With just two weeks left until the Daytona 500, we still have a lot of previews to go.
Denny Hamlin: #11
The Past Year: Denny had a strong finish to an otherwise lackluster year. Despite recording just one win, a series of strong finishes vaulted him to 4th in the overall standings.
Offseason Moves: Dave Rogers will replace Darian Grubb as crew chief for 2015.
2015 Goals: Win races. Hamlin had several decent finishes, but only 1 win and 5 top 5’s to show for it. To establish himself as a legitimate contender, he’ll need to be a serious threat to win week in and week out.
Casey Mears: #13
The Past Year: Casey’s underfunded Germain Racing team had a strong year. He placed 4th at Daytona and had more top 20’s and top 15’s than ever before.
Offseason Moves: None
2015 Goals: Get top 10’s. Casey’s team has steadily improved, bridging the gap from backmarkers like David Gilliland to bottom-of-the-pack contenders like Aric Almirola. To vault into the latter group, Mears will have to become a threat to get top 10’s at 1.5 milers and short tracks–not just at superspeedways.
Tony Stewart: #14
The Past Year: Stewart went through a very eventful year. After a lackluster start to the year–Stewart’s season was put on hiatus after he hit and killed Kevin Ward Jr during a Sprint Car race. Smoke was cleared of any wrongdoing, but questions about the incident continued to hound him throughout the year.
Offseason Moves: None. Stewart stayed out of the spotlight
2015 Goals: Lead his team. Stewart has had a rough two years. After breaking his leg in 2013 and hitting Kevin Ward in 2014, Stewart’s efforts have become bogged down in controversy. He needs a strong year for himself and his team to get the media and the public focused on his driving on the track rather than his actions off the track.
Clint Bowyer: #15
The Past Year: Needing to rebound from the controversy of last season’s intentional wreck, Bowyer flopped instead. He finished 19th in points and did not win a race.
Offseason Moves: None
2015 Goals: Make the Chase. Bowyer and MWR need to rebound from their disappointing season. A win and a strong points performance would do just that.
Greg Biffle: #16
The Past Year: Biffle had another unassuming year, finishing 14th in points while failing to record a win.
Offseason Moves: Teammate Carl Edwards bolted for Joe Gibbs, leaving Biffle as the flagship driver of an ailing Roush team.
2015 Goals: Make a statement. Biffle doesn’t just need a Chase berth–he needs a big year. Roush-Fenway is on the decline–a strong Chase performance and a win or two in major races like Daytona could stop the team’s fall.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr: #17
The Past Year: Stenhouse experienced a terrible sophomore slump. He fell to 27th in points and posted just 5 top 10’s. The low point of his year came when he failed to qualify at Talladega in the fall.
Offseason Moves: Crew chief Mike Kelley was demoted to car chief to make way for Nick Sandler.
2015 Goals: Don’t get bounced. Stenhouse’s driving last year was atrocious. If he continues to regress, Jack Roush may decide to make a change behind the wheel. Stenhouse is in a contract year–he’ll have to step up to keep his ride.