A list of current and famous former drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Drivers are organized by team, teams by manufacturer.(R) - Rookie of the Year candidate(i) - Ineligible for Sprint Cup Series points
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Chip Ganassi Racing
Until 2014, this team operated under the name Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, after forming in the 2008-09 offseason from the merger of two teams: Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and the previous Chip Ganassi Racing.
Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI) was founded in the late 1990s by the late Dale Earnhardt, and hit its peak in the early '00s: with drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip, they were darn near unbeatable on superspeedways. They peaked in 2004, when Dale Jr. won six races on a multitude of different tracks, including the Daytona 500, and finished fifth in the inaugural Chase. After this, though, the team began to struggle mightily; Waltrip left in 2006, and Junior's departure for Hendrick in 2008 signalled the death knell for DEI.
Ganassi started as SABCO Racingnote SABCO's former principle, Felix Sabates, maintains a stake in the team to this day in the late '80s and made some good runs at the championship with Kyle Petty driving in the early '90s. Although it did continue to win races, the team didn't return to that height until Indy Car owner Chip Ganassi bought a controlling interest in 2001, with Sterling Marlin finishing 3rd in points that year, and making a serious run at the title in 2002. However, after a neck injury near the end of '02, Marlin went into decline, and the team as a whole began to fall behind.
As a combined team, they've had their ups and downs. Those ups included a Chase berth in 2009 by Juan Pablo Montoya, and four wins in 2010, including two of the biggest of the year (see below). The downs include just about everything in 2011 and 2012, before the team started turning around again in 2013 after switching alliances from Childress to Hendrick, which ultimately saw them pick up a win from Jamie McMurray, and 2014 saw further changes as former DEI principle Theresa Earnhardt was removed from her position with the team.
Jamie McMurray (#1) - McMurray's career is very unique. He entered the Sprint Cup Series when tapped to drive the #40 Coors Light Dodge as a replacement for Sterling Marlin for the final races of the season, after Marlin was injured. In his role as a relief driver, McMurray became the first modern-era driver to win in his second start (fall Charlotte Sprint Cup race). The following year, Jamie got the Rookie of the Year honors. He drove the #42 for Ganassi until 2006, when he left for Roush Fenway Racing and formed their #26 team. When a rule change forced Roush Fenway to shut down its fifth team after the 2009 season, Jamie returned to the now-merged Earnhardt Ganassi team for 2010, and immediately snapped a two-and-a-half year winless streak for the organization with a Daytona 500 victory. Though he would win the Brickyard 400 and the fall Charlotte race in that same year, he missed the Chase againnote which was a factor in NASCAR establishing the Wildcard version of the Chase in 2011 - had that system been in place, Jamie would've been the number one Wildcard, with his Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 wins, despite his 14th place points standing after 26 races. His performance in the 2010 Chase races was comparable to Kyle Busch's performance in 2012 and has slipped back toward midpack since, though he made a comeback in 2013, recording several top five and top ten finishes, including a second place finish to Matt Kenseth at Kentucky, and highlighted his year by winning the October race at Talladega. In 2014, while he has struggled with consistency in the points races, he also added to his list of big race wins by snagging the All-Star Race.
Kyle Larson (#42)(R) - The Japanese-American driver from Sacramento started his driving career in 2012 by winning both Rookie of the Year and the championship in K&N East, and late in the year had several strong runs in the Truck Series. These results led to Turner-Scott Motorsports fast-tracking him for a Nationwide debut in 2013. His Nationwide Series career began with a notorious accident where his car was sheared to pieces by the catch fencing at Daytona and injured 28 people, but after a bit more early misfourtune, he began reeling off top tens on a weekly basis. His hot streak in Nationwide and Truck Series competition in 2013 led to Ganassi signing him to the #42 Sprint Cup car starting at the 2014 Daytona 500. Many consider Larson to be "the next Kyle Busch", something he himself signaled early on by frequently racing alongside Busch and many other established names at the front of the field. Although he hasn't yet found victory lane and suffered summertime stumbles that ultimately locked him out of the Chase field, he's currently well on track for Rookie of the Year.
Furniture Row Racing
This team is unique in that they are one of the few teams not to be located in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. They instead operate out of Denver, Colorado as a satellite team that gets its equipment from Richard Childress Racing. For a while, their high point was a victory in the 2011 Southern 500 with Regan Smith, but they hit their stride in 2013 when Kurt Busch put them into the Chase.
Martin Truex, Jr. (#78) - A two-time Nationwide champion (2004 and '05), Truex is a former DEI driver. He was the last DEI driver to win a race (Dover, June 2007) and qualify for the Chase before the team merged with Ganassi. After Chip Ganassi cut back to two cars, Truex was released and quickly snatched up by Michael Waltrip Racing, with NAPA Auto Parts as a sponsor. After several mediocre seasons in the #56, Truex finally found his second Chase berth in 2012, and found his second career victory in June 2013 at Sonoma, but is still looking for his first top ten points finish (both Chase berths ended with 11th place postseason runs). In spite of the win at Sonoma under the MWR banner, Truex ended up departing the organization at the end of 2013 due to the loss of NAPA Auto Parts as a sponsor in the fallout from the Richmond controversy (read Scandalgate on main page). When Michael Waltrip Racing announced that they would cut the #56 to a part-time entry, Truex became a free agent. On November 1st, during the fall Texas weekend, it was announced that Truex had signed a multi-year contract to drive for Furniture Row Racing, a ride that had been freed up for 2014 by Kurt Busch announcing prior to the Chase that he had signed at Stewart-Haas Racing. Not only that, FRR hired Truex's entire MWR pit crew (save for crew chief Chad Johnston, who is now Tony Stewart's crew chief). However, the team has struggled for speed and performance throughout 2014, with both car and driver now firmly stuck back in the middle of the pack.
They won Truck Series titles in 2006 and 2010 with Todd Bodine. They've not been much of a factor during their time in the Sprint Cup, though.
Casey Mears (#13) - Related to racing royalty (his uncle, Rick Mears, is a four-time Indy 500 winner), much was expected of him when he joined Ganassi in 2003. However, he was quickly overshadowed by Jamie McMurray, and later stints at Hendrick and Childress only further proved that he wasn't a top-level talent in NASCAR.
