By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Stewart-Haas Racing will have all four of its cars competing for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, occupying 25% of the post-season grid. That hasn’t stopped Vice President of Competition Greg Zipadelli from discussing about the team’s future.
During Monday morning’s video conference, two highly touted drivers were brought up to “Zippy” as to whether or not he’d be interested of having them in the Ford camp. Those being Xfinity Series star Chase Briscoe and the currently suspended Cup racer Kyle Larson.
Even if its current lineup are fighting for the title, the statuses of both Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer remain unknown after this season. Neither have visited victory lane since 2018, but “Zippy” assured negotiations are underway and hopes to keep its in-house laundry, citing that both have been instrumental of helping Sunoco Rookie of the Year Cole Custer thus far.
“I do anticipate and excited to hopefully have the same lineup that we do this year back. I know one is very close to done, and working on the other one,” said Zipadelli. “So, I think our drivers really work well together this year and lean on each other. They’ve all helped Cole a bunch and I’m proud of everybody for that. I think they’ve showed up ready to race on Sundays and that’s all we can ask.”
Regarding Briscoe, “Zippy” understands first hand what he brings to the table because he was an interim crew chief in four Xfinity Series races, going 75% in the win category. More impressive due to the fact the pandemic has challenged every single team on how to go about things on a one-day or doubleheader event without sessions factoring into the equation.
Whether or not Briscoe goes to Cup next season or in 2022, “Zippy” feels like it won’t hurt him either way because he knows the Indiana racer is capable for the next challenge.
“Hopefully he’ll be right where he is and shortly thereafter move up to the Cup Series. We love Chase and appreciate him. He’s a good kid and a great talent, and just a ton of fun to be around as far as his capability and how calm and cool he is, and the things he can do with a race car,” Zipadelli on Briscoe.
“I would say he’s right at that point, whether it’s next year or the year after. I don’t think it would hurt him to run another year of Xfinity. I don’t know — kind of depending on how the schedules and what the races are if it helps him a bunch or not, but, right now, we’re trying to weigh out all those options”
If there isn’t room for Briscoe at SHR in Cup next season, Go Fas Racing may be another option because they’ve announced this month that Corey LaJoie won’t be back in the No. 32 Ford Mustang after this season. However, such conversations involving Briscoe hasn’t happened.
“I think there are opportunities for all of that. We haven’t really talked much about going down that road,” said Zipadelli. “I think we’re just kind of waiting to see how everything pans out and then we’ll make the decisions which we feel is best for our organization and our drivers.”
As for Larson, he’s kept himself very busy since being suspended by NASCAR due to using a racial slur at an iRacing event in April. That’s been nothing but winning in multiple dirt racing categories.
Due to this, it has caught the eye of Tony Stewart, who has been a huge advocate of wanting to bring the Californian back in NASCAR. Pending on when Larson will get reinstated, folks can’t deny that his stock has grown despite the horrible online blunder which will take a long time for many to move on.
Nevertheless, “Zippy” is open to the idea of Larson coming back because he felt there’s still something to prove in NASCAR.
“I don’t think there’s an organization out there that wouldn’t,” Zipadelli on Larson. “He’s a great, great talent and I don’t think he’s proved what he’s capable of doing. I think that kids got a lot of talent and has a lot of good things in his future as far as wins and racing for championships and things of that nature.”
As the old saying goes, time will tell how the 2021 lineup will look like at SHR, but once the fate of four drivers have been announced, it’ll close another chapter of an already wild silly season.