When some doors close, others open. When some drivers fall, others rise. When some leave, new seats and new spots open up. As the 2015 Nascar season slowly draws upon us, excitement is building. There will be new cars, new tracks, new drivers, and new leaps. As we get ready for another exciting Nascar season, we break down the past year, offseason changes, and new goals for each driver in the Cup Series.
Jamie McMurray: #1
The Past Year: McMurray had a solid but unspectacular year, notching 12 top 10’s en route to an 18th place finish in the points. Perhaps more troubling, Jamie Mac also became the clear second-fiddle to teammate Kyle Larson, who had several spectacular runs while driving the same equipment.
Offseason Moves: When crew chief Keith Rodden departed for Hendrick Motorsports, Ganassi signed Matt McCall to run McMurray’s team.
2015 Goals: Make the Chase. McMurray has been wallowing in mediocrity for too long–he hasn’t won a race in 4 years. To make the Chase, something he’s never done, McMurray will most likely need a victory. If he does this, he’ll become relevant once again.
Brad Keselowski: #2
The Past Year: Bad Brad had a very strong run in 2014, notching 6 victories and eventually finishing 5th in the points. He also got into several fights on and off the track, culminating in a brawl with Jeff Gordon after the fall Texas race.
Offseason Moves: Miller scaled back its sponsorship to 24 races, with Alliance Truck Parts filling the rest.
2015 Goals: Chill. Brad had a great year on the track in 2014, but off the track fights and arguments proved distracting and eventually left Keselowski on the outside looking in come Homestead. Calmness would help Brad eliminate distractions and achieve the consistency he needs to recapture the Sprint Cup
Austin Dillon: #3
The Past Year: While not as spectacular as Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon quietly put together a solid rookie campaign. He had many top 20’s but only 4 top 10’s, finishing 20th in the points
Offseason Moves: None
2015 Goals: Qualify better. There were many times in 2014 that Austin Dillon had a solid car but started in the back and spent the whole race working his way up to an 11th or 12th place finish. Dillon, who was 23rd in average starting position, will have to start off better in order to score higher finishes.
Kevin Harvick: #4
The Past Year: 2014 couldn’t have gone any better for Kevin. After a slow start to the year, he recovered to win five races and the Sprint Cup championship.
Offseason Moves: None–why would he need them?
2015 Goals: Consistency. Harvick had many dominating performances cut short by mechanical failures and pit troubles. None of those seriously damaged him in the Chase, but the team will have to make sure these problems don’t pop up next year.
Kasey Kahne: #5
The Past Year: Kahne had a pretty lackluster year. After a string of bad finishes to start the season, he struggled to get back on track until a win at Atlanta locked him into the Chase with two races left. However, Kasey didn’t make much noise, eventually finishing 15th in the standings.
Offseason Moves: After crew chief Kenny Francis was promoted, Keith Rodden came over from CGR to be Kahne’s new crew chief.
2015 Goals: Prove his contract. There was a lot of speculation in 2014 that Kahne would be bumped from Hendrick to make room for rising star Chase Elliot. Although a 3 year contract quelled those discussions, Kahne will have to step up to prove he’s worthy of the extension.
Trevor Bayne: #6
The Past Year: 2015 will be Bayne’s first year in the Sprint Cup Series. He failed to qualify in his only attempt to race in 2014. He’s coming off of back-to-back 6th place finishes in the Nationwide Series.
Offseason Moves: Bayne will be moving to the Sprint Cup Series full time, competing for Rookie of the Year while driving the #6 Ford for Roush-Fenway.
2015 Goals: Be relevant. After his stunning upset victory in the 2011 Daytona 500, Bayne dropped off the map. He’s only won 2 Nationwide races in the past 4 years. To prove himself, Bayne will have to have some strong runs in 2015.
The Past Year: Michael Annett piloted the Tommy-Baldwin #7 to a 33rd place finish in the points, racking up just 4 top-20 finishes, all of which came in the first half of the season.
Offseason Moves: Annett jumped ship to Harry Scott Motorsports, taking the Pilot Flying J sponsorship with him.
2015 Goals: Find a driver. Tommy Baldwin Racing is in freefall. It sold the #36 car it used to run full-time, leaving it with just one car that now has no sponsor and no driver. The team will have to line up a deal fast to compete in 2015.
Sam Hornish, Jr: #9
The Past Year: After his 2nd place Nationwide finish in 2013, Roger Penske released Hornish due to a lack of sponsorship. Hornish competed in 8 Nationwide races in 2014, winning one.
Offseason Moves: Hornish is moving back up to the Sprint Cup Series, replacing Marcos Ambrose, who will return home to Australia.
2015 Goals: Beat Trevor Bayne. Although Hornish isn’t technically a rookie, he might as well be–it’s been 5 years since he was dumped from his Sprint Cup ride and sent to the Nationwide Series. Hornish will be looking to reestablish himself as a credible driver in the Sprint Cup Series–beating Bayne and finishing in the top 20 in points would go a long way to doing just that.
Danica Patrick: #10
The Past Year: Patrick had a decent year, showing flashes of her potential in the series. Although she qualified in the top 10 3 times and posted 2 top 10 finishes, including a 6th place showing at Atlanta, she recorded many DNF’s.
Offseason Moves: Daniel Knost will become Patrick’s crew chief after Patrick and Kurt Busch swapped crews.
2015 Goals: Break out. This is Patrick’s contract year. After 3 years in the Sprint Cup Series, she has all the tools she needs to prove she’s a legitimate driver at Nascar’s highest level.