Ever since Jeff Gordon arrived in the sport in the mid-1990s, Hendrick has been the powerhouse team of NASCAR. It has won a NASCAR-record eleven championships since 1995 (four with Gordon, six with Jimmie Johnson and one with now semi-retired Terry Labonte)
Kasey Kahne (#5) - He came onto the Cup circuit to replace Bill Elliott at Evernham in 2004, and has generally been in the vicinity of the Chase since then, making it in 2006, 2009, and 2012-2014. Kahne is generally considered to be better than the second-tier cars that previous teams were giving him, an assumption that he seemingly proved accurate with a fourth place points finish in 2012, his first season driving with Hendrick Motorsports. 2013 was unfortunately a step back, as he limped into the Chase (versus surging into it in 2012) and never found his groove once he was there, ultimately finishing 12th in points, even though he won the same number of races. 2014 seemed to continue in this vein at first, as he struggled with either slow cars or bad luck most weeks, but he found a groove in the late summer and eventually snagged a victory at one of his best tracks, Atlanta, to transfer into the Chase for the third consecutive year. Kasey also managed to transfer to the Contender round by the skin of his teeth after overcoming crash damage at New Hampshire and a loose wheel at Dover, but failed to transfer out of this round after a crash at Kansas and mediocre runs at Charlotte and Talladega. He's currently best known for being the only driver to win a race for four different manufacturers (for Dodge, for Toyota, for Ford, and for Chevrolet), as well as being a three-time Coca-Cola 600 winner.
Jeff Gordon (#24) - Came into the series in the last race of the 1992 season, then went on to become the rival to Dale Earnhardt throughout the rest of the 1990s. Gordon won the championship in 1995, 1997, 1998, and 2001, and has the most race wins in the modern era at 92 (and counting), which is third on the all-time list. Gordon, a native Californian, helped spread the series' popularity outside of its traditional Southern base, and his quick success on the circuit helped ignite the "Young Gun" trend. However, in recent years he has been overshadowed by his teammate Jimmie Johnson, although he has shown he can still win races. In fact, 2014 has had all the making of a full-blooded resurgence - after struggling just to make the Chase in 2012 and '13,note In the former year, he was only in Chase position after two of 26 regular season races, and only squeezed out Kyle Busch by 3 points; in the latter, he initially missed altogether, only making it on special instruction from NASCAR in the fallout from Spingate Gordon spent most of 2014 in the points lead, winning three regular season races at tracks where he hadn't won in a decade or more - the inaugural night race at Kansas,note he had previously won the first ever race at the track in 2001, and defended it in 2002 a Brickyard 400 that saw him break one multi-discipline record at Indianapolis and tie another,note the former is the record for wins on the oval configuration, where Gordon was previously tied with Johnson and Indy Car legends A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears; the latter is for the facility overall, where Gordon is now tied with Formula One's Michael Schumacher, who won five U.S. Grands Prix on the infield road course and the August race at Michigan, where he won from the pole for the first time at any track since 2007. Gordon was only prevented from leading the initial Chase grid after finishing second to Brad Keselowski in the regular season finale at Richmond, something he'd repeat the next week at Chicagoland. And despite blowing a tire late at New Hampshire, he came into Dover with a pretty good hold on a Contender round spot, a hold he then solidified with his fourth victory of the season, his highest total since '07.note this also prevented Penske from sweeping the Challenger round - Gordon passed Keselowski a few laps before the final round of pit stops and then held him off throughout the final run Gordon had the best run of a very bad day for Hendrick at Kansas, surviving minor contact with the wall to come home 14th. A runner-up at Charlotte once again left Gordon with a fairly comfortable points cushion going into Talladega, but he used nearly all of it by hanging out behind the pack too long and became Hendrick's only transfer to the Eliminator round by the skin of his teeth.
Jimmie Johnson (#48) - Was, for a time, the Boring Invincible Hero of the series, winning five straight championships from 2006 to 2010 and a sixth in 2013. His 69 wins (and counting) make him the only other active driver besides Gordon in the top ten on the all-time wins list (eighth), and with just twelve seasons under his belt, he's on a record pace as far as championships are concerned.note Richard Petty took 17 seasons to reach his sixth title, and another four after that to reach number seven. Dale Earnhardt was slightly quicker, at 15 for his sixth and 16 for his seventh. It's telling of the high expectations on him that a third-place points finish in 2012 was considered disappointing (he seemingly had that championship locked up until bad luck took him out of the last two races), or the fact that his worst points finish was sixth in 2011. As noted above, 2013 was much more in line with those expectations, with six wins including the Daytona 500, and a Chase run where his worst finish was 13th. 2014 has thus far been rather quiet by his standards - although Johnson won three times in four races at the beginning of the summer, including his first Coke 600 in nearly a decade and his first Michigan win ever,note he also extended his lead on Dover's all-time wins list with his ninth win at the track he's not contended for wins quite as strongly outside of this stretch. Nonetheless, Johnson ended up transferring easily to the Contender round of the Chase. Unfortunately, that's where the "easy" ended, as he went into Kansas, a historically strong track for him, only to spin in qualifying and get wrecked on raceday, which put him in a huge hole. Johnson was also unable to get the car under him at Charlotte, leaving him in desperation mode going into Talladega. A two-time winner in the spring race at the track, Johnson dominated the race only to get hung out to dry on a late restart and end up 24th, which was nowhere near good enough to get out of the Contender round.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (#88) - "Little E" or "Junebug" started his career driving for his father's race team in the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo at DEI. In his first season, he won two races and the All-Star Race and was runner-up to Matt Kenseth for Rookie of the Year. The 2001 season had ups and downs for Junior, as his father was killed in the 2001 Daytona 500, but he also won three races (Pepsi 400 at Daytona; Dover, and Talladega). Earnhardt, Jr. currently holds the record for most consecutive wins at Talladega Superspeedway (four), set from October 2001 through April 2003. He also won the 2004 Daytona 500, but after winning a career best six races in 2004 and making the first Chase, Junior fell back in the pack for several years. He is NASCAR's perennial most popular driver,note in fact, as of 2013 he's won the official award a record 11 consecutive times but seems to be eternally stuck in the shadow of his legendary father, and has been plagued by lengthy winless streaks, the longest of which (143 races, ended at Michigan in June 2012) started after coming to Hendrick. Some have accused Hendrick of keeping him around solely for merchandising purposes, but a renewed (and thus far, successful) effort to turn him into a consistent championship contender contradicts this - three straight appearances in the Chase, with a 2013 run that saw several periods of multiple consecutive top 10s, including nine straight finishes 15th or better in the Chase, which ended with his first top five points finish at Hendrick. He then kicked off 2014 on the highest note imaginable with his second Daytona 500 victory, and with a sweep at Pocono in June and August,note this is just his second career season sweep, his first coming in 2002 during his win streak at Talladega 2014 became his first multi-win season since 2004. Since the second Pocono win, Junior's quieted down a bit, but was still solid enough to get to the Contender round of the Chase. However, much to the shock of many, Junior blew a tire and slammed into the wall while leading at Kansas, and then the shifter broke off at Charlotte, relegating him to bad finishes in both races and putting him, much like Johnson, into desperation mode going to Talladega. Junior did show a bit of his restrictor plate flair by leading in the middle stages of the race, but eventually got shuffled back to midfield and wrecked on the first green-white-checkered, which ended his championship run at the Contender round.
