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.