As we enter 2015 and the hype for the 2015 season begins, I figured why not do a top 30 points prediction? This list will come out in parts, once a week starting with 30th to 28th, 27th to 22nd, 21st-17th, then four per week ending during Daytona 500 week. The second to last part will be posted early in the week and the final part will be posted later in the week.
There are a few things one should remember before delving into this.
1. This is opinion, and if I think your favorite driver sucks, that is not a personal attack on you or your livelihood.
2. Remember that this list is considering where all the teams are right now- I’m sure the vast majority of teams on this list will be much different by the time this season ends, and I’d be shocked if I got even a third of the places right.
3. This is going by owner points, not driver points. There is a difference and yes, owner points do exist in Sprint Cup. Thus the reason why the No. 55 is ranked, even though the car will have multiple drivers throughout he season.
Let’s start off by looking at most of the teams that didn’t make the cut this year, going by car number:
BK Racing- Here’s a fun multi-car team. We have no idea who is driving, as most from last year are either legally entangled in fights against the organization for agreed upon money or linked to another ride (Cole Whitt to Front Row). We have no idea how many or what cars will be on track. And, finally, we have no idea if sponsors like Dr. Pepper or Borla are coming back. It’s a mess and it will throw a lot of before-season team charts off track, if nothing else.
No. 7 – Expect this team to continue to improve little by little. Maybe in a couple of years they can compete for a top 25 spot.
No. 10 – Although Danica Patrick has improved over the last five years in NASCAR (she doesn’t wreck as often), she’s still slow, and the crew chief she’ll be working with in Daniel Knost is a step down from Tony Gibson. Gibson was with this team for the last two years until Martinsville, when SHR swapped the No. 10 and No. 41 crews. Kurt Busch-Gibson had much stronger runs over the last three races, while Patrick-Knost struggled mightily after Knost made the Chase with Kurt and Danica had made gains in the last half of the year with Gibson.
No. 21 – Although they won’t be competing in the field often, with a new driver in Ryan Blaney and Penske p-p-p-power, expect them to contend when they do.
No. 32 – They really need to pick a driver and stick with them. I can understand if Timmy Hill wasn’t the right driver, and it is a shame that the season long Oxy Water sponsorship died in a flaming wreck a few seasons ago. But constantly swapping drivers in and out every week can be rough on the team and the drivers. Think of it like a football team; if you have two or three good quarterbacks, you have no quarterback. The team has to keep adjusting to what the driver for the week wants, while the driver doesn’t get enough track time to develop chemistry with the team.
The only team in recent times to do really good with this handicap was the 55 a few years ago with Mark Martin and Brian Vickers, and the only reason it did was because Michael Waltrip Racing had good equipment and money, two things the No. 32 doesn’t have. And even in MWR’s case, they usually only ran the drivers at one track type or another; Vickers handling the short tracks, Michael Waltrip on the plate tracks and Mark Martin practically everywhere else.
No. 34 – Some were surprised about the rumor going around about Cole Whitt replacing David Ragan in this car next year. I really wasn’t, because ever since Ragan won at Talladega in 2013 in the 34, he has become way too inconsistent. While I’m pretty sure Ragan will return to this car, I doubt he improves much.
No. 40 – Although I stick by my prediction made a few months ago that Landon Cassill will win the Daytona 500 with this team, it would take a good car every week to make the top 30- not just plate tracks. Not only that, but there’s a chance Cassill will once again declare for Xfinity points while running this car full-time, which means no shot at the Chase regardless.
No. 66/49/36 – There are a lot of question marks with this team right now. Michael Waltrip Racing will not be needing them for at least the first half or so of the season (more on that later) and Joe Nemechek backed out and is no longer affiliated with the No. 66. Jay Robinson is now the only visible owner, and right before I finished writing these previews Dave Moody broke the news that the team will probably partner up with Tommy Baldwin Racing’s No. 36 and share owner points, with Baldwin running the car at plate races and Robinson running everywhere else. If that does happen I can see Reed Sorenson, who piloted the No. 36 all of last year, to drive for the TBR-JRR combination full time.
No. 95 – Still a young team, results seem to be picking up year by year. Here’s to hoping that when they do go full time (hopefully at the earliest after next year), they don’t get too big too fast like Swan Racing did.
No. 98 – The Power of the Doge. The most unlikely team to receive mainstream press was easily this small Phil Parsons owned car, given a gift from the heavens (Or maybe just dogecoin ) that parlayed into buzz and attention nobody would have guessed going into the season. Although it peaked when driver Josh Wise was voted into the NASCAR All Star race, it did fall in popularity over the last half of the season. Now, let’s see if the team can keep improving and restart that internet buzz when the Doge Car returns on track this year at Talladega.
30th: The No. 38 Long John Silvers/Love’s Travel Stops Ford
Driver: David Gilliland (Entering his ninth season in the Sprint Cup series)
Team: Front Row Motorsports
Crew Chief: Donnie Wingo
It’s a strange deal, what’s going on with Front Row Motorsports. It’s like the Talladega win in 2013 was the peak of the organization because they have been stuck in limbo since then; not improving, not getting worse. I’d hate to be driving for them, because at least I could make jokes if the team was getting worse. Gilliland is a decent driver who won’t light the world on fire and it will be interesting to see how he and Wingo, new to the team, will work together.
29th: The No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota
Driver: Brian Vickers/Michael Waltrip?/Brett Moffitt?/Jeff Burton?
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
Crew Chief: Billy Bad Butt Scott
Vickers is out with heart complications, so there goes both the early season and the whole season for this team. We’ve seen great drivers share cars in the recent past and the cars will underperform greatly, such as Tony Stewart/Mark Martin in 2013. Granted, this very car performed well with mutltiple drivers only a couple of years ago, but that was when MWR in general was on fire and could do no wrong. Now, imagine a worse team from then with a car shared with, at the very least, Brian Vickers, Michael Waltrip, and rookie Brett Moffitt. When Brian Vickers, who isn’t even medically clear to compete, is the best driver in the car by a country mile, it’s going to take a miracle for the team to be competitive throughout the season.
There is a possibility Jeff Burton will come out of his retirement a year later to compete, but…
2. Burton hasn’t been a good driver for five years.
3. At least with Moffitt, you’re building experience for a possible future full time driver.