Hillman-Circle Sport LLC
This team takes a fairly unique approach to operations, as they run under two separate names on the track - Circle Sport and Hillman Racing.
Circle Sport began in April 2012 when car salesman Joe Falk and longtime crew chief Mike Hillman, Sr. teamed up to buy the car number, owner points and some outdated chassis off the (mostly) defunct #33 of Richard Childress Racing. They occasionally cede this ride back to Childress so he can run his development drivers, principally grandsons Austin (2012-'13) and Ty Dillon (beginning in 2014), as well as Brian Scott. Falk is listed as the principal on the #33 team, with Hillman in a minority role.
Hillman and Falk first paired to field the #40 for Michael Waltrip in the 2012 Daytona 500, only for Waltrip to DNQ. After buying the #33, they abandoned this car until the 2013 Brickyard 400, when Landon Cassill arrived in the #40 as Austin Dillon was using the #33 on this weekend. Originally intended only to run in other races where Childress was using the #33, this changed almost immediately and the #40 started almost all the remaining races in 2013 to build owner points, and is now the duo's primary car for 2014. The ownership formula is reversed on this car, with Hillman as the principal and Falk as the minority.
In terms of performance, Hillman-Circle Sport has generally struggled to make an impression due to the lower-tier quality of their cars, although there have been intermittent sparks of something better, usually courtesy of Cassill.
Timmy Hill (#33, limited schedule) - Hill initially declared for Rookie of the Year in 2012, but aborted his effort after only one start in four attempts. He came back to compete for ROTY for 2013, and while he got a lot better about qualifying, his race results left him a third wheel in the rookie battle.
Alex Kennedy (#33, limited schedule) - What NASCAR racing this younger driver has done to date has mostly been as a Nationwide Series road ringer. He debuted in the same capacity in the Cup series in 2013, but Circle Sport has announced plans for a few oval races for him in addition to Sonoma and The Glen.
David Stremme (#33, limited schedule) - Stremme got a bit of backlash when he debuted in the #40 at Ganassi in 2006, none of which was really his fault.note besides the simple fact of replacing the popular Sterling Marlin, there was the fact that Ganassi bluntly admitted that Stremme was brought in to chase younger demographics, which made him a popular target for older fans frustrated with the young gun movement At any rate, Stremme didn't do much to improve on his predecessor's performance, and was dumped for Dario Franchitti in 2008. After racing Nationwide for a year, Penske picked him up to replace Ryan Newman in the #12. He once again backslid hard from his predecessor's performance, and Penske released him just shy of the end of the year after picking up Brad Keselowski. He ran roughly a third of the 2010 schedule with Latitude 43 Motorsports, and then joined up with start-and-park Inception Motorsports partway through 2011. When the team became Swan Racing at the beginning of 2013, he was initially kept on, only to be released at the end of the regular season.
Travis Kvapil (#33, limited schedule) - Kvapil's also done fill-in duty for this team a few times in the later part of the season. He now has the best finish for the #33 under this banner with a sixth at Talladega in the fall.
Landon Cassill (#40)(i) - His most newsworthy item is the lawsuit he filed in early 2013 against former employer BK Racing, accusing them of withholding race winnings from him. He also had a minor spat with Danica Patrick at Kansas in late 2012, which notably went his way in terms race finish (Danica wound up in the wall and wrecked out. Cassill managed to save the car and tied his season-best 18th place finish). Since joining Circle Sport, Cassill has begun to gain a reputation for being able to somewhat outperform the quality of equipment he's in, something the team exploited to help get their #40 off the ground in mid-2013. He got the team's (and his) first top five ever at Talladega in fall 2014, finishing fourth.
Justin Allgaier (#51)(R) - Allgaier's raced for several years in the Nationwide circuit, first for Penske Racing and later for Turner-Scott Motorsports. During this time, he racked up several wins and was consistently in or around the top five in points. However, despite persistent rumors of him being a contender for a ride with Penske and later Ganassi in the Cup series, he was never able to attract enough sponsorship to make it happen, and 2013 saw him overshadowed by rookie teammate Kyle Larson. As a result, Allgaier's advancing to Cup with HScott in 2014, with only partial sponsorship (21 races) from Brandt Agricultural.
Bobby Labonte (#52, limited schedule) - Bobby won the 2000 championship driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, making him one-half of the only pair of brothers to win the Sprint Cup title (older brother Terry won two championships driving for different teams), as well as one of two drivers to win both the Cup and the Nationwide championship (Brad Keselowski is the other). His career after that was one long slide into obscurity, and by 2013 he was solidly stuck in the middle to rear of the pack. JTG Daugherty announced his replacement with A.J. Allmendinger for 2014, and he later accepted a part time offer from HScott Motorsports.
JTG Daugherty Racing
A relatively obscure outfit, which previously ran Toyotas in an alliance with Michael Waltrip Racing. They provided Marcos Ambrose with his big break in the sport, but didn't get to reap the benefits before he left. In 2014, they'll be moving to Chevrolet, and a new alliance with Richard Childress.
