Sprint Cup Series News (8393)
Tommy Baldwin Racing has announced that Alex Bowman will drive the team's No. 7 Chevrolet SS in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for the 2015 season. 21-year-old Bowman just completed his rookie season in the series with a notable 13th place finish at Daytona International Speedway.
If you are engaged in numerology, Bowman's new job should be destined for success. In addition to driving the No. 7, the native of Tucson, AZ, began racing at the age of seven. Progressing through the ranks, Bowman moved to full-bodied stock cars when he turned 17 years old. Making his NASCAR debut in 2012, Bowman has been at the forefront of NASCAR's youth movement since his arrival.
With NASCAR's youth movement in full swing, Bowman will join an elite group of young talent in the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
"Alex is the future of TBR, and he will be a great representative of our team," said owner Tommy Baldwin Jr. "He is a young driver who displayed a great talent in both the XFINITY and Sprint Cup Series the past few years. We are pleased to give Alex the opportunity to further showcase his skills behind the wheel of the No. 7 Chevrolet this season."
"I'm looking forward to working with TBR and the entire No. 7 team," said Bowman. "With Tommy's experience and his drive to run competitively, I feel like we can run well this year."
Further details on the 2015 season will continue to be announced over the next seven days as #TBR7in7 continues.
The 2015 Daytona 500 is just weeks away and that means it is time to start preparing for the fantasy NASCAR season.
It does not matter if you play Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing, Fantasy Live on nascar.com, Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing or just a game with a group of friends; the more prepared you are the better your chances will be of winning your league.
The 2015 season should be a difficult season for not only the teams in the garage, but the fantasy teams behind their computers. NASCAR has implemented over 60 rule changes for the 2015 season. The first Sprint Cup team to figure out how to generate speed using the new rules package will have the advantage over their competition. If you are lucky enough to figure out which of these teams has the advantage early in the season, you will also get off to a great start.
The teams with the most money and resources will be the first to dominate early in the season since NASCAR has banned team-initiated testing. It will be smart to load up on drivers from Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart Haas Racing and Team Penske through NASCAR’s trip to the West Coast. When teams return to the East Coast the playing field should even out.
It is hard to predict which drivers will dominate during the season. It is easy to just pick the same drivers who had success last season. It never works out that way. Drivers who people expect to have a great season can disappoint and drivers who are expected to struggle find their way to the front.
Here are my driver rankings for the 2015 season based on how many fantasy points each driver is expected to earn and not how the driver will finish in the 2015 Sprint Cup standings…
1. Jimmie Johnson
2014 Stats: 4 Wins, 11 Top-5s, 20 Top-10s, 1 Pole
2015 Predicted Stats: 6 Wins, 17 Top-5s, 24 Top-10s, 3 Poles
2014 Recap: The 2014 season was Johnson’s worst since his rookie year in 2002. The No. 48 team started of slow, but began to figure things out as the weather started to heat up. Johnson won three of the four races after the All-Star race (Charlotte, Dover and Michigan). He looked like a driver capable of winning his seventh championship. Johnson could not maintain his dominance and finished 11th in the point standings.
2015 Expectations: Johnson will bounce back in 2015. Each time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has made drastic changes to the car; the No. 48 team was the first to figure out how to gain an advantage and won the championship. Johnson took home the title in 2007 in the new “Car of Tomorrow” and in 2013 when the “Generation-6” car made its debut. With all of the changes made this offseason, I expect crew chief Chad Knaus to give Johnson a car that will end up in Victory Lane multiple times.
Johnson has never had back-to-back poor seasons. Expect Johnson to return to form this season and become the best driver for your fantasy team.
Best Race Tracks: Johnson is a threat to win each time the drivers fire their engines. When the No. 48 team is hitting on all cylinders, they are almost unstoppable. Johnson has a top-10 average finish at 11 different race tracks (Martinsville 6.2, Auto Club 6.2, Kentucky 7.0, New Hampshire 7.7, Dover 8.2, Darlington 8.4, Texas 9.1, Chicago 9.2, Las Vegas 9.2, Kansas 9.5 and Pocono 9.9). Use Johnson for the 1.5-mile race tracks in allocation games.
2. Kevin Harvick
2014 Stats: 5 Wins, 14 Top-5s, 20 Top-10s, 8 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 3 Wins, 13 Top-5s, 22 Top-10s, 3 Poles
2014 Recap: Harvick was the most consistent driver in 2014. Each week the No. 4 team was a threat to win the pole, lead multiple laps and had a chance to win the race. Harvick led laps in 27 of the 36 races. The only problem with the team came in the pits. After the team swapped pit crews with the No. 14 team in September, their problems were resolved. Harvick will continue to use the pit crew he ended the season with in 2015.
2015 Expectations: Winning a championship is difficult. Backing it up with another championship is even harder. All of the pieces are in place for Harvick to have another great season in 2015.
Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers are quickly becoming the best combo in the business. Childers knows how to provide Harvick a car he likes and can drive to the front. It will be difficult for the No. 4 team to match their success from 2014, but they will win multiple poles and win many races again this season.
Expect Harvick to be one of the drivers leading your fantasy team to your league championship.
Best Race Tracks: Harvick must be on your team at Phoenix. Since the race track was repaved he has won four of the seven races.
Harvick is good at every race track, but he is at his best on the superspeedways, the 1.5 mile race tracks and any race track that is flat. He only has one win in his 28 races on the road courses. Leave him off your team at Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
3. Brad Keselowski
2014 Stats: 6 Wins, 17 Top-5s, 20 Top-10s, 5 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 5 Wins, 18 Top-5s, 24 Top-10s, 6 Poles
2014 Recap: Keselowski had a great season in 2014, but it came with much controversy. The No. 2 team was the first to figure out the new qualifying rules last season and consistently qualified up front. Once the green flag was waived, Keselowski led many of the races.
The problem with Keselowski in 2014 was his driving style. Keselowski has a “win at all cost” driving style and it upset many of the drivers in the garage. His driving style is what makes him one of the best in the sport, so do not expect Keselowski to change any time soon.
2015 Expectations: Payback! Many drivers will be looking to get revenge on Keselowski in 2015 and they will not be afraid to get it. Keselowski has an aggressive driving style, but seems to be afraid of confrontation when the cars are parked. When Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon are not afraid to fight you, your reputation must not be very intimidating. Keselowski would be higher on this list if I did not expect the No. 2 team to end up with a few DNF’s as a result of payback.
