While most won’t talk on the record, several sources say the decision will come down between Jamie McMurray and Bobby Labonte. Bass Pro Shops has sponsorship for half the season of the No. 1 car, which is open because Martin Truex Jr. is leaving to go to Michael Waltrip Racing.
McMurray, who used to drive for team co-owner Chip Ganassi, quickly became a top candidate. Labonte, the 2000 champion, has emerged as a candidate because Hall of Fame Racing’s plans for next year are still uncertain.
“We’ve made progress, but the final decision isn’t ready to be announced,” EGR President Steve Lauletta said at Martinsville. “The final decision is close to being made. We haven’t commented on particular names. … There’s a lot of things that need to be considered, and it takes a lot of conversation that fits a sponsor’s brand and fits our needs as a team, and that’s what we’ve been working on all along.”
Representatives for the drivers wouldn’t comment on negotiations.
McMurray needs a ride because his Roush Fenway Racing No. 26 team is being cut so the organization can come into compliance with NASCAR’s four-team cap. Labonte this season has driven mostly for Hall of Fame Racing, which is not continuing its alliance with Yates Racing and is still looking for sponsorship for next year.
Labonte was 31st in the 2009 standings heading into the Oct. 25 race at Martinsville Speedway, while McMurray sits 25th in the 2009 standings.
“It’s a matter of locking everything down and telling everybody where we’re going,” Lauletta said. “We’ve got a really good idea of what we’re doing. We’re just waiting for the right time to make it public.”
Labonte has driven a few races this year at TRG Motorsports, which reportedly is interested in keeping him for 2010 if he is available.
Among the other rides that could be open in 2010 is the No. 07 Richard Childress Racing ride. It needs sponsorship, and Casey Mears has said that whether he stays in that car is dependent on the sponsor.
Hall of Fame Racing could also have an open ride if it can land sponsorship. It would need to form an alliance with another team.
Among other drivers looking for rides for 2010 are Richard Petty Motorsports’ Reed Sorenson and Penske Racing’s David Stremme. Sorenson is the RPM driver without a ride as RPM is merging with Yates Racing, while Stremme is being replaced by Brad Keselowski.