A.J. Allmendinger (#47) - The Dinger's career has been a severe roller-coaster ride, more so than any other driver. A former Champ Car driver, Allmendinger made his NASCAR debut in 2007 with Red Bull, then moved to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2009, before signing a one-year deal with Penske in 2012 for the #22 that Joey Logano drives. He was released from Penske just before the half-way mark after failing a drug test, and drove two races for Phoenix in October while their regular driver Regan Smith was subbing for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He started 2013 driving the 51 for Phoenix on a part-time basis, along with some Indy Car starts and two Nationwide road course races for Penske, both of which ended in Victory Lane. Partway through the year, JTG Daugherty picked him up for five events (later increased to nine), and after positive results compared to Bobby Labonte's performance, they picked him up for the full 2014 season. This turned out to be a good move, because, while the team is still lagging on the oval tracks, Allmendinger was able to display his road-course prowess with the team, ultimately scoring his and JTG Daugherty's first win ever at Watkins Glen, which also secured them a Chase berth under the new system. Unfortunately, with no road courses in the Chase, A.J. endured three mediocre runs at three oval tracks and was eliminated after the Challenger round.
Phil Parsons Racing
Parsons was initially one of the more controversial teams in NASCAR upon their Cup debut in 2009, not only due to being a start-and-park team, but for using the money from the Cup car to run a Nationwide team that also start-and-parked. However, the Nationwide cars shut down after 2010, and as of 2014 Parsons has finally shifted into running full races despite lacking sponsorship most weeks.
Josh Wise (#98) - Competed for Rookie of the Year honors in 2012, but lost out to Stephen Leicht. However, while Leicht withdrew from NASCAR, Wise returned to compete for Front Row in Sprint Cup and The Motorsports Group in Nationwide. After he split from Front Row following the 2013 season, Parsons picked him up for their team.
Richard Childress Racing
From 1986 to 1994, this was the preeminent Chevrolet team, and indeed in all of NASCAR, which was no doubt simply because their driver was Dale Earnhardt. However, they've never been quite the same since Hendrick rose to prominence, and Earnhardt's death took an especially hard toll on them. However, Childress is still among the top teams, and has been working hard in recent years to bring themselves back to the forefront, efforts that yielded three thirds in four seasons for Harvick (2010, '11 ad '13). Currently, Childress' grandsons, Austin and Ty Dillon, are putting together strong runs in NASCAR's lower series, and seem destined for Sprint Cup rides in the near future.
Austin Dillon (#3)(R) - Austin enters full-time Sprint Cup competition with very high auspices, being the second driver (after Greg Biffle, see below) to win Truck and Nationwide titles on his way up the ladder.note it should be noted that Austin's actually the third driver to win the title in these two series; however, the second driver, Johnny Benson, won the 2008 Truck title the year after his last Sprint Cup start, (his Nationwide title came in 1995, the year before his Cup debut) and hasn't raced in NASCAR at all since 2010 He's also had some solid runs in limited Cup starts over the past two years. However, like Ricky Stenhouse in 2013, Dillon has been solid but quiet in his first full Cup season, perhaps disappointing those who expected an instant breakout, and with stiffer competition than Stenhouse faced in '13, Dillon seems unlikely to follow in his footsteps as Rookie of the Year.
Paul Menard (#27) - Initially coming into the Sprint Cup Series in 2007, Menard drove first for DEI, then Yates, then Richard Petty after Yates folded into them, before coming to RCR in 2011. His career to date has been heavily financed by his family through their chain of hardware stores, which give full sponsorship to any team that will hire him. After joining Childress, he fulfilled a long-held family dream by winning the 2011 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, one of the top races of the season. 2014 proceeded in similar fashion to the last several years, with Menard running in the top ten early, only to slump hard across the summer and miss the Chase by a wide margin.
Ryan Newman (#31) - Newman started his career in 2002 with the #12 Alltel Dodge at Penske Racing. He managed to win Rookie of the Year in 2002, ahead of Jimmie Johnson, and won eight races in 2003, but has never managed better than sixth in the final points. He's quite noted for being a strong qualifier, especially in 2003 when he won 11 poles(!), earning the nickname "Rocketman" in the process. He also won the 2008 Daytona 500 with Penske, Penske's sole Daytona 500 victory. In 2009, he became Tony Stewart's teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, and in his time with Stewart-Haas saw four wins, including an emotional victory at the 2013 Brickyard 400. It was announced at New Hampshire in July 2013 that the season would be Newman's last year at Stewart-Haas. In 2014, the #39 was renumbered as the #4 and was taken over by Kevin Harvick. Newman was then signed by Richard Childress to take over the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet. Ironically, Harvick had transferred to SHR from RCR to displace Newman to RCR. Newman brought his Quicken Loans sponsorship with him, keeping him fully funded for the 2014 season and beyond. Much like Harvick, Newman went out on something of a high note with his previous employer, making the Chase for the third time in five seasons at SHR, although rough sledding once he was there caused him to fall short of a top ten points finish. While he endured a winless regular season in 2014, he was able to perform well enough in the points to secure the second of three available Chase slots for winless drivers at the end of the regular season. He was also able to perform well enough in the Challenger round to nab a Contender round spot. To the surprise of some, he then stepped up his game in the Contender round and made the Eliminator round as well.
Stewart Haas Racing
Gene Haas started this team in 2003, but for years they were a fixture at the rear of the pack. Then Tony Stewart bought an ownership stake in the team in 2009, and Rick Hendrick increased technical support for the organization. They turned around nearly overnight, with Stewart turning into the first owner-driver winner in a long time. Stewart also gave the team a long-awaited Sprint Cup title in 2011. Unfortunately, the team had a rough start to 2013, through a combination of bad luck and mechanical issues, although they righted the ship during the season. With the addition of a third car driven by Danica Patrick, they are the first team to field a full-time female driver in the Sprint Cup Series, and the team expanded to four cars in 2014 with the addition of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.