Best Race Tracks: Keselowski has proved that he is a threat to win at any race track. He is the master at the intermediate race tracks with worn out surfaces. Keselowski is also very good at New Hampshire, Bristol and Dover. If you decide to use him at a superspeedway or road course, make sure it is Talladega and Watkins Glen and not Daytona or Sonoma.
4. Joey Logano
2014 Stats: 5 Wins, 16 Top-5s, 22 Top-10s, 1 Pole
2015 Predicted Stats: 4 Wins, 14 Top-5s, 20 Top-10s, 4 Poles
2014 Recap: Logano had his breakout season in 2014. He had a career high in wins, top-five finishes and top-10 finishes. At the age of 24, Logano will only get better in time. He was able to win five races last season (Texas, Richmond, Bristol, New Hampshire and Kansas). Logano made it to the Championship Round of the Chase and if it was not for a poor pit stop, he may have won the championship.
2015 Expectations: It would be no surprise to see Logano as the best fantasy driver in the sport. He proved he can consistently qualify up front, lead many laps and win races. If Team Penske can maintain the speed they had in 2014, Logano will once again be a driver competing at Homestead for the championship.
Best Race Tracks: Any race track one-mile or smaller can be considered Logano’s best tracks. He also had the second-best average finishing position on the intermediate race tracks. Logano has never won in his 24 starts on the superspeedways and he also struggled on the road courses. Logano showed so promise with his sixth-place finish at Watkins Glen last season.
5. Carl Edwards
2014 Stats: 2 Wins, 7 Top-5s, 14 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 4 Wins, 12 Top-5s, 22 Top-10s, 2 Pole
2014 Recap: Edwards did not have a very good season in 2014, but it was more of a result of his equipment from Roush Fenway Racing than it was his ability to drive the car. Edwards was able to win two races (Bristol and Sonoma) in inferior equipment. Some say Edwards was a “lame duck” last season, but I believe he really wanted to win the championship for RFR before he left.
2015 Expectations: Edwards has a lot to look forward to in 2015. He will be racing for a new team (Joe Gibbs Racing), have a new crew chief (Darian Grubb) and a new primary sponsor (Aris).
A change of scenery has really benefitted other drivers in recent years. Matt Kenseth left RFR for JGR in 2013 and it resulted in seven wins. Kevin Harvick left Richard Childress Racing for Stewart Haas Racing in 2014 and he ended up with the championship trophy. Can Edwards have the same success with his new team? Do not be surprised to see Edwards as one of the top drivers for your fantasy team in 2015.
Best Race Tracks: Somehow Edwards was the best driver on the road courses last season. He has never been considered a threat at those race tracks, but his name must be added to the list when considering a driver for Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Edwards is also good on the 1.5-mile race tracks. His best are Las Vegas, Texas, Charlotte and Atlanta. Edwards has never won at a superspeedway in his 41 races. There are better choices for your team at Daytona and Talladega.
6. Jeff Gordon
2014 Stats: 4 Wins, 14 Top-5s, 23 Top-10s, 3 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 2 Wins, 11 Top-5s, 20 Top-10s, 3 Poles
2014 Recap: Gordon looked like Kevin Harvick’s best threat to the championship in 2014. The No. 24 had some bad luck in the Chase, but he was one of the most dominant drivers all season long. Gordon had his most wins (4) since 2007, the most top-five finishes (14) since 2009, the most top-10 finishes (23) since 2009 and the most poles (3) since 2008. Gordon found the fountain of youth in 2014. Will he be able to find it again in his final full-time season?
2015 Expectations: My expectations for Gordon were higher before he announced that 2015 will be his last full season in the Sprint Cup Series. The No. 24 car will still be fast and win multiple races, but driving is a very mental activity. Gordon will have a lot on his mind this year. It may be enough to distract him from being a top-five fantasy driver, but not enough to prevent him from being one of the best drivers in the sport.
Best Race Tracks: Keep an eye on the Kentucky race this season. That is the only race track Gordon has yet to win at. Hendrick Motorsports will provide Gordon all of the resources to add a win at Kentucky to his Hall of Fame resume.
Gordon is a threat at every race track. His best tracks late in his career are the larger ovals that are not superspeedways (Indianapolis, Pocono, Michigan and Auto Club). Once considered the master at the road courses and superspeedways, Gordon has not won at Daytona, Talladega, Sonoma or Watkins Glen since 2007.
7. Kyle Larson
2014 Stats: 0 Wins, 8 Top-5s, 17 Top-10s, 1 Pole
2015 Predicted Stats: 2 Wins, 12 Top-5s, 22 Top-10s, 3 Pole
2014 Recap: Larson had one of the best rookie seasons since Denny Hamlin’s rookie season in 2006. Larson did everything but win a race in 2014. He finished three races in second place. With little experience, Larson proved he can compete with the best in the sport. If there was any downfall to his 2014 season it was at Daytona. He finished No. 38 in the Daytona 500 and No. 36 in the Coke Zero 400.
2015 Expectations: There will not be a sophomore slump with Larson. This young man has talent and he will be one of the drivers competing for a championship for many years to come. Larson is still looking for his first win and his first spot in the Chase. Do not be surprised to see him cross both of those goals off his list with a win early in the season at Auto Club.
Larson will be one of the best fantasy racers in 2015. Do not be scared to use him for your team because of his age. He is wise beyond his years behind the wheel.
Best Race Tracks: Larson’s best race tracks are the two-mile ovals (Auto Club and Michigan) because he loves to ride inches away from the wall. He is also very good at the 1.5-mile intermediate race tracks. He loves the banked race tracks, but struggles on two of the flat race tracks (Phoenix and Martinsville). He was very good at New Hampshire though (finished second and third in the two races). There are better choices for your team at Daytona and Sonoma.
8. Matt Kenseth
2014 Stats: 0 Wins, 13 Top-5s, 22 Top-10s, 2 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 1 Wins, 17 Top-5s, 24 Top-10s, 1 Pole
2014 Recap: After winning a career-high seven races in 2013, Kenseth failed to find his way to Victory Lane in 2014. Once again Kenseth was very consistent, finishing 22 of the races in the top 10.
The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas could not find the speed to compete with the cars from Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske. Kenseth would always get the most out of his car, but it was usually a top-10 finish and not a top-five.
Kenseth will look to return to his 2013 form this season.
2015 Expectations: JGR needs to find more speed for their cars. It would be wise for the team to form a relationship with Michael Waltrip Racing so the team has six cars to collect data from, but so far it has failed to materialize.
