring his first win.
With Briscoe moving to the Cup Series, it doesn’t mean the competition will be lacking. You still have the remaining main casts of defending champion Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier, Justin Haley, and Noah Gragson, looking to make it tough for Hemric.
Even when he didn’t deal with those shortcomings at JRM, he’ll occasionally be up there battling with those guys. Unfortunately, occasional isn’t enough in Xfinity anymore. It’s got to be consistent.
When your teammates are Harrison Burton and Brandon Jones, both who won multiple races in 2020, expectations are high. Next season must be strong, otherwise it’s not going to be a great look for the Kannapolis racer.