Honorable Mentions (IE: Current Ford faithfuls)
So there’s the short list from outside the Ford family, but there are a couple of others that are already involved with the Ford family who could also be considered for the open seat in 2017.
Here’s a look at those folks.
Austin has proven he can run up front in both a Truck (Brad Keselowski Racing) and an XFINITY car (JR Motorsports). He is a big time winner in late models and has all the on and off-track skills that you would look for in a driver. I’m not sure if NASCAR would clear him for a full season of competition in the XFINITY Series, but they should. He’d be my dark horse of this group and in my opinion should definitely warrant a look.
Reddick has had a couple of seasons with BKR in the Truck Series, so again, he’s “in the house,” so to speak. I just don’t know if I believe he’s yet maximized his opportunity, especially considering his performances this year.
Daniel Hemric, in my opinion, clearly outperformed Tyler almost across the board this season and just got signed by Richard Childress Racing, so I would think one more season of Truck racing — maybe combined with some carefully chosen starts in the Penske “star car” to get him some NXS seat time — would get Tyler where he needs to be to raise his stock for a 2018 move up the ladder.
Here’s another driver who literally fits the “in the family” moniker, as his father Tim is one of Roger’s top executives.
Austin is as humble and easygoing as it gets. He’s not boisterous at all. He just goes fast and takes care of his equipment. Like Theriault, I’m not sure if NASCAR would approve him for a full XFINITY season, but maybe at least he could get a full-time shot in Hemric’s old BKR Truck seat in ’17 and a start or two in the No. 22 car.
I don’t pretend to know what Roger or anyone involved with this situation are thinking about, but I am usually pretty fair at reading the tea leaves.
I would have thought Hemric was a lock for the Penske seat, but RCR offered him a more attractive long-term situation. I would have faith that any of the five drivers on page one of this list, and even the folks already in the Ford family, would get 100 percent out of the equipment they’re given … and that’s what you look for in a driver.
This is going to be a fun situation to keep an eye on over the next several weeks until an announcement is made.
Who do you think will end up in that second Penske XFINITY seat next year? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Tom Baker is the Owner and Senior Editor of Race Chaser Online, as well as creator of the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show — airing Thursdays at 7 p.m. Eastern on the Performance Motorsports Network.
With 27 years of motorsports media, marketing and managerial experience, Baker serves as coach and mentor for several next generation racers as well as Race Chaser’s passionate lineup of rising motorsports journalists.
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