The new rule changes should help JGR compete for wins in 2015. Kenseth will win some races in 2015, but do not expect him to visit Victory Lane seven times.
Kenseth will be a consistent driver for your fantasy team this season.
Best Race Tracks: Kenseth is very good at Phoenix, Dover and Darlington, but his best race track is Kentucky. His worst finish at Kentucky is seventh. Kenseth is also very good at the superspeedways. He would be a great pick for the Daytona 500. Stay away from Kenseth when the series competes at the road courses. He has never finished in the top five in his 30 career starts at Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2014 Stats: 4 Wins, 12 Top-5s, 20 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 1 Win, 10 Top-5s, 17 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2014 Recap: Last season may have been Earnhardt’s best chance to win a championship. Earnhardt and crew chief Steve Letarte clicked on all cylinders in 2014. Earnhardt had his most wins (4) and most top-five finishes (12) since 2004. The races at Kansas (finished 39th), Charlotte (finished 20th) and Talladega (finished 31st) ruined his season. It will be tough for Earnhardt to repeat this success in 2015.
2015 Expectations: Earnhardt will have a new crew chief (Greg Ives) and a new primary sponsor (Nationwide) in 2015. The biggest question for the No. 88 team heading into this season is if Earnhardt and Ives can create the chemistry he had with Letarte. Earnhardt is at his best when he has a cheerleader in his pits. Ives is more of a mechanical genius then a cheerleader.
Earnhardt has never won a race with a new chief. That could change this season. The cars provided by Hendrick Motorsports are too good to keep Earnhardt out of Victory Lane. If he does win, it will probably be at a race track larger than 1.5 miles.
Best Race Tracks: If you do not have Earnhardt on your team at Daytona, you have not paid attention to his career. Earnhardt has three wins at Daytona and has finished 17 of his 30 career starts in the top 10.
Earnhardt is also very good at Pocono (swept the races last season), Michigan, Darlington, Talladega, Phoenix and Indianapolis. Stay away from Earnhardt at road courses. He has never won a race at Sonoma or Watkins Glen in his 30 starts.
10. Denny Hamlin
2014 Stats: 1 Win, 7 Top-5s, 18 Top-10s, 3 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 1 Wins, 9 Top-5s, 16 Top-10s, 2 Poles
2014 Recap: Hamlin had an up and down season in 2014. He started off the season in a slump. Hamlin finished only two of the first eight races in the top 10. He had a hard time finding his groove, but was able to make the Chase after winning the race at Talladega.
Hamlin had one of the best pit crews and crew chiefs (Darian Grub) in 2014. The No. 11 team would consistently come out of the pits higher than he entered.
Although Hamlin finished third in the point standings, his success was more of a result from luck at some timely occasions than it was due to his dominant performance on the race track.
2015 Expectations: Hamlin has the talent to be one of the best drivers in the Sprint Cup Series. He is often plagued by injuries that prevent him from taking the next step and becoming a NASCAR champion.
Hamlin will not have the help of Darian Grub in 2015. Joe Gibbs Racing decided to swap crew chiefs amongst three of their teams. Hamlin will be paired with Dave Rogers. The two had success in the Xfinity Series and will look to recapture their success in the Sprint Cup Series.
Hamlin will win a race and finish in the top 10 multiple times throughout the season. It will be hard to consider Hamlin an elite fantasy driver when there are more consistent drivers to choose from.
Best Race Tracks: Hamlin was the best driver at the restrictor plate races last season. He won the Budweiser Duel, Sprint Unlimited and finished second in the Daytona 500. He also won at Talladega and finished sixth in the Coke Zero 400.
Hamlin had only the 12th-best average finishing position at the intermediate race tracks last season. His best tracks are Homestead Miami, Darlington, Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix, Richmond and Pocono.
11. Kyle Busch
2014 Stats: 1 Win, 9 Top-5s, 15 Top-10s, 3 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 2 Wins, 7 Top-5s, 14 Top-10s, 1 Pole
2014 Recap: Busch is one of the best wheelman in the sport. He can drive the wheels off the car and that is usually his downfall.
Busch had four DNF’s in 2014 that prevented him from becoming a more reliable fantasy driver. Busch was very inconsistent. One week he would be running up front and competing for the win. The next week he would have a hard time finishing in the top 10. Busch has the talent but he needs to be more consistent to be considered a top-10 fantasy driver.
2015 Expectations: Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers were often found arguing on the radio in 2014. This season Busch will be paired with Adam Stevens. The two worked together in the Xfinity Series and it is no secret Busch had other crew chiefs in mind when Stevens was announced as his new crew chief.
So will Busch be able to work with his new crew chief? It will be much easier for Busch to work with Stevens than it will be for Stevens to work with Busch.
If Busch can control his emotions and learn it is more important to lead the end of the race than it is to lead the beginning, Busch could have a career year. I do not see much change coming from the No. 18 team from what we have seen in the past.
Best Race Tracks: Busch is a threat to win at any race track. He is the best driver in the series at Kentucky. Busch has one win and three top-five finishes in his four starts at Kentucky.
Busch is also very good at Richmond, Auto Club, Indianapolis, Bristol, Watkins Glen and Texas.
12. Kasey Kahne
2014 Stats: 1 Win, 3 Top-5s, 11 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 1 Wins, 9 Top-5s, 16 Top-10s, 1 Pole
2014 Recap: Kahne had the worst season of the four drivers at Hendrick Motorsports in 2014.
Kahne won the race at Atlanta to earn a spot in the Chase. He was only able to finish one race in the Chase in the top 10. He also had four DNF’s throughout the season. The best thing to happen to Kahne in 2014 was his signing of a new contract with HMS.
2015 Expectations: Kahne has been paired with crew chief Kenny Francis for nine seasons. It was obvious that Kahne could use a change at the top of the pit box. Keith Rodden comes back to HMS after spending a year with Jamie McMurray at Chip Ganassi Racing. This change should help the No. 5 team in 2015.
One of the problems with Kahne in the past has been the pressure to perform in fear of losing his ride to possibly Chase Elliott. Now that Kahne has a contract extension and it looks like Elliott is primed to take over the No. 24 car, the pressure should be off of Kahne to perform.
Kahne will be a much more reliable fantasy driver for the 2015 season.
Best Race Tracks: Kahne is at his best at the 1.5-mile race tracks. He is always a favorite at Atlanta, Charlotte and Kansas. Kahne is also a great sleeper pick for the superspeedways and road courses.
