Rumors are boiling like stew in a pot about who will be the primary driver for the No. 20 Toyota in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in 2014. The Dollar General machine was piloted by Brian Vickers until he suffered a season ending blood clot. Nevertheless, Brian isn’t returning to Gibbs in 2014 because he’ll be promoted to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) with Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR)
Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Drew Herring have shared seat time while Vickers has been dealing with the medial issues. Herring drove the automobile this past weekend where he clocked in a 16th place finish after starting 10th.
Herring has been one of JGR’s development drivers of the course of the 2014 season and is a contender to drive the No. 20 full-time throughout 2014, but I’ve came up with a top five candidates list of who Joe Gibbs should consider.
5. Erik Jones: The 17-year-old was impressive at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) this past weekend where he wrote his name in the record books by becoming the youngest NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner. Jones is still quite young and will need to be further developed before we consider him a ligament contender to drive for JGR’s programs in the NNS. Nevertheless, the young man has good things to come with a mentor in Kyle Busch and a possible NCWTS ride with Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) in future years.
4. Parker Kligerman: With the possibility of KBM cutting to just a truck program for 2014 it leaves Kligerman hanging out to dry. Recently Parker made his NSCS debut with Swan Racing where he racked up and impressive 18th finish in his first career race. Joe Gibbs and Kyle Busch Motorsports are both partners at the NNS level and the No. 20 would be a great fit for Parker as he’d be staying inside the Toyota family.
3. Alex Bowman: The New Mexico driver has been astounding in his rookie season with RAB Racing in the Nationwide Series. Bowman recently racked up a pole at Texas Motor Speedway where he caught many owners and other competitors eyes. The 20-year-old has a lot going for him after preforming this well with not the best of teams like RAB. Like Parker, Bowman would be staying inside the Toyota family and in my mind he’s a serious contender for this No. 20 ride.
2. Darrell Wallace Jr: There’s no doubting the fire in Darrell Wallace Jr’s eyes when he climbs behind a racecar. Wallace isn’t a normal racecar driver; he’s had to overcome adversity with the color of his skin. The young man recently won at Martinsville Speedway where he solidified himself as a future star in this sport. Even though he’s still developing him I wouldn’t doubt that Gibbs is taking a serious look at Wallace and what he can offer to the team, but another year at the NCWTS level wouldn’t hurt.
1. Drew Herring: It’s no surprise that Herring is at the top of the list, they’ve are letting him and crew chief Kevin Kidd build a relationship before seasons end and then throw him in the car for 2014 most likely. Herring’s driven for Kyle Busch’s No. 54 prior to the Vickers medial release and the icing on the cake to seal this possible deal in my mind was the fact he would be able to work with Kevin Kidd before the 2013 season is finishes.
Although, this is just another part of the rumor mill, shoot we could be discussing all these rookies and Jeff Burton end up in the car (I doubt that, but HEY you never know). That’s the beauty of NASCAR, rookies have a shot to make it in top notch equipment like Joe Gibbs and like these five men, they are all well deserving.