The Final Word – Sprint Cup’s next irrelevant driver to earn respectability shall be…

Recently, a story by Chad Robb listed the top ten organizations in Cup. Not surprisingly, those ten organizations represented all but one of last season’s top 28 teams. Hendrick, Penske, Gibbs, Stewart-Haas, Ganassi, Childress, Roush-Fenway, Waltrip, and Petty were all there.

Also included, and 10th on the list, was a single car operation. For the past six seasons, Barney Visser’s Furniture Row operation has been a top 28 entry. Mind you, they did drop back from being 10th in 2013 when Kurt Busch was behind the wheel to 24th with Martin Truex Jr. The only miss was the Germain Racing No. 13 driven by Casey Mears, that was 26th in 2014, two steps back of where they were a year prior. Yet, they were seen, they challenged, they mattered.

Twenty-eight teams that belong on the track, based on results, fan base, and the ability to generate sponsorship dollars, as we enter a new campaign. Yes, Danica Patrick is 28th best. Three top 10s and 735 points might not be up to the expectations of some, but she represents the line between the haves and the have nots.

Some may criticize her on-track results, but when it comes to producing dollars, be it from fan support, sponsorship, endorsements, and media appearances, few can top her. So, unless that dries up or her production completely falls off the table, or she improves, Patrick will continue to represent our Mendoza line for NASCAR. That leaves 15 entries each week that struggle for respectability. Which team might make the leap in 2015?

Based simply on the number of arrows in the quiver, one might suspect Bob Jenkins and Front Row Motorsports to be the best bets to emerge. They come into 2015 with three bullets, the No. 32, No. 33 and the No. 38 Chevrolets to be piloted by David Ragan, Cole Whitt and David Gilliland, who had the pole last summer at Daytona, but a 17th at Pocono was the lone result inside the top 20. Whitt did that three times while driving for B.K. Racing, while Ragan had four, including a top 10 at Martinsville. Not much to write home about, I agree, but this trio were 30th, 31st, and 32nd a year ago in the drivers’ standings. The bad news is that each would need to pick up about 200 more points on the season to be considered relevant. That might be just too much ground to make up, at least this season.

It has been years since the Wood Brothers ran anything close to a full schedule. Might they be a contender should they show interest in coming back? Not really, not yet. Even if they had run for points, all they would have collected in a dozen starts last year with Trevor Bayne would have been 143. Over a full schedule, they would have been hard pressed to crack the top 35. So, no.

Maybe the one to watch is the driver who finished just behind Patrick, albeit by a whopping 99 points. In Harry Scott’s No. 51 Chevy, Justin Allgaier managed to crack the top 20, 10 times, though he did miss the cut at Talladega in October before rebounding for his best showings of the season. Allgaier claimed a pair of 15th place results late in the year at Charlotte and Homestead. Last season was the organization’s first big push at a 36-race schedule, and those Hendrick engines gave them some reason for optimism.

Last season, Allgaier’s average finish was 25.9, compared to Patrick’s 23.7. Just a tick better than 25th is what is needed to claim a 700 point season. While Casey, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, and Danica attempt to improve matters in 2015, they might check out the rear view. Justin Allgaier might be looking to join them, if not take their seat, at the adult’s table during this upcoming season’s party.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.


  1. In regards to Danica, I do believe your “fan” estimate is over the top. Typical in today’s world, people like you trying to make a more realistic number like 1 percent seem like 99 percent. Everything I have seen has been to the contrary, primarily from word of mouth spoken to me and the thousands of “posts” I have read regarding her, it ain’t pretty. What stats do you have to back up your claim? As for the attention in other areas, you are damn right few “top her”, it is a all out assault on our common sense and reality…(for those of us in the real world.)

    • One would think a piece that, in part, points out reasons why Patrick is still driving a Sprint Cup car (the ability to attract dollars and fans…over a million Twitter followers) despite her lack of success would keep me safe from having someone named Anne get all over my ass. I was wrong.

      • Ron, everything I’ve seen in the garage at the track puts Danica on the list. Her fan & sponsor support is Top 10.

        Twitter followers, sponsor dollars, Joyce Julius numbers, Q score and TV commercial counts are all “Stats” that dwarf “word of mouth” spoken to a single fan named Anne. Data & statistics will eat hater’s lunch. And good call giving her the “Mendoza Line” moniker. Very apropos to who is included.

  2. i concur… with a new team partnership, and hopefully more resources, driver #51 should be able to improve… in fact, head-to-head in cup finishes allgaier leads patrick 20 to 19… he finished no lower than 6th in his 5 full seasons in the xfinity series and out finished patrick in that series spanking her by a whopping 53 to 7… the famous quote by satchel paige could have been directed directly at danica: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”


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