It’s 2015, and the Daytona 500 is just a month around the corner. That means new rides, new teams, new drivers, and plenty of shake-ups. While many drivers are on their way up, a few of them are falling back to earth, and could find themselves out of a job sooner rather than later. Here’s a look at drivers who are barely treading water.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
We’ve all heard of the sophomore slump, and we’ve all seen it happen, but Ricky Stenhouse is having a worse decline than most. After finishing 19th in the points standings in 2013 and winning Rookie of the Year, Stenhouse was expected to contend for a birth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Instead, he had an abysmal year. He posted just 12 top-20 finishes compared to 26 in his rookie year. He finished behind Casey Mears and Martin Truex in the points, barely beating out Danica Patrick for 27th. He even failed to qualify for the Talladega race in October. Perhaps most troubling, Stenhouse did all of this while driving for Roush-Fenway, a team that is still capable of putting out high-quality cars. If Stenhouse doesn’t turn it around soon, he could find himself out of a ride at Roush.
Martin Truex Jr
After Truex was let go from Michael Waltrip Racing following the team’s embarrassing cheating scandal at Richmond, he decided to drive the #78 Chevy for Furniture Row Racing. Truex had high hopes, looking to have a fresh start at a solid contending team. It didn’t happen. After making the Chase with Kurt Busch in 2013, the Furniture Row Racing team came crashing back down to Earth in 2014, finishing 24th in points. Truex endured a rough start to the year, finishing last in the Daytona 500 and posting many DNF’s before finding some moderate success as the season went on. Truex’s struggles are more indicative of Furniture Row’s problems as a whole–it’s still a one-car team with limited funding. After overperforming with Busch in 2013, the team will look to retool and readjust with Truex at the helm for the next few years.
We’ve already talked about Ricky Stenhouse and his problems at Roush, but the whole team is beginning a long slide toward irrelevance. Roush Fords were once the class of the field, but can no longer be counted on to be competitive week in and week out. Carl Edwards, the team’s flagship driver, left for Joe Gibbs Racing after a disappointing 9th place finish in the 2014 standings. Greg Biffle, the oldest driver at Roush, has just 7 top 5’s over the past 2 years. Trevor Bayne, who will be replacing Edwards, has cooled off considerably since his Daytona 500 victory in 2011. Bayne has enjoyed only moderate success in the Nationwide Series, and in all likelihood isn’t the team’s future. If Roush-Fenway doesn’t change things up soon, it may find itself gone from the series within the next 10 years.