At the end of last year 7-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson, announced that the 2020 season would be his last. Fans are curious who will replace the legendary Johnson in 2021. Johnson spent his entire Cup career in the #48, gathering 83 wins so far.
The Race to Replace Jimmie Johnson in 2021
While it’s likely that a replacement probably has not been decided yet, it can be imagined only a few drivers will fit the bill. Try not to get too anxious, though, as a replacement would likely not be signed and named until later in the year as to not distract the team as they focus on their season. So who could be piloting the coveted #48 next year?
Kyle Larson, who already drives a Chevrolet, shouldn’t be too surprising of an option. We could see Larson move from Chip Ganassi Racing to Hendrick Motorsports with Ross Chastain getting a full-time seat in the #42. This depends on how the sponsors and Chip Ganassi feel with those moves, of course.
It also should be factored in if Rick Hendrick and Larson can agree on extracurricular activities allowed outside of racing. Larson has been adamant that it is important he is able to compete in dirt races. Many owners in the garage are particular about allowing drivers to do this because of the increased chance of injury. In this case, maybe this wouldn’t be the move for Larson after all.
Two long shot choices would be Landon Cassill or Justin Allgaier. Cassill has a history with JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports testing cars and competing back in 2007-2010. Eventually he was dropped and fans have been looking for him to get a “2nd chance” to prove himself. Cassill is probably not what Hendrick is looking for, but could be a surprise move.
Allgaier has competed for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series for four full-time seasons to date, capturing eight wins. With 11 years of experience in Cup and Xfinity, Allgaier could be the experienced veteran that Hendrick is looking for. The question is, has Allgaier shown enough success to be a full-time Cup competitor?
Brad Keselowski appears to be the option that pops up the most on this topic. As a former Cup champion (2012), people have wondered for years what might have been if Mark Martin had retired when he was supposed to. That would have placed Keselowski at HMS instead of Team Penske.
The years following his championship have not been the best for Keselowski, with his best season standing of 4th since. Pair that with a recent crew chief change, some frustration toward his teammate, Joey Logano, and this year being a contract year, the stars could align for the move.
Although it will be a probably be a couple months before contract negotiations begin, have no fear that the driver will be decided soon. Unfortunately, we will have to wait a while after for a formal announcement.