Kevin Harvick (#4) - Harvick is best known as the driver Richard Childress Racing tapped to replace Dale Earnhardt after his death, and instantly surprised everyone by winning at Atlanta in just his third career race in a photo-finish over Jeff Gordon. That win, plus a win at Chicagoland and a ninth place finish in the points, granted him Rookie of the Year honors for that season. After more than a decade as Childress' number one driver, including winning the 2007 Daytona 500, Harvick departed for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, bringing current sponsor Budweiser with him to the upcoming #4 car. He did make sure to go out on a high note, winning four races and tying his career-best third place points finish. Harvick also got off to a fast start at Stewart-Haas in 2014, winning the second race of the year at Phoenix, and again six races later at Darlington to become the first ironclad lock for the Chase. The events in between saw a lot of fast cars fall to parts failures, though, and later in the season his pit crew began to struggle with mistakes, which had some questioning his ability to win a title in 2014. Harvick is doing his best to silence such criticism in the Chase, making the Contender round on points and the Eliminator round on his third win of the season at Charlotte.note it's also his third career win at the track, as he won the Coke 600 in 2011 and '13 at Childress Under the old point system, he would have been the 2010 champion.
Danica Patrick (#10) - The first full-time female driver in the Sprint Cup Series, she, like Tony Stewart, migrated from Indy Car. She wowed people across the nation by winning the 2013 Daytona 500 pole position and an eighth place finish out of it. But since then, she's spent a lot of time running middle and back of the pack, rarely a factor in winning.
Tony Stewart (#14) - Tony Stewart is one of a number of NASCAR drivers who began their careers with the Indy Car circuit. He moved to NASCAR in 1999 with Joe Gibbs Racing, where he was an instant success in his first season, winning three races and finishing fourth in final points, granting him Rookie of the Year honors. Stewart gave Joe Gibbs championship titles in 2002 and 2005. In 2009, Stewart departed Joe Gibbs (likely because he had a loyalty to Chevrolet, and Gibbs had changed to Toyota in 2008) and took majority ownership in Gene Haas' back-of-the-pack team, also signing on as driver of the #14. In his first season as a driver-owner, Stewart won four races. He also gave this team their first Sprint Cup title (his own third title) in 2011. Stewart is the only Sprint Cup driver to have won Cup championships under all three sponsorship titles - Winston Cup (2002), Nextel Cup (2005), and Sprint Cup (2011). Despite early struggles in 2013, Stewart was on his way to a Chase berth until breaking his leg in a sprint car wreck in August, with Mark Martin subbing in for the majority of the remaining races. Stewart's return to Cup competition in 2014 saw him struggle to regain his form, and he sat out three races in August after fatally striking another competitor at another sprint car race just over a year after the earlier incident. Despite being granted a waiver to remain eligible if he could win at Atlanta or Richmond, Stewart ultimately missed the Chase in 2014.
Kurt Busch (#41) - The champion of the inaugural Chase for the Cup in 2004, with Roush Fenway Racing. He later drove Penske's #2, but could never quite match his 2004 effort and was ultimately released shortly after Brad Keselowski broke out in 2011. Like his brother Kyle, he is infamous with the fans for his aggressive driving and short temper. After an off-year driving for James Finch in 2012, he was hired with six races to go by Furniture Row Racing beginning at Charlotte in the fall. Busch immediately hit a resurgence, with the car suddenly recording statistics more like that of a multi-car team. But the decision to replace Smith with Busch may have been a good one: with Busch, FRR was the first single car team to make the Chase. He only ran the 2013 season with the team, as it was announced in early September that Busch would join Stewart-Haas Racing with a new team funded out of Gene Haas' own pockets and sponsored by Haas Automation, but it gave FRR momentum when they hired Martin Truex, Jr. to replace him. Busch's own teaming with SHR has so far seemed a bit of a poor fit, as his season has more closely resembled his run with Finch than any other part of his career, but with one key difference - he broke an 84-race winless streak at Martinsville in April, which secured him a Chase spot as well. But in keeping with the rest of his season, once in the Chase Busch suffered a blown tire-induced crash at New Hampshire and a poorly-handling racecar at Dover and failed to make it out of the Challenger round.
Tommy Baldwin Racing
Former crew chief Baldwin started this team in 2009 after the dissolution of Bill Davis Racing and staffed up with crew members from other extinct organizations. For the first few years, he ran the team as a single car start-and-park, but starting in 2011 began to find fairly consistent sponsorship and has been able to expand to two teams that, while not all that competitive, do run most races to completion.
Michael Annett (#7)(R) - He's posted mostly solid numbers over several years of Nationwide racing. Now, he's stepping up to Sprint Cup to replace Dave Blaney.
Reed Sorenson (#36) - Sorenson debuted in the Ganassi #41 in 2006, and stayed with the team until the end of 2008. Afterward, he moved to the #43 at newly-merged Richard Petty Motorsports, but when the team absorbed Yates Racing at the beginning of 2010 he was released in favor of retaining Paul Menard and A.J. Allmendinger. Since then, Sorenson's mostly raced part-time in start-and-park rides, which makes his 2014 ride with Baldwin something of an upgrade.
Dave Blaney (#37, limited schedule) - See also: Randy Humphrey Racing, below. After Humphrey scaled back his operation to part-time due to sponsorship and qualifying woes, Blaney celebrated his third reunion of 2014, this time returning to Baldwin on a part-time basis in a new entry for the team, built partly on the remnants of former R&D partner Max Q Motorsports.
Mike Bliss (#37, limited schedule)(i) - The 2002 Truck Series champion, and a recurring top ten driver in Nationwide. However, his only full Sprint Cup season was in 2005, and he's never really translated his lower-series success to his various Cup rides.
Team XTREME Racing
Previously known as XXXtreme Motorsport, this team is mainly notable due to owner Johnathan Cohen being one of the few African Americans involved in such a position in the sport, and have struggled just to get to the track every week since forming in late 2012.
J.J. Yeley (#30/#44)(i) - Yeley is a back-of-the-pack guy. He started out in the #18 at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2006 and 2007, but his lack of success saw him replaced by Kyle Busch, and after a brief tenure at Gibbs satellite Hall of Fame Racing, he began drifting around among bottom-tier organizations.
Front Row Motorsports
Front Row has been around for several years, generally running in the back half of the field, largely due to lack of proper funding. Their cars are frequently "self-sponsored" by owner Bob Jenkins through his connections to Long John Silver's and Taco Bell. In 2013, they pulled off their first Cup win, by David Ragan at Talladega.
David Ragan (#34)note Not to be confused with Regan Smith - A former Roush Fenway driver, originally Mark Martin's replacement in the #6. While he recorded a win in the 2011 Coke Zero 400, he was released from the team after that season when sponsorship for the 6 could not be found. He's generally been pretty quiet since moving to Front Row, until he gave them their first Sprint Cup win in the spring 2013 Talladega race, a 1-2 finish with Ragan and David Gilliland.