13. Tony Stewart
2014 Stats: 0 Wins, 3 Top-5s, 7 Top-10s, 1 Pole
2015 Predicted Stats: 1 Win, 5 Top-5s, 13 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2014 Recap: Where should I start to explain Stewart’s 2014 season? He entered the season after multiple surgeries on his leg. He had a hard time finding success throughout the season. Just when Stewart thought the season could not get any worse, Stewart was involved in an incident where he struck and killed Kevin Ward at a dirt track race.
Stewart only had three top-five finishes in 2014 (Bristol, Auto Club and Martinsville). This is a season Stewart would like to forget.
2015 Expectations: Can Stewart find the success that allowed him to win three NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships? He has the talent to compete with the best, but does he still have the motivation?
Stewart cannot be any worse than he was in 2014. He is a great competitor and should be able to get back some of the swagger that made him great. His streak of 15 consecutive seasons with at least one win came to an end in 2014. Stewart will start another win streak in 2015.
Look for Stewart to be more competitive in 2015. He will be a valuable fantasy driver at some of his favorite race tracks. Just do not expect Smoke to be competing for a championship.
Best Race Tracks: The days of Stewart dominating on the 1-5 mile race tracks is over. He just does not have the ability to make the tough pass like he did in the past. Stewart will still be a good pick at Indianapolis, Chicago, Watkins Glen, Richmond and Pocono.
14. Ryan Newman
2014 Stats: 0 Wins, 5 Top-5s, 16 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 0 Wins, 4 Top-5s, 14 Top-10s, 2 Poles
2014 Recap: Consistency is the best way to describe the 2014 season for Newman. He finished only four of the 36 races outside the top 20. That consistency led the No. 31 team to a spot in the Chase and a second-place finish in the point standings.
Usually when a driver finishes second in the standings it is safe to say he had a dominant season. That was not the case for Newman. He was a much better driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series than he was for fantasy NASCAR teams. He failed to win a race and only finished in the top five in five races.
If you wanted little risk with little reward for your fantasy team; Newman was your driver in 2014.
2015 Expectations: Fantasy teams can expect about the same from Newman in 2015 from what they got from him in 2014. He probably will not win a race. He probably will not have many DNF’s. He probably will not finish many races in the top five. He probably will not finish many races outside the top 20.
Newman will be the safe play for fantasy teams in 2015.
Best Race Tracks: Newman is good at many of the 1.5-mile race tracks. His best are Kansas, Kentucky and Homestead Miami. Newman is also a good choice at Richmond, Pocono, Darlington and Dover.
15. Jamie McMurray
2014 Stats: 0 Wins, 7 Top-5s, 13 Top-10s, 2 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 0 Wins, 6 Top-5s, 12 Top-10s, 1 Pole
2014 Recap: McMurray had his best seasons since he left Roush Fenway Racing. McMurray’s seven top-five finishes were his most since 2010. His 13 top-10 finishes were his most since 2004.
McMurray finished in the top five in five of the 10 Chase races. He will look to build upon that success in the 2015 season.
2015 Expectations: McMurray will have a new crew chief in 2015. Keith Rodden left for the No. 5 team and Matt McCall comes over from his race engineer position with the No. 31 team. It will be interesting to see how McMurray and McCall perform together this season.
McMurray is one of the more underrated drivers in fantasy NASCAR. If you select him at his best race tracks, the payoff can be rewarding. McMurray will not finish in the top 10 in 2015, but he will be a valuable asset to your fantasy team when all of the top drivers are used up.
Best Race Tracks: McMurray is at his best at Auto Club, Charlotte, Homestead Miami and the two road course races. He is also worth a look at Daytona and Talladega.
16. Kurt Busch
2014 Stats: 1 Win, 6 Top-5s, 11 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 0 Wins, 5 Top-5s, 12 Top-12s, 1 Pole
2014 Recap: Busch is a NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, but he has not raced like a champion for a long time. The last time Busch finished in the top five in the point standings was in 2009. Last season he was too inconsistent to be considered an elite fantasy driver.
Busch’s best race in 2014 came at Martinsville. He found himself in a confrontation with Brad Keselowski on pit road. He was able to control his emotions and take his No. 41 Chevy to Victory Lane. He will need to drive like this in 2015 to become relevant for fantasy teams.
2015 Expectations: Once again Busch enters the new season with a lot of baggage. Busch is currently engaged in a domestic violence case and it is hard to say what the outcome will be or how it will affect his season.
Busch has all of the ability in the world. He is an emotional driver that can take over a race when he is at his best. The problem is that does not happen often enough. Busch will have a hard time finding Victory Lane in 2015. He will compile top fives and top 10s, but he will not be a threat for the championship.
Best Race Tracks: Busch is not a great driver at any race track on the circuit. He does not have a top-10 average finishing position at any of the race tracks. Busch is at his best at Auto Club, Kansas, Phoenix and Pocono. He also has five wins at Bristol, but his last was in 2006.
17. Clint Bowyer
2014 Stats: 0 Wins, 5 Top-5s, 15 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 0 Wins, 4 Top-5s, 12 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2014 Recap: Bowyer had his worst performance in the Sprint Cup Series since his rookie season in 2006. For the second straight year Bowyer failed to win a race. He finished 31 of the 36 races outside the top five and 21 of the 36 races outside the top 10. The poor performance was a result of Michael Waltrip Racing providing inferior cars, making it difficult for Bowyer to compete.
2015 Expectations: This is a critical season for Bowyer and the entire MWR organization. The team needs to find some speed or they will be just another mediocre team in the garage. Bowyer has the talent to drive up front, but it takes a lot more than talent to compete at the highest level in NASCAR.
It is hard to predict Bowyer to win a race in 2015 because the competition is so good. He probably will not be consistent enough to make the Chase on points either. This will probably be another difficult season for the No. 15 team.
Best Race Tracks: Bowyer is very good at the superspeedways. He finished third in both races at Talladega last season and ninth in the summer race at Daytona. Bowyer is also good at Sonoma and Richmond. He struggled last season on the 1.5-mile intermediate race tracks.
18. Greg Biffle
2014 Stats: 0 Wins, 3 Top-5s, 11 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 0 Wins, 2 Top-5s, 13 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2014 Recap: Biffle often said that his car drove well and he felt comfortable behind the wheel. That is usually what a driver says about a slow race car.
