After three months away from the racetrack, the NASCAR Cup Series is less than one week away from hitting the track in Los Angeles, California for the Busch Light Clash, which for the third consecutive year will take place at the LA Memorial Coliseum.
With a brand-new season comes a litany of changes to the NASCAR Cup Series roster, the vast majority of which will be simple to discern on-track, as drivers step into new rides for 2024. However, this off-season, more than any other in recent memory, has featured roster changes that will likely only be noticeable when listening to a team's radio communications.
For this weekend's pre-season exhibition event, at least one-third of the NASCAR Cup Series field will be hearing a different voice on the radio than they did last season -- the byproduct of a volatile spotter market that has impacted several top-tier drivers.
The tidal wave of changes began at the front of the pack, with Josh Williams leaving his long-term post as spotter for defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney to work with Zane Smith at Spire Motorsports.
Smith, a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, will have the veteran spotter on the radio for his rookie campaign in the NASCAR Cup Series, as he drives the No. 71 Chevrolet -- a third chartered entry for Spire Motorsports, which will run with technical support from Trackhouse Racing. Stephen Doran, a long-time engineer for Stewart-Haas Racing, has been hired by the organization to serve as crew chief.
Joining Smith as a newcomer at Spire Motorsports will be Carson Hocevar, whose strength in several interim performances for LEGACY MOTOR CLUB earned him a full-time shot at NASCAR's top-level. Luke Lambert will move with the Michigan-native to serve as crew chief of the No. 77 Chevrolet, as will long-time spotter Tyler Green.
Wood Brothers Racing has since hired Jason Jarrett to work with Harrison Burton and the No. 21 Ford Mustang team in 2024. As for the most recent Cup Series champion, Team Penske has secured another veteran spotter to fill the void left by Williams, in Tim Fedewa, who for the last decade has served as spotter for the now-retired Kevin Harvick.
The departure of Fedewa is just the tip of the iceberg for Stewart-Haas Racing, whose driver and spotter lineups have undergone major changes in the wake of a dismal season for the organization in 2023.
Last Summer, Josh Berry was selected as the successor to Kevin Harvick, after the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion announced his retirement. Rodney Childers will stay on board as crew chief of the No. 4 Ford Mustang, while Eddie D'Hondt jumps ship from Hendrick Motorsports to spot for the five-time NASCAR Xfinity Series winner.
But, not everything will be brand-new for Berry, as Noah Gragson is also climbing aboard the Stewart-Haas Racing train for the upcoming season, driving the No. 10 Ford Mustang. The pair are familiar with working together, after being teammates at JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series from 2020 to 2022.
Drew Blickensderfer will continue as the crew chief of the No. 10 Ford Mustang in 2024, but Gragson and Stewart-Haas have enlisted veteran spotter Andy Houston to be a fixture on the Las Vegas, Nevada native's radio. Ryan Preece, who worked with Houston in 2023, will have Tony Raines as his spotter for the upcoming season.
The fallout of D'Hondt's move to Stewart-Haas Racing? Chase Elliott. NASCAR's Most Popular Driver will welcome cousin Trey Poole, who has done lots of spotting for him on road courses, as his full-time spotter in 2024.
Much like Poole, Michael Fisher has gotten the nod to be a full-time spotter in the NASCAR Cup Series for 2024. Working with Michael McDowell and Front Row Motorsports, Fisher will replace Clayton Hughes as the eyes in the sky for the No. 34 Ford Mustang.
Ryan Blanchard, despite venturing into full-time spotting in the NASCAR Cup Series for the first time, probably embodies the least dramatic change that LEGACY MOTOR CLUB made over the off-season. Blanchard will serve as the spotter of the No. 42 entry this season, which will change its branding from Chevrolet to Toyota for 2024, while also taking on the recently promoted John Hunter Nemechek to join signed drivers Erik Jones and Jimmie Johnson.
Nemechek returns to the NASCAR Cup Series for the first time since 2020, after taking time away to position himself for long-term success, a fruitful move that has resulted in victories in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Truck Series. The son of Cup Series winner Joe Nemechek will have Xfinity crew chief Ben Beshore calling the shots on the No. 42 in 2024.
Speaking of repositioning, AJ Allmendinger is taking a step back from racing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2024, running just a partial schedule for Kaulig Racing in the No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro, leaving the door open for others like Josh Williams.
Joe White returns to spotting full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series for the 2024 season, working with the No. 16, while Frank Deiny, Jr. will continue working with the team, albeit with the No. 31, which will now be driven by Daniel Hemric.
Hemric, the 2021 champion of the NASCAR Xfinity Series, will get a second opportunity in the NASCAR Cup Series this season, as Kaulig Racing's sole full-time driver. However, as Kaulig Racing looks to improve upon its NASCAR Cup Series performances, they'll have the assistance of Travis Mack, who in a strange sequence of events, will swap places with Matt Swiderski for 2024.
Mack will serve as both Competition Director and crew chief of the No. 16 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series, while Swiderski will be partnered with Trackhouse Racing's Daniel Suarez.
Justin Haley, one of the founding drivers for Kaulig Racing's full-time NASCAR Cup Series program, departed the organization over the off-season in favor of a bombshell move to Rick Ware Racing in 2024.
Haley will be piloting the No. 51 Ford Mustang, the flagship entry for the organization. Chris Lawson, who worked with Front Row Motorsports to win the NASCAR Truck Series title in 2022, will serve as the crew chief of the entry.
Meanwhile, the team's second entry will continue to be a rotisserie of different pilots, including Kaz Grala, who takes on the majority of the schedule in 2024. Cody Ware is also expected to make select appearances in the entry, but nothing has officially been announced at this time.
So, did you get everything? Good, because the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series campaign is set to begin in less than one week, and promises to be one of the most competitive in series history. If you didn't, that's alright too, just come back and use this as a cheat sheet.
-- Image Courtesy of John K Harrelson, NKP