Operations Suspended (#35) - Front Row initially announced that their #35 team would run multiple drivers in 2014, following the departure of Josh Wise for Phil Parsons Racing. However, after the team failed to qualify for six of the first ten races, including both of its sponsored events, Front Row put the #35 on indefinite hiatus and has not returned it to the track as of Watkins Glen. The drivers below attempted races in the #35 prior to its shutdown
Eric McClure (#35, limited schedule)note Daytona 500, Aaron's 499(i) - The son of former car owner Larry McClure, Eric has raced for over a decade in the Nationwide Series with relatively little success, and has made only a handful of Sprint Cup starts.
Blake Koch (#35, limited schedule)note Phoenix (spring), Las Vegas(i)
David Reutimann (#35, limited schedule)note Bristol (spring) - Richmond (spring) - One of Michael Waltrip Racing's original drivers from their debut in 2007, he managed a win in a rain-shortened 2009 Coca-Cola 600, and pulled out another successful win the next year at Chicagoland. Unfortunately, he never made the Chase and backslid hard in 2011, which led to his dismissal in favor of Clint Bowyer. He spent most of 2012 racing the #10 under a combined Tommy Baldwin and Stewart-Haas banner, so that Danica Patrick wouldn't be required to qualify on time for any of her ten starts that season. Afterward, BK, who had fielded him in the Daytona 500 and the Southern 500, decided to sign him full-time, over their previous driver Landon Cassill. However, much like Cassill, Reutimann was released after only one season, in mid-January, which left him unable to find a full-time ride for 2014.
David Gilliland (#38) - He first came to the attention of the wider NASCAR community after taking an underfunded, unsponsored Nationwide team to victory lane in 2006. Within a couple months, he was driving the #38 for Yates as a replacement for Elliott Sadler. However, Gilliland hasn't found much success in Cup, and has bounced around among lower-tier teams for the last several years.
Go FAS Racing
Previously known as FAS Lane Racing, Frank Stoddard's team has operated on the lower rungs of the sport with a rotation of part-timers since forming in 2011. For 2014, they've teamed up with another lower-tier NASCAR team, Go Green Racing, in order to pool what sponsorship the two teams do have.
Travis Kvapil (#32, 16 races)note originally scheduled for 30; released after race 26 - The 2003 Camping World Truck Series champion, and the first driver to win a race for Toyota in any of the three national series (Truck Series race at Michigan, July 2004). He came to Sprint Cup in Penske's #77 in 2005, and has been a consistent mid-pack driver since then. He posted BK Racing's first (and to date, only) top-ten race finish in fall 2012 at Talladega, but generally poor performance combined with a domestic assault arrest just before the fall 2013 race at Charlotte led to his termination at the beginning of 2014, and he's only riding a partial schedule with Go FAS.
Terry Labonte (#32, 4 races) - Terry won the 1984 championship, then seemed to fade away for a while, racing for mid-pack teams. But he joined Hendrick in the mid-'90s, at about the time they were developing into a true powerhouse, and won a second championship in 1996. His performance dropped off again after the Turn of the Millennium, though, and he stepped back from full-time driving after 2004. After a decade of driving part-time, Terry has indicated his intent to hang up his helmet for good after 2014.
J.J. Yeley (#32, 3 races)(i) - See XXXtreme Motorsport
Blake Koch (#32, 3 races)(i)
Joey Gase (#32, 2 races)(i)
Eddie MacDonald (#32, 1 race)
Timmy Hill (#32, 1 race) - See Circle Sport
Kyle Fowler (#32, 1 race)
Boris Said (#32, road courses only)
Leavine Family Racing
Michael McDowell (#95) - Originally brought on by Michael Waltrip Racing to replace Dale Jarrett after his retirement in early 2008. He's best known for being the first driver to do a real-world test of the safety features on the Gen-5 racecar, in a frightening crash at Texas shortly after his debut. His performance in the car was rather mediocre, and he was ultimately released before the end of '08 due to sponsor issues at MWR. After retreating to Nationwide for 2009, he returned to Cup with Phil Parsons Racing in 2010, and spent the next four seasons at the back of the pack, before moving to Leavine for 2014.
Randy Humphrey Racing
Dave Blaney (#77, released after race 15) - Blaney is a veteran journeyman who has been in NASCAR since the 1990s, driving for a multitude of owners, including Bill Davis, Richard Childress, Phil Parsons, and Tommy Baldwin. He's never seen much success, and is a consistent presence near the rear of the pack. His move to this team represents a reunion of sorts, both with the number 77, which he drove in 2002-03 with Jasper Motorsports,note that #77 was bought out by Penske in 2004 and was driven by Brendan Gaughan and Travis Kvapil before being shuttered at the end of 2005 and with one of Parsons' former co-owners, Randy Humphrey.
Various Drivers (#77) - It appears that this team is now using one-off drivers following their hiatus and reduction to part-time, and Blaney's return to TBR. So far, Nelson Piquet, Jr. has made his series debut in this car as a road ringer at Watkins Glen, Joe Nemechek attempted (and ultimately made) Atlanta and Corey LaJoie made his series debut at New Hampshire in September. LaJoie gained a second start a month later at Charlotte.
Richard Petty Motorsports
This organization is made up of the remains of three separate former teams - Petty Enterprises, Gillette Evernham Motorsports and Yates Racing, with the car numbers being the former Evernham and Petty flagships, and the manufacturer coming from Yates.
Petty Enterprises was the Petty family's team, and won ten championships (three with Lee in the '50s and seven with Richard in the '60s and '70s), but after Richard's career started going downhill in the early '80s and son Kyle left to seek better opportunity, they struggled with a succession of mediocre drivers, and their last win came with John Andretti in 1999.
Evernham was founded in 2001 to spearhead Dodge's re-entry into the sport, being led by the team's namesake and Jeff Gordon's former crew chief Ray Evernham. They won races with Bill Elliott, Jeremy Mayfield, and Kasey Kahne, and made the Chase in each of its first three years. However, mismanagement became rampant among the team, especially after George Gillett bought a controlling interest in 2007, and by the end of 2008 they, like Petty, were on the verge of insolvency.