Biffle failed to win a race last season and only finished three races in the top five. The problem was not necessarily the setup of the car. The problem was a result of the engineering department at Roush Fenway Racing. All of the cars for the organization failed to produce speed throughout the season.
2015 Expectations: Biffle is still a good driver, but this season he will have the job of leading the RFR organization now that Carl Edwards left for Joe Gibbs Racing. Biffle should get the best equipment, but will the best equipment be able to compete with the equipment from Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing or Team Penske? I doubt it.
Biffle will have a hard time winning races in 2015, but he should be able to add a few more top-10 finishes.
Best Race Tracks: Biffle can still be counted on for a good finish at Texas, Darlington and Pocono. Last season he had his best results on the superspeedways. He finished eighth in the Daytona 500 and second in the spring race at Talladega.
19. Austin Dillon
2014 Stats: 0 Wins, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10s, 1 Pole
2015 Predicted Stats: 0 Wins, 3 Top-5s, 6 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2014 Recap: Dillon had a good rookie season, but he was overshadowed by the success of Kyle Larson. He won the pole for the Daytona 500 and finished the race in the top 10.
Dillon got off to a good start in 2014. He finished in the top 20 in six of the eight races to start the season. That is a good start for any rookie. The problem was that Dillon was inconsistent the rest of the season.
2015 Expectations: Dillon should be able to improve upon his success he had his rookie season. The Sprint Cup cars will have similar horsepower and down force packages as the Xfinity Series cars in 2015. Dillon is a past champion of that series, so the change to the cars should play right into his hands.
Dillon may not be ready to win a race, but he should be able to add more top five and top-10 finishes to his resume.
Best Race Tracks: Dillon was very good at the superspeedways. He finished all four races in the top 10. He was also good at Kansas, Bristol, Indianapolis and Martinsville.
20. Paul Menard
2014 Stats: 0 Wins, 5 Top-5s, 13 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 0 Wins, 4 Top-5s, 11 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2014 Recap: The 2014 season could be considered a career year for Menard. He had a career high in top-five finishes (5) and a career high in top-10 finishes (13). He also had a very good summer with four top-10 finishes between Charlotte and Sonoma.
2015 Expectations: Menard will not be a driver who will win you your league, but he will be worth a sleeper pick at the race tracks which he has had success throughout his career. Menard will have a hard time finding Victory Lane, but expect him to have a handful of top-five and top-10 finishes.
Best Race Tracks: Menard is a good pick at Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Michigan and Talladega.
21. Martin Truex Jr.
2014 Stats: 0 Wins, 1 Top-5, 5 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 0 Wins, 4 Top-5s, 7 top-10s, 0 Poles
2014 Recap: Truex made his debut with Furniture Row Racing in 2014. People who expected Truex to have the same results as Kurt Busch in the No. 78 car were very disappointed.
Truex failed to win a race and only finished one race in the top five (Kansas). He started to improve once the Chase began. He finished eight of the 10 Chase races inside the top 20. He will look to build upon that success in 2015.
2015 Expectations: Truex is a good driver, but the single car operation at Furniture Row Racing is not as good as their competitors. Truex is in his last year of his contract with Furniture Row Racing. He will have the motivations to prove to his team and the other teams looking for a driver that he can still compete at a high level.
Truex will have more success than he did in 2014, but not enough to make him a valuable option for your fantasy team.
Best Race Tracks: Truex is at his best at Kansas, Kentucky, Pocono and Atlanta.
22. Brian Vickers
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
2014 Stats: 0 Wins, 3 Top-5s, 9 Top-10s, 1 Pole
2015 Predicted Stats: 0 Wins, 2 Top-5s, 7 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2014 Recap: Vickers was stuck in the same situation as his teammate, Clint Bowyer… He has the talent, but not the equipment to compete with the big boys in the series.
Not having the third team at Michael Waltrip Racing hurt the organization in 2014. The team needed the extra resources to compete in the series. Vickers only had three top-five finishes. Two of them came at the superspeedways.
2015 Expectations: Vickers will miss the first two races of the season due to his problem with blood clots. Michael Waltrip will drive the No. 55 in the Daytona 500 and Brett Moffitt will race at Atlanta. Vickers would have been a couple of spots higher on this list if he were able to race the complete schedule.
Vickers is in his last season of his contract with MWR. He will need to produce and prove he can stay healthy if he wants to be back in the No. 55 car next season.
Best Race Tracks: Vickers has been able to find his way to the front at the superspeedways. He is also good at Auto Club, Texas, Bristol and New Hampshire.
23. Aric Almirola
2014 Stats: 1 Win, 2 Top-5s, 7 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 0 Wins, 2 Top-5s, 9 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2014 Recap: No one expected Almirola to make the Chase in 2014. He was able to win the Coke Zero 400 to lockup his spot in the playoffs. Almirola was able to score seven top-10 finishes in 2014. He will look to build upon this success in 2015.
2015 Expectations: The No. 43 team enters the new season with the same driver, crew chief and sponsor. The results will probably be the same as well. If Almirola is going to win a race, it will most likely be at the superspeedway. The competition is too difficult to expect Almirola to win at an intermediate race track.
Best Race Tracks: RPM does not have the horsepower to compete with the larger teams. Expect Amirola to have success at the shorter race tracks (Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond), since these tracks do not require as much speed.
24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2014 Stats: 0 Wins, 1 Top-5, 5 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 0 Wins, 3 Top-5s, 8 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2014 Recap: Stenhouse’s sophomore season in the Sprint Cup Series did not go as planned. After he finished 19th in the point standings his rookie season, there were high expectation for the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing team. Stenhouse failed to win a race, only finished one race in the top five (Bristol) and failed to qualify for the race at Talladega. This is a team that needs to turn their season around in 2015.
2015 Expectations: After such a disappointing season in 2014, it is hard to expect much from Stenhouse this year. Roush Fenway Racing is not showing any signs of improvement after losing their best driver (Carl Edwards) to a stronger team. The only thing Stenhouse has going for him this season is that the cars will be similar to what he had success in when he competed in the Xfinity Series.
Best Race Tracks: Stenhouse is at his best at on the superspeedways. It would be a good idea to put him on your roster for the Daytona 500 and save the better drivers for the down-force race tracks.
Stenhouse has also had success at Bristol and Kansas.
