NASCAR: 7 Drivers Who Need to Change Teams

Christopher Leone@ChristopherlionSenior Analyst IJanuary 22, 2013

NASCAR: 7 Drivers Who Need to Change Teams

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    Sometimes you have to know when things just aren't working out.

    In motorsports, the wrong driver-team pairing can lead to a disastrous season for all involved. It's a universal concept.

    Formula 1 has had some prominent examples, such as Fernando Alonso and Michael Andretti at McLaren. IndyCar has too, including many of A.J. Foyt's most recent hires, plus Paul Tracy's one-year stint at Newman-Haas.

    Of course, it happens in NASCAR all the time.

    Kurt Busch and Phoenix Racing were a poor fit more often than they were a good one last season, as was A.J. Allmendinger's suspension-shortened time replacing Busch at Penske Racing. Neither of those driver-team pairings are together again this year, but there are still some jobs that drivers may want to reconsider in the near future.

    These seven drivers, for whatever reason, should at least think about a change of scenery before this season ends...

Kevin Harvick

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    This one is already happening, with Harvick headed to a fourth Stewart-Haas Racing car in 2014.

    But even if it wasn't, the writing is on the wall that Richard Childress Racing is going to Austin and Ty Dillon, Childress' grandsons, sooner rather than later.

    Austin is a lock to race for the Cup in 2014, perhaps in Jeff Burton's car, and with a monster season in Camping World Trucks and Nationwide, Ty might be there as well.

    And the mere notion of getting second-best equipment under the Dillons is enough to give any driver pause.

A.J. Allmendinger

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    His foolish ingestion of what turned out to be Adderall last June torpedoed what could have been a huge opportunity for Allmendinger at Penske Racing.

    Instead of establishing himself as a bona fide Sprint Cup driver, there are now rumors that he'll go back to IndyCar.

    Phoenix Racing deserves plenty of credit for giving him the opportunity to relaunch his career, but if he starts performing well, he'd better look at any contract offer that comes his way.

    James Finch's squad never seems to have quite enough money to be anything more than a fringe outfit, which is a shame, given the obvious talent there.

    That being said, if a big-name sponsor magically materialized out of nowhere, all concerns would be retracted.

Elliott Sadler

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    Sadler's decision to return to the Nationwide Series two years ago was motivated by a desire to return to Sprint Cup in a more competitive ride than he had with Richard Petty Motorsports.

    And while moving up with Joe Gibbs Racing after this year would certainly satisfy that, keep in mind that JGR has struggled to expand more than once in its history.

    It's the reason why the No. 11 car took years to come to fruition, and it's why Joey Logano is at Penske Racing now.

    As good as Sadler is at attracting and keeping sponsors, the price may not be right for them to move up and fund him for a full season at JGR.

Jamie McMurray

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    Let's be honest: as soon as Kyle Larson is ready for the big show, McMurray's days at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing are numbered.

    He hasn't scored a top-five finish since Bristol in August 2011, though to be fair, that was also EGR's last top-five run as a team.

    But the team that stormed out of the gate to the tune of three high-profile wins in 2010 has fallen into also-ran territory.

    And with one of the sport's most promising development drivers waiting in the wings, and longtime Chip Ganassi driver Juan Montoya in the other car, McMurray might want to start looking for another team sooner rather than later.

David Ragan

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    The loss of UPS as a full-time sponsor also meant the end of Ragan's career at Roush Fenway Racing, which saw him nearly make it into one Chase and almost sweep both Daytona races in 2011.

    The good news is that he remained at a Roush-powered Ford team; the bad news is Front Row Motorsports has always been an also-ran.

    Ragan might be well served to salvage what good finishes he can this year, then take the Elliott Sadler and Regan Smith path back to the Nationwide Series for a year or two to reestablish himself.

James Buescher

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    Steve Turner, Buescher's father-in-law, has given him all the opportunities he needs to succeed at NASCAR's lower levels, and Buescher paid him back by winning last year's Nationwide opener at Daytona and the Camping World Truck title.

    But instead of advancing to Nationwide full-time this season, Buescher will remain in the truck, as teammate Nelson Piquet Jr. moves up instead.

    Buescher is a young driver with a lot of time to advance to the Sprint Cup level, but given his talent and Turner's stated goal of developing drivers without moving up to Sprint Cup himself, this alliance might only last one or two more years.

Carl Edwards

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    Let's be honest: the Chase has ruined Carl Edwards.

    He would have two Sprint Cups (in 2008 and 2011) if not for the Chase, and he lost both in heartbreaking fashion.

    Last year, Edwards seemed to have nothing for the field and almost demoralized by his latest efforts coming up short; he has only won three races since his spectacular crash at Talladega in 2009.

    This isn't so much about Roush Fenway Racing as Edwards' psyche; maybe a change of scenery will help revitalize him, whenever his RFR contract ends.

    For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.