The term silly season is an extensively used term in the world of NASCAR. It refers to the period during the season when drivers, sponsors, and other various team members announce their plans for the following season, usually meaning that they are moving to a different team. The NASCAR silly season usually began around mid-summer and lasted until early autumn, in plenty of time to prepare for the succeeding season. Throughout the silly season, many rumors regarding drivers and teams and their future whereabouts swirl through the garage and into the World Wide Web.However, much has changed in the world of NASCAR, and silly season is not immune to changes. For an assortment of reasons, silly season begins much earlier in the season, and does not seem to end, and if it does, it is weeks before the Daytona 500. Each year, it has become increasingly lengthy.
Take the 2007 season for example. Even before the drop of the green flag at Daytona in February, it was common knowledge that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was entering the final year of his contract with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Add his contract situation to his purported feud with his stepmother Teresa Earnhardt, who owned the majority of DEI, and you had a wide variety of rumors as to what Dale Earnhardt Jr was going to do in 2008. From January to May, fans wondered where NASCAR's most popular driver was going to call his home.Some thought it was with Richard Childress Racing while others swore he was headed to Joe Gibbs Racing. Others thought he would join the now defunct Ginn Racing. In the end, Dale Earnhardt Jr signed to drive for Hendrick Motorsports. Therefore, Kyle Busch had to find a new home, and eventually signed with Joe Gibbs Racing.Silly season can begin as early as March in today's NASCAR. In 2008, Roush Fenway Racing driver Jamie McMurray found himself in the midst of silly season discussions. Following the race at Bristol in March, which is only the fifth race of the season that encompassed 36 races, McMurray's team had fallen outside the top 35 in owner's points. Immediately, there was speculation regarding his future. That did not end until late-summer when he and Jack Roush stated that McMurray would return to the organization in 2008.
By April,Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman dominated silly season headlines.They ended up leaving Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing respectively and are now teammates at Stewart Haas Racing.Silly season never really ended in 2008. Due to sponsorship woes caused from the feeble economic conditions, many teams closed shop, while others merged with rival teams. In either case, hundreds of people were laid off. Following the 2008 season, DEI and Chip Ganassi Racing became Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, and they have yet to seal their 2009 driver lineup and sponsorship plans. Petty Enterprises merged with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, which meant that the 45 team is no more, and the 10 team may become a part-time effort.
Bobby Labonte left Petty Enterprises to join Hall of Fame Racing, which merged with Yates Racing. Due to the merger and other sponsorship dilemmas, the futures of David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil are unclear. Let us rewind back to the Gillett Evernham Motorsports soap opera. In December, team officials revealed their desire to replace Elliott Sadler with A.J. Allmendinger. Sadler threatened to sue the team, and they ultimately retracted their plans. Allmendinger may end up driving a partial schedule if sponsorship continues to lack within the organization.The bottom line is that silly season is no longer a season. It is now a way of life. It is unremitting in NASCAR, and unless you are firmly established with your team and your sponsor, no driver is immune from the drama that is NASCAR silly season.