25. AJ Allmendinger
2014 Stats: 1 Win, 2 Top-5s, 5 Top-10s, 0 Poles
2015 Predicted Stats: 0 Wins, 3 Top-5s, 6 Top-10s, 1 Pole
2014 Recap: Allmendinger’s 2014 season with JTG-Daugherty was a success. The team put all of their emphasis on winning at one of the road courses to make the Chase and it worked. Allmendinger was able to fight off Marcos Ambrose to win the race at Sonoma. He also ran well at Auto Club (Finished eighth), Richmond (finished sixth), Talladega (finished fifth) and Martinsville (finished ninth).
2015 Expectations: The No. 47 car will be fast at the road courses once again. He should absolutely be on your team at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. The team needs to find some speed at the 1.5-mile race tracks. Do not expect Allmendinger to make the Chase again in 2015, but he will be useful for your fantasy team at a few race tracks this season.
Best Race Tracks: Road Courses!! He is one of the best at these race tracks. Allmendinger would be worth a look at the smaller race tracks this season (Richmond and Martinsville).
26. Sam Hornish Jr.
27. Danica Patrick
28. Trevor Bayne
29. Casey Mears
30. Justin Allgaier
Having established its own research-and-development and engineering departments last year, Richard Petty Motorsports has continued its move toward greater independence from its status as a Roush Fenway Racing customer.
An offseason move to an 80,000-square-foot facility in Mooresville, North Carolina has given RPM the ability to hang its own bodies and to hire 35 new employees. Team owner Richard Petty says the organization plans to start building its own chassis, with the transition expected in the middle of the season.
Last year, RPM purchased its bodies and chassis from Roush Fenway and its engines from Roush Yates Racing, which supplies all Ford teams in the Sprint Cup garage with power.
“We’re really excited,” said RPM’s Director of Competition Sammy Johns. “We were able to add 35 new employees and still have a great working relationship with Roush Fenway Racing on the engineering side of things, and we’re looking forward to that.
“I think this model has shown that you can win championships with it. There are other organizations out there working under these type of models and they’ve been able to win championships (notably Stewart-Haas Racing, a Hendrick Motorsports customer for chassis and engines). We got a taste of victory last year and a taste of the Chase, and we’re excited to build on that and take it forward this year.”
Aric Almirola, driving the vaunted No. 43 Ford, won the July race at Daytona last year and qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. This year, former Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. joins the team as the driver of the No. 9 Ford, replacing road course ace Marcos Ambrose.
In a question-and-answer session with reporters, Petty expanded on RPM’s long-range goals.
“We’ve got all the stuff now to do our own bodies and our own finish work,” Petty said. “That’s a start. We’ve got the equipment and the room up there now to start doing our own chassis. I think we’ll start doing that maybe in the middle of the year, something like that, but right now we’re just going into the body part.
“Our first cars coming off the runway will be from Roush, because we’ve been busy moving all winter. It’ll be a transition from being totally with Roush to 90 percent, 80 percent, 70 percent and work our way out.”
Before the first engine is fired and the first lap is run in a new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, it’s customary for every organization represented on the Charlotte Motor Speedway NASCAR Media Tour to tout its chances and explain why the current year will be better than the last one.
In the case of Roush Fenway Racing, the optimistic tone appears to be more than mere lip service.
For one thing, there’s a brand new mix of drivers who actually like each other. With the departures of Matt Kenseth in 2013 and Carl Edwards this year, Greg Biffle is the remaining veteran on the Sprint Cup side, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. set to start his third year at NASCAR’s highest level and 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne about to embark on his first year of full-time Cup racing in the resurrected No. 6 Ford.
Elliott Sadler and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. have migrated from Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports, respectively, to expand an XFINITY Series program that already included young talents Chris Buescher and Ryan Reed.
“We had a photo shoot (Tuesday), and all the drivers were getting along and hanging out, and that’s part of it,” Stenhouse said Wednesday at the Charlotte Convention Center. “I don’t know if Roush has ever had all the drivers get along and hang out and have fun.
“I think (Owner) Jack (Roush) is enjoying it, too.”
On the performance side, RFR took a hard look at its underwhelming results on the 1.5- and 2-mile speedways — historically a strength of the company — and changed directions. Though NASCAR’s ban on discretionary testing precluded Roush from taking new ideas to the race track, Biffle said that might have been a blessing in disguise.
“I will tell you that this offseason and the no testing that has gone on,” Biffle said, “we have really kind of agonized over things, but I really feel like it has been a turning point for Roush Fenway because it has given us the down time and opportunities to step back and look at potentially where we had made the wrong turn in the road at. We have some new people in, and when you are racing every week and trying to do this and testing and over at Nashville and doing all these things, you are looking at the problem down low.
“It wasn’t until we got up higher and really looked at the landscape we decided we made some wrong decisions back possibly over a year ago on the direction with our cars. We really feel like we have found some things we have done wrong. We feel we have righted those things. Sometimes you have to pick a road and path and go down that, and we did. I feel like we have a great thing going and a bunch of excitement.”
To help establish a new direction, RFR hired outside the company, something the organization often has been loath to do in the past. Mark McArdle comes to RFR from Richard Childress Racing to oversee engineering. Kevin Kidd moves from JGR to take the role of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team manager, and Crew Chief Phil Gould, formerly of RCR, is reunited with Sadler in the XFINITY Series.
“I think Roush Fenway has kind of been the same for a long time,” Stenhouse said. “When you’re promoting from within all the time, the guys that you’re promoting are learning from the guys ahead of ‘em, and I think everything kind of stays the same. So I think, at some point, it just kind of gets stale…
“With Kevin Kidd coming over from Gibbs and Mark McArdle from RCR, I think they’ve brought a lot of great ideas, but really just a lot of structure. I think that’s what we were kind of missing at Roush Fenway, a good structure… I think Mark’s really set up a great plan and organization. The way he runs things, I think a lot of people really look up to him at our shop and really appreciate the effort him and Kevin have put in in a short amount of time.”
When it comes to their own on-track expectations as a new season approaches, many NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers are reluctant to reveal specific personal goals.
Then there’s Kyle Larson, who appeared entirely comfortable in talking about the racing milestones he expects to achieve in 2015.
“Last year my goals were to maybe win a race, definitely make the Chase and win rookie of the year and be like a top-15 car each week,” Larson said Thursday during the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates session on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center.
Larson did win Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors—by a landslide—and he posted eight top fives and 17 top 10s. Though he finished second three times, at Fontana, New Hampshire and Kansas, he did not win a race in his rookie season. Nor did he make the Chase.
