As it pertains to NASCAR, the Silly Season refers to hectic activity that goes on during the second half of each season and spills into the offseason. This time around there was quite a bit of movement, particularly among the meddling midpack organizations that are looking to become more competitive. There's also more depth in this year's rookie class than in previous seasons.
Martin Truex Jr. | No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet | Furniture Row Racing
From 2010-12, Regan Smith only managed three top-fives and nine top-10s in 106 starts with Furniture Row Racing. Over the last two years, in the same car, Kurt Busch scored 11 top-fives and 19 top-10s in 42 starts. Now it's up to Truex to keep Furniture Row moving forward.
Last year, Truex was booted from the Chase after MWR manipulated the regular-season finale with a suspicious spin and unneeded call to pit road by his then-teammates. The aftermath caused longtime sponsor NAPA Auto Parts to leave the sport and Truex without a ride.
It's a substantial setback for Truex, who matched his career high in top-five finishes each of the last two years. While Busch's performance last year was impressive, Truex hasn't displayed that level of ability. He goes from a middle-tier driver with a fair amount of upside to one with a fairly limited ceiling.
A.J. Allmendinger | No. 47 Bush's Beans/Scott Products/Clorox Chevrolet | JTG Daugherty Racing
After finishing a career-best 15th in points, Allmendinger left Richard Petty Motorsports following the 2011 season for Penske. However, that stint would only last 17 races after Allmendinger tested positive for amphetamines. He would get picked up by Phoenix Racing later in the season to make four starts. Allmendinger made 18 starts in 2013, split evenly between Phoenix and JTG-Daugherty Racing.
Allmendinger would compile a respectable average finish of 21.2, including three top-15s with JTG-Daugherty. In need of an upgrade over the aging Bobby Labonte, Allmendinger was retained as the lone full-time driver in 2014.
In search of their first top-five finish since 2011, JTG-Daugherty is switching from Toyota engines to Chevrolet under a technical alliance with RCR. The new combination may not win races but should make Allmendinger more competitive and capable of challenging for top-15 finishes on most tracks.
Reed Sorenson | No. 36 TBA Chevrolet | Tommy Baldwin Racing
Sorenson hasn't driven a Cup car full-time since 2009, his final season at Richard Petty Motorsports. He would see some action the following year with decent results as the medical replacement driver for Brian Vickers. Sorenson has made several appearances since but primarily as a start-and-park driver.
Sorenson is only 28 years old but hasn't turned many heads at NASCAR's top level. However, he finished fifth in points the last time he ran the entire Nationwide Series schedule (2011).
Tommy Baldwin machines are bottom-tier equipment but run the full race. Managers in deeper setups or allocation formats should at least be aware Sorenson intends to compete.
Dave Blaney | No. 77 TBA Ford | Randy Humphrey Motorsports
Blaney leaves Tommy Baldwin for a new race team that is using equipment purchased from Germain Racing, who is moving from Ford to Chevy. Last season, Casey Mears scored an average finish better than 25th in these same cars. Blaney could post similar results depending on how well-funded this team is.
If nothing else, Blaney is a lower-level driver that has been able to get near the front in several of the restrictor plate races held over the last few years.
Notable part-time appearances
Various drivers | No. 66 | TBA Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing/Jay Robinson Racing
MWR will attempt to field a third car, when possible. Team owner Michael Waltrip will run the Daytona 500 and possibly other restrictor plate races. He'll also field Jeff Burton in six to eight races, the first coming in Week 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Joe Nemechek will suit up for the second race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway and can use the No. 66 whenever MWR isn't. However, his equipment will come mainly from a much smaller organization.
It's unclear how much backing Nemechek will have from MWR, so his fantasy value is minimal, at best. Waltrip and Burton, however, offer managers experienced drivers with a decent race machine at a cheap rate in most formats.
Trevor Bayne | No 21. Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford | Wood Brothers Racing
Bayne remains a part-time Cup driver for the fourth consecutive year. He's also coming off his best showing in the Nationwide Series: sixth in points with 21 top-10s in 33 starts.
The team plans to run the same 12 races as last season, primarily intermediate tracks and superspeedways, but will be looking to add more appearances based on funding. Bayne hasn't scored a top-five since winning the 2011 Daytona 500 and only managed a single top-15 in 2013.
The Wood Brothers typically field cars superior to most low-end teams. Despite last year's struggles Bayne shouldn't be factored out.
Ryan Blaney | No. 12 SKF Ford | Team Penske
The son of veteran Dave Blaney is expected to make two Cup starts for Penske next season. The 20-year-old will debut at Kansas Speedway in May. Blaney made three Nationwide starts last year, all resulting in top-10s. He scored an impressive victory at Kentucky Speedway, leading 96 of 200 laps.