NASCAR Recap: December Driver Change

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Even though this is the quietest time of the Sprint Cup season, there are plenty of things that might impact how you watch NASCAR’s 2016 season. Here’s a look at winners and losers from what should be a down time of year.

Win: Brian Scott

Scott will replace Sam Hornish and drive for Richard Petty Motorsports in 2016. Scott has a dozen Sprint Cup starts under his belt and primarily ran in the XFINITY Series.

Scott wins for several reasons. There aren’t many full-time rides on NASCAR’s top circuit. Any job is a good job. Scott also has connections that reportedly help secure sponsorship. Also, when you look at Scott’s numbers, you see an interesting trend.

  • Scott’s average Sprint Cup starting position was 22.3 His average finish was 26.8.
  • That same category in the 2015 XFINITY Series were 6.7 and 13.1
  • His 2014 XFINITY Series numbers were 6.5 and 9.3.

So Scott starts better than he finishes. Good thing the sponsorship is set, because there may be some growing pains for NASCAR’s newest rookie.

Lose: David Ragan

Scott’s success is an especially tough blow for Ragan, who reportedly was a finalist for this ride when Sam Hornish got the job last year. Ragan is still looking at 2016 options and said he would rather run with a competitive team than a start and park. It looks like Ragan and others who want to run will need to look at XFINITY cars or Camping World trucks. The roulette wheel seems to have stopped for 2015.

For Ragan, this feels like a bitter blow. He felt the contraction sting when Jack Roush couldn’t fully sponsor a fourth team. He left Joe Gibbs Racing’s opportunity to race for Michael Waltrip Racing, where there was a possibility to run full-time. That team has since folded. For someone who is only 30, he’s got plenty of fodder for a NASCAR book.

Draw: Richard Petty

This is an interesting hire for the King of NASCAR. On one hand, there’s no way you would want a team to go from two cars to one. To do that, there has to be sponsorship. If there wasn’t funding for anyone other than Scott, there really is no choice.

Here’s the problem. What if Scott struggles more than any other rookie or second year driver or third year driver? It took Paul Menard years to get himself in a position to win a race and make the Chase. Can RPM withstand four or five years like this, especially when Aric Almirola has shown real promise?

The good news is racing’s biggest name will run two full teams in 2016. How those teams perform will be an interesting subplot of NASCAR’s 2016 season. Speaking of season, enjoy this holiday season, and insert random catchphrase here.