Failure to achieve all his 2014 goals, however, hasn’t prevented Larson from establishing loftier objectives for the coming season or from talking about them.
“This year I think we’re capable, at least the way we ended last year, to definitely be a top-10 car each week, and win at least two races and make the Chase and go for the championship,” Larson said. “I think those are pretty realistic goals.”
Team owner Chip Ganassi likewise thinks Larson’s goals are achievable.
“He has the ability to get maximum speed out of the car without giving the car anything more than it will accept,” Ganassi said. “I think that’s a talent. A lot of guys can give the car more than the will accept, and that just causes other issues along the way, in the race or in the season.
“He’s got a great ability not to do that.”
Ganassi, however, doesn’t believe Larson should try to model himself after other superstars of NASCAR racing.
“I don’t think he should become the next Tony Stewart or the next Jeff Gordon,” Ganassi said. “I think he should become the next Kyle Larson. He has a lot of people who take ownership of his career, whatever, and I’d like to see him become the next Kyle Larson.”
Larson already has won a race this year—just not in the No. 42 Chevrolet he drives in the Sprint Cup Series. Last weekend at Daytona, he joined Cup teammate Jamie McMurray and IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan in winning the Rolex 24 Hours, the marquee event of the IMSA Tudor United SportsCar season.
The victory was a record sixth for Ganassi, and Larson was a significant part of the effort, with a Rolex watch to prove it.
“I didn’t really want to come back and run this year,” said Larson, who struggled in his 2014 Rolex 24 debut. “But I’m so happy I did…
“It’s 1:17,” he added, glancing at the watch and grinning.
And the preponderance of opinion in the Cup garage is that it’s also time for Larson to have a breakout season in 2015.
“I want to thank all the people that told us we were bringing him along too fast last year,” Ganassi quipped.
Richard Childress Racing Driver Ryan Newman advanced to the final round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup last year and came within a half-second of winning the championship—and he did so without winning a race.
But Newman is well aware that the surest path to the Chase lies in getting to Victory Lane in the first 26 races of the season. And to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, Newman believes the eventual champion will have to win the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as Kevin Harvick did in the inaugural season of an elimination format.
“You want to be locked in, you want to win, you want to have that confidence, you want to have something to build on because, ultimately, you have to be a winner in the Chase,” Newman said Thursday morning during the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. “We’ve seen that.
“Whether it was Harvick or Logano or whoever, it came down to winning the last race to win the championship, and the odds are you’re going to have to win that last race.”
Though Newman fell just short in his title run, he feels his No. 31 Chevrolet team laid a strong foundation for success this year.
“I’ve never had as much fun as I had last year—not winning—in a race car,” Newman said. “We all know how much fun it is to win, but to see our team grow and experience the things that we have and just watch that relationship build, it really was fun.
“It was the way racing is supposed to be, even though we weren’t winning. And I know that, if and when we win, it’s going to be spectacular.”
Driver Martin Truex Jr. shared some welcome off-track news during Furniture Row Racing’s media session on Thursday morning at the Charlotte Convention Center.
Truex’s girlfriend Sherry Pollex has been battling ovarian cancer and recently completed her last chemotherapy treatment.
“We had a little celebration for her,” Truex said. “She’s feeling good, and it seems like every day she’s getting more back to normal, and it’s only been four days. So, hopefully, in the next couple weeks she’s going to be back to her old self, running 180 miles an hour.
“It’s been great to see. It’s been a tough road, and obviously it’s had its challenges. But, all in all, she did an amazing job. She’s special. The way she was able to get through it—like no one had ever done before—was inspiring. It’s going to make me work harder, that’s for sure.”
For those who might think that Jeff Gordon’s splendid 2014 run in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series might have tempted him to reconsider his decision to retire from full-time competition, think again.
In fact, Gordon’s top-notch performance on the track only reinforced his decision to bow out of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
“A couple of years ago, when I wasn’t as competitive as I wanted to be, I wanted to end it right then,” Gordon said on Thursday at the Charlotte Convention Center during the Hendrick Motorsports stop on the Charlotte Motor Speedway NASCAR Media Tour. “I was like, ‘God, this is no fun.’
“I got into racing because I loved it, and I was competitive and enjoying it. Because of that, I just found myself being frustrated a lot (when he wasn’t winning). But this is what I think is so interesting: a lot of people say, ‘Well, I can’t believe he did it, because of the year that he had last year.’
“Last year actually solidified it for me, because it told me and showed me I’ve still got it. When you’re part of a great team, you’ve got a great crew chief like Alan Gustafson, and they work hard and you work hard at it, it means you can be late in your career and still go out there and get it done and be competitive.
“So, if anything, it only motivated me to be that much better this year and really truly go out on top.”
Gordon and team owner Rick Hendrick may have a slightly different idea of what going out on top might be. Hendrick suggested that Gordon needed to win 14 races and a championship.
Why 14? Because that would top by one victory Gordon’s high-water mark of 13 wins set during his 1998 championship season. With 14 victories, Gordon also would move past David Pearson to second on the all-time list. Pearson currently has 105 Sprint Cup wins, second only to Richard Petty’s 200. Gordon has 92.
Even if Pearson’s number is out of reach, one record Gordon is likely to set is a new iron-man mark for the Cup series. The 43-year-old driver raced for the first time in the 1992 season finale at Atlanta and hasn’t missed an event since.
Gordon’s consecutive race streak reached 761 last year, and if it continues, he will match Ricky Rudd’s record 788 consecutive starts Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway and break it the following week in the Chase race at New Hampshire.
Gordon, however, craves nothing more than a fifth title. He revealed Thursday that, having made his decision to retire during the summer, the late-race incident with Brad Keselowski at Texas Motor Speedway that cost him a chance to win was particularly galling.
A week later at Phoenix, Gordon failed to advance to the final round of the Chase by a single point.
“The ultimate would be the championship,” Gordon said. “There was definitely some urgency, knowing this decision was coming, that made what happened at Texas, that much more… and, yeah, what happened at Texas was Texas, but then knowing after Phoenix that we didn’t make it in was very disappointing because I knew this could possibly be my last opportunity.
“But I think we’re going to have another one. I think this year is an opportunity for us.”
When Bill Elliott climbed into his Ford on a late-winter afternoon in 1976, little did fans at North Carolina Motor Speedway know they were witnessing the birth of a NASCAR Hall of Fame career.