Yates had been around since the '80s, fielding drivers such as Davey Allison, Ernie Irvin, and Dale Jarrett (who won the championship in 1999). However, they started falling behind the competition after Elliott Sadler's Chase berth in 2004, and their last win was a surprising victory by Jarrett at Talladega in 2005.
RPM is heavily subsidized by Roush Fenway, but unlike the Stewart-Haas alliance with Hendrick, this has failed to substantially boost the team's performance.
Marcos Ambrose (#9) - A native of Tasmania, Ambrose was an Australian V8 SuperCar champion before he came to the NASCAR in the late 2000s. Until 2011, he drove the #47 for JTG Daugherty. Ambrose has a growing legion of fans and has won back-to-back Watkins Glen races in 2011 and 2012, but has yet to make the Chase. His failure to really break through in Cup resulted in him taking a page from Juan Pablo Montoya, announcing his exodus from NASCAR and return to Australia after 2014, with strong rumors that he'd be racing V8 SuperCars again in 2015, likely in a team at least part-owned by Roger Penske. Those rumors were confirmed the next day.
Aric Almirola (#43) - Almirola entered Sprint Cup in 2007, driving part-time for what was then DEI alongside the semi-retired Mark Martin. Until 2012, he never had had a full-time Cup ride, which came in the form of the #43. 2014 was mostly a slog for Aric, without even the early run of consistency that had surprised many in 2013, but he had one massive bright spot when he won at his hometrack, Daytona,note he was born on Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, on the Florida panhandle, but was raised in Daytona Beach and regularly attended both races as a child in a rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 in July, thus also securing his first career Chase berth. Unfortunately, Aric suffered his first blown engine with RPM in the Chase opener at Chicagoland, and while he finished sixth at New Hampshire to keep his hopes alive, a sub-mediocre run at Dover kept him from getting out of the Challenger round.
Roush Fenway Racing
Once the leading team in the Ford camp, they won back to back Sprint Cups in 2003 and 2004, but the drivers who delivered those championships (Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch) have since left the team, and they generally seem to have slipped in recent years, particularly after the introduction of the Gen-6 car.
Greg Biffle (#16) - A former Truck Series and Nationwide champion, Biffle is seeking to become the first driver to win championships in all three top series. The closest he's come is a tie for second place with Carl Edwards behind Tony Stewart in 2005, but he remains a recurring fixture in the top ten in points. 2014's been a bumpy ride for Biffle, as he's riding a winless streak dating back to Michigan in June 2013, Ford's 1000th win on NASCAR's national level, and he struggled badly with speed and consistency many weeks. Things got a little brighter toward the end of the regular season, when he put together five straight top tens from Pocono to Atlanta, and ultimately snagged the last of three Chase berths left available to winless drivers in 2014. This berth ultimately went nowhere after the speed issues from earlier in the year resurfaced and left him with three mediocre runs in the Challenger round, from which he failed to advance.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (#17) - He won back-to-back Nationwide Series championships in 2011 and 2012, accomplishing this feat against Cup veterans like Elliott Sadler and other promising up and comers like Austin Dillon. After winning six races in his 2012 Nationwide campaign, Roush decided to move him to the Cup Series full-time, taking the seat vacated by Matt Kenseth as Kenseth moved to Joe Gibbs Racing, bumping Joey Logano to the #22 at Penske Racing. While Stenhouse's first season was considered a disappointment by those expecting a Johnson or Stewart-esque instant breakout, he easily won Rookie of the Year. But disappointment is quickly becoming a theme of Stenhouse's still young Cup career, as he endured a major slump in his sophomore season, only scoring a handful of top tens and falling solidly into the mid-20s in points, which kept him from ever being a serious Chase contender. Things have actually gotten worse in the Chase, as he's backsliding from his late 2013 performance in these races, most spectacularly at Talladega, the site of his first career top-five finish the year before - in 2014 it became the site of his first career DNQ after a bizarre qualifying session put Stenhouse eighth in line for seven provisional spots.note among the provisional takers were five Contender-round Chasers, first non-Chaser Kyle Larson, and Tony Stewart, who was granted the champion's provisional but also had an owner's point advantage on Stenhouse. Even a disqualification of the #29 of RAB Racing, which had no owner points, couldn't help him - Tommy Baldwin's #36, one of the two cars behind the #17 in owner points, ended up being elevated into a timed slot after the reshuffling
Carl Edwards (#99) - Originally meant to take the #6 from Mark Martin after he retired, Edwards was quickly brought into the 99 after Jeff Burton was released in mid-2004. He was also quick in making a name for himself, scoring his first career victory in a photo finish at Atlanta in spring 2005, beating none other than Jimmie Johnson to do it. He's quite well-known for his unique victory celebrations, which involve doing a backflip while standing in the car window. He's had three near-misses with the championship, including the first ever tie in points in 2011 (losing to Tony Stewart on a tie-breaker based on race wins), but has had consistency issues throughout his career and is infamous for lengthy winless streaks. 2013 was his career in a season-sized nutshell, as Edwards ran in the top five for the majority of the regular season, only to flatline in the Chase and finish 13th. In 2014, despite being the obvious banner-carrier of the organization with two wins, including his first career road-course win at Sonoma, and a top five points standing after 19 races, months of rumors were confirmed at Indianapolis when Jack Roush announced that Edwards would be leaving the team at year's end. Less than two-and-a-half weeks later, more rumors were confirmed when it was announced that Edwards would follow in the footsteps of former and future teammate Matt Kenseth, moving to a new fourth car at Joe Gibbs Racing, the #19. Nonetheless, Carl is working to make sure his time with Roush ends on the best note possible, having run well enough to make first the Contender and then the Eliminator rounds.
Longtime Indy Car team owner Roger Penske entered NASCAR in the 1990s with 1989 Cup champion Rusty Wallace, who came in second several times under Penske (most famously in 1993), and in the 2000s fielded drivers Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman. However, Penske could never pull off a championship until Brad Keselowski won in 2012.
Brad Keselowski (#2) - Keselowski started his career with his family's race team in Trucks and Nationwide, then spent a year and a half with other small teams after his family temporarily closed their team due to sponsorship woes. Things started to look up in late 2007 when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. hired Keselowski to drive a Nationwide Series entry for JR Motorsports, and he won a pair of Nationwide races in 2008, in fields stacked with Sprint Cup regulars. A limited Cup schedule under Hendrick and Phoenix Racing in 2009 got him further attention, especially after his sensational (and somewhat controversial) win at Talladega that April. He was poached near the end of the season by Roger Penske, and after some major growing pains in 2010 and early 2011, eventually found his groove in the second half of the season, charging into a Wildcard Chase berth and a fifth in final points. 2012 was better still, with five wins and a top ten Chase berth, and ended with Brad hoisting the Sprint Cup at Homestead. Unfortunately, Brad's defense of this title was unsuccessful, as he missed the Chase altogether in 2013, the second instance of this since the Chase began.note Tony Stewart was the first, in 2006, when the Chase was still a 10-man field. In either version of the 12-man field, he would have qualified 2014 has seen a big resurgence back into the elite, as he's crushed the field several times en route to a series-leading four regular season wins, also putting him atop the initial Chase grid. He then became the first transfer to the Contender round after winning the Chase opener at Chicagoland. But, like Dale Jr., Brad shocked everyone by having a tire come unwound at Kansas, which put him hard into the wall. He also let a simmering rivalry with Gibbs drivers Kenseth and Hamlin get the best of him at Charlotte and wound up mid-pack, which left him in desperation mode at Talladega. Like Johnson and Junior, Keselowski showed off the plate flair that got him to where he is at the track.note besides the famous 2009 win, Brad also won the Aaron's 499 on his championship march in 2012 Unlike them, he timed it perfectly, taking the lead on the backstretch of the last lap to win his sixth race of the season and salvage a transfer to the Eliminator round. He's also well-known for his use of social media, particularly Twitter.
Joey Logano (#22) - Originally Tony Stewart's replacement at Joe Gibbs Racing, Logano became the youngest winner in Sprint Cup history at the age of 19 in a rain-shortened race at New Hampshire, but struggled to make it into the upper echelon of drivers while at Gibbs (the only other race Logano won at Gibbs was a Pocono race in June 2012). He formed a friendship with Keselowski across the course of the last several years, and Brad personally vouched for him in getting Penske to sign him to the 22 over several other drivers (including Penske's own Nationwide driver, Sam Hornish Jr.) when Matt Kenseth replaced Logano in the #20. This effort paid off when Logano won at Michigan in August 2013, en route to his first Chase berth. This berth ended in an 8th place points run. Ultimately, he went on a tear, managing to lead laps in every one of the first nine races of 2014, even winning two of them (Texas and Richmond) in photo finishes. He then became one of five drivers with at least three wins at the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol, thus equaling his win total prior to 2014 in a single season. Joey then joined Brad in the Contender round with his first career Chase victory, also at New Hampshire. Upon the start of the Contender round, Joey immediately transferred to the Eliminator round by winning Kansas.
Wood Brothers Racing
Wood Brothers, alongside Petty, is one of the only teams to have been around in some form or another since the '50s. In the 1970s, running a part-time schedule with David Pearson, the team won a staggering 46 races, including the "Triple Crown" (Daytona, Charlotte, Darlington) in 1976, and were hailed as the top team in NASCAR. After Pearson left in 1979, the next three decades would be one long slide into obscurity, with a succession of mediocre drivers or good drivers who had bad luck or simply never stayed long. But in 2011, all that changed, when the 20-year-old Trevor Bayne drove the #21 to victory in the Daytona 500. The team has committed to driving a part-time schedule, which appears to be working for them.
Trevor Bayne (#21)(i) - In addition to driving for the Wood Brothers part-time, Bayne has also driven for Roush Fenway in Nationwide for the last several years. He is most notable for being the youngest winner of the Daytona 500, after he won the event in 2011. His 2012 Nationwide campaign saw him sidelined for long periods of time due to sponsorship woes, while his 2013 campaign in the #6 (previously driven by back-to-back reigning Nationwide champ Stenhouse) saw him post solid but somewhat underwhelming numbers. Nonetheless, he has been selected for a full-time Sprint Cup ride with Roush starting in 2015, in a revived #6 Cup car.
BK Racing was formed in the 2011-2012 offseason out of the remnants of the Red Bull team after that team folded. The team hasn't found much success since then, having frequent equipment issues and generally lagging behind other Toyota powerhouses like Gibbs and Waltrip. Like Front Row Motorsports, BK Racing is frequently "self-sponsored" by owner Ron Devine, who runs a large franchise of Burger King restaurants.
Alex Bowman (#23)(R) - Bowman's Nationwide career has mostly consisted of him taking mid- to rear-pack equipment and getting it much closer to the front than it should be. He's being called on to do that again in his first season in the Sprint Cup Series.
Cole Whitt (#26)(R) - Whitt has posted decent numbers in the Truck and Nationwide series, leading to a trial run in fall 2013 by Swan Racing. Despite some struggles during said trial run, the team decided to give him a full season to find his groove in Sprint Cup, and he did appear to be making progress when the team sold its entry to BK.
Ryan Truex (#83, released after race 27)(R) - The younger brother of Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan made waves on NASCAR's regional level with back-to-back K&N East titles in 2009 and '10. His hiring by BK, however, represented his first full-time ride in any of the three national series, and that lack of experience showed immediately when he failed to qualify for the Daytona 500, the first DNQ for a full-time BK entry.note the team had previously seen David Reutimann miss the 2012 Coca-Cola 600 driving a part-time entry, the #73 Truex would also DNQ at Texas in April and Michigan in June, and sat out the second Michigan race with a concussion. When he was in the field he was often crashing out and/or simply well behind the team's already poor performance from the year before. However, his early departure from the team may also be due to a financial dispute - there are unconfirmed reports that Truex, like Landon Cassill in 2012, was having his race winnings withheld.
Travis Kvapil (#83) - With Kvapil being pulled from his part-time ride at Go FAS with increasing frequency, he has decided to re-unite with BK for at least part of the final quarter of 2014.
J.J. Yeley (#83)(i) - Yeley first drove with BK when Truex was sidelined with his concussion. It appears the team has decided to use him for some races during the final quarter of 2014 as well.
Identity Ventures Racing
Joe Nemechek (#66, 15 races/#87, 3 races)(i) - Nemechek earned the nickname "Front