Grading is hard.
Here are the first round of 2015 Sprint Cup grades. This batch will review teams that have a bit more room for improvement in NASCAR’s 2016 season.
Team Penkse: B
Joey Logano should have run for the Sprint Cup title at Homestead. Matt Kenseth made sure that didn’t happen. Brad Keselowski was Kevin Harvick light, contending for several races but not able to bring home a checkered flag.
If The New England Patriots wins 14 games but fails to win the Super Bowl, is it a successful season? The teams below would give a great deal to have the kind of year Team Penske did, but Roger Penske had to be frustrated when he had two teams running for nothing at Homestead.
Chip Ganassi Racing: B-
The good news is Jamie McMurray had a bounce back year, showing good chemistry with his new crew chief and making the Chase for the first time at Ganassi.
The bad news is Kyle Larson had his sophomore slump, only getting out of the funk during the final races of the 2015 Sprint Cup season. Sprint Cup fans also saw the first published reports of teams looking to hire Larson away from the Ganassi fold.
Chip Ganassi Racing feels like it has tremendous potential to take a leap in 2016. I also wrote this last year, and while the team moved forward, it can’t be a leap until the potential-filled driver fills some of that bucket.
Richard Childress Racing: C+
RCR had two teams in the Chase. So how can it gets a worse grade than Ganassi, who only had one team in the Chase.
- RCR ran three teams all 36 races and never got to Victory Lane.
- Paul Menard wasn’t a factor in the Chase.
- Ryan Newman couldn’t pull a 2014 Ryan Newman move in 2015 and failed to make it to Homestead.
- Austin Dillon joined Larson in the sophomore slump club.
- The team wasn’t able to add a fourth car for Ty Dillon.
If RCR wrote an email asking for extra credit, I would probably budge. But for now, they get what they get.
Roush Fenway Racing: C-
The first 30 Sprint Cup races were ugly for Jack Roush.
- Greg Biffle couldn’t crack the Chase code and will now have a new crew chief to try and write the ship.
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished behind lower funded cars driven by AJ Allmendinger and Casey Mears.
- Trevor Bayne finished behind Sam Hornish Jr., who was one and done at Richard Petty Motorsports.
Roush Fenway Racing showed signs of life at times over the final six races. XFINITY Series Champion Chris Buescher will also get Cup experience next year. Ford has too much vested interest to let Roush Fenway stay in this funk. Whether the team recovers with technology, different drivers or more collaboration remains to be seen. I still see the recovery as a matter of if, not when.
The time to look back at 2015 is over. The final grades for 2016 begin now. Enjoy the new NASCAR season, and insert a random catchphrase here.