Elliott won seven times at Michigan International Speedway, the third most in track history trailing only fellow NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson’s nine wins and Cale Yarborough’s eight victories. Elliott became the first and only driver in MIS history to complete the “double double” in August of 1986. He swept both NASCAR Sprint Cup races in both 1985 and 1986 making him part of MIS history, winning four straight events. Elliott won six of eight Sprint Cup races at MIS from 1984-87.
The 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee started a track-record 61 races at MIS and topped the mileage chart with 22,424 miles completed. Only Pearson earned more pole positions than Elliott’s six.
The 20-year-old Elliott, whose car was fielded by his father George and crewed by brothers Ernie and Dan, didn’t last long in his NASCAR premier series debut. Engine problems sidelined the Elliotts early for a finish of 33rd in the 36-car field.
In fact, Elliott’s first campaign of eight races – four for his father and four with Bill Champion, another independent owner-driver – produced six DNFs.
First impressions, however, can be deceiving. The Dawsonville, Ga. family may have lacked resources – as did many NASCAR premier series hopefuls during the economically depressed 1970s. What wasn’t in short supply was perseverance.
The lanky, red-headed Elliott lasted long enough to catch the eye of Michigan industrialist Harry Melling, whose one-race sponsorship in 1981 dramatically changed NASCAR history.
Elliott, born Oct. 8, 1955, ultimately won 44 races, 16th among all premier series drivers, over a 37-season, 828-start career that ended in 2012. All but two victories came on tracks longer than a mile in length; 16 of them from a pole position start. Elliott’s 55 career poles rank eighth all time.
Proclaimed “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” by fans and media, Elliott and his No. 9 Ford Thunderbird set speed records at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. His 212.809 mph mark established at Talladega on April 30, 1987 before engine restrictor plates reduced horsepower, is unlikely to be matched.
Elliott was at his best on NASCAR’s biggest stages winning the Daytona 500 twice and the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway three times. In 1985 he completed an unprecedented sweep of Daytona, Darlington and the spring race at Talladega Superspeedway to capture the “Winston Million” – a $1 million bonus for winning those three of four marquee events.
The driver’s legion of fans voted Elliott NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver an unprecedented 16 times.
While Elliott may have come from nothing in terms of economic support, his birthplace in Georgia’s northern mountains provided something of a golden heritage. Stock car racing, rooted in the area’s moonshine culture, ran deep and produced many of the sport’s earliest stars.
Some argue that the impromptu Sunday night events in a nearby river bottom, in which the liquor haulers wagered on whose cars were the fastest, represented the origins of modern stock car racing in the 1930s.
Four Dawsonville drivers – Gober Sosebee, Roy Hall, Lloyd Seay and Bernard Long – won races on Daytona’s beach/road course from 1941-59. During the 1940s, 12 of 15 of those races were won either by drivers or owners hailing from the small community. NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Raymond Parks, a Dawsonville native, owned the car in which Red Byron won the inaugural NASCAR premier series championship. Elliott became the fifth Daytona winner among the “Dawsonville Gang” when he won the 1985 Daytona 500.
So it was no surprise that the Elliott brothers were enamored of cars and racing. Bill would take apart and reassemble his father’s race cars; his older brother Ernie owned a speed shop.
“Actually I got my boys into racing because I wanted them to stay away from the back roads,” said George Elliott, whose Dahlonega Ford Sales dealership backed the family’s racing effort. “If they were going to be driving fast, I wanted them to do it in the right place.”
George Elliott’s support could take his son only so far. Enter Melling, who agreed to sponsor the Elliotts in the 1981 Daytona 500. His check was minimal – it barely covered the tire bill – but it opened a history-making relationship.
“It was a heck of a deal for us because that was $500 more than we had,” said Elliott, who responded by finishing sixth.
Melling’s automotive products graced the panels of Elliott’s Ford for 13 races in 1981. Melling purchased the team in 1982 and over a 10-year period watched Elliott win 34 races and the 1988 NASCAR premier series championship after a pair of second-place points finishes. Elliott won 11 times in 1985, a season that included his “Winston Million” triumph.
Elliott won at least once in 10 consecutive seasons beginning with his first victory in 1983 at the 2.66-mile Riverside (California) International Raceway. After departing Melling’s team at the end of the 1991 season, Elliott produced six victories and his third runner-up championship finish for NASCAR Hall of Fame owner Junior Johnson. He joined Ray Evernham’s new Dodge organization in 2001 and won four more times – the last at North Carolina Motor Speedway in 2003, a month after Elliott’s 48h birthday.
Another chapter in Bill Elliott’s legacy was written in 2014 when the champion’s son, Chase, won the NASCAR XFINITY Series title at age 18.
Chase Elliott will take the first laps in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career at Martinsville Speedway in the STP 500 March 29.
Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Elliott would run five Sprint Cup races this year in preparation for a full-season campaign in 2016. The first of the five races will be the STP 500.
“I’m excited to go to Martinsville. Hendrick Motorsports has had a lot of success there, it’s a place they’ve had a lot of wins,” said the 19-year-old Elliott, who is the defending Xfinity Series champion. “It is certainly good to know that in the back of your mind. Also, I know when I ran Martinsville in the truck series I had a lot of room for improvement. I hope I can step up and do my job.”
Elliott made two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Martinsville in 2013. He finished sixth in the first and 20th in the second.
“We're very excited for Chase Elliott to make his first career Sprint Cup start at Martinsville Speedway and I'm sure the fans are as well,” said Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell. “Considering how good Hendrick Motorsports has been here, combined with the talent Chase brings, I truly feel we could see him in victory lane.”
Elliott joins the team with the most Sprint Cup success at Martinsville Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports has 22 Martinsville Speedway wins. His Hendrick teammates, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., have combined for 17 of them.
On the other hand Elliott’s father Bill Elliott, who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Friday night, had just three top-five finishes in 45 starts at the half-mile track.
“I’ll take advice from anyone who is willing to give it to me. My dad has always said he’s willing to offer advice and I can take it or leave it,” said Chase. “It’s great to have guys like Jeff, Jimmie and Dale who’ve all had success at Martinsville, and certainly Hendrick Motorsports as a whole.”
Johnson, who like Gordon has eight Martinsville wins, says he’ll be there to help out his newest teammate.
“We’ll see how Chase advances. I know he’s raced on all kinds of short tracks and I don’t think Martinsville will be a problem, especially with his truck experience there,” said Johnson. “We’re here for Chase and anything he needs.”
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