The five biggest headlines left for 2012

With many of the headlines of driver movement and sponsorship starting to wrap up it’s time to think about is left to talk about.

1. Danica Patrick 2012 plans
Word is that Danica Patrick is finishing up a deal that will have her in the #7 car for JR Motorsports full time in the Nationwide Series. It’s also rumored that she will try to run a handful of Cup races for Stewart-Hass Racing in a third car. When will this announcement be made? While it’s not as big a story of where Carl Edwards will race it will grab the headlines. Unlike Edwards we know who Danica will race for the question is simply when will they tell everyone.

2. Does David Ragan stay in the #6?

This sets up the next one. Ragan won the July race in Daytona but with sponsorship of the #6 up at seasons end and little coming in terms of results in previous years it bears asking. Ragan is signed to a contract with Roush Racing in 2012 so removing him would likely come at some financial cost to the organization.

UPS made a statement following his win and has publicly said they are proud of what Ragan offers. Originally I thought a win this year may be enough to keep him his just but now I’m wondering if it’s changed to having to make the Chase considering there will eventually need to be a spot for Trevor Bayne and/or Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

3. Ricky Stenhouse and Trevor Bayne

Both drivers are full time Roush Fenway drivers in the Nationwide Series. Bayne won the Daytona 500 this year driving the #21 Ford of the Wood Brothers. It was just his second Cup start and while he’s ran additional races in the car the results have not been there. Of course he also had some health concerns earlier this year having to be treated for lime disease. Does he continue to drive the #21 part time again next year?

Does Stenhouse get some part time action in 2012? If he wins the Nationwide title this year it will be hard to keep him at that level again in 2012. The other problem is with Bayne being loaned out to the #21 there isn’t a lot of quality Ford teams left to send a driver to.

4. Joe Gibbs  or SHR expansion?

It seems to be a yearly question. Will Joe Gibbs or Stewart Hass Racing expand? Both had said that they would given the right circumstances. At Gibbs they were in hot pursuit of Carl Edwards but given the remaining drivers on the market it’s hard to see a fit for 2012. But maybe 2013?

Over at Stewart Hass Racing the hot news is that Danica Patrick will race a third team. How many races Danica is a part of or what happens going forward remains to be answered. With the drivers at Hendrick Motorsports locked up could SHR be her final destination?

5. The Red Bull mess & Brian Vickers

Project NASCAR appears over for Team Red Bull but Jay Frye is still trying to make something happen. The last we heard was that Frye was still planning on trying to run a Sprint Cup team. Mark Martin who worked with Frye in the past is a free agent and has said that he didn’t plan to own his own team. Paring with Frye may just be in the cards.

Piggy backing on the above we have to ask what is going on with Brian Vickers in 2012. Vickers was set to be a free agent in 2012 regardless of what happens over at Red Bull. Vickers is a distant 27th in points and missed most of last year with blood clots. In 2009 he made the Sprint Cup Chase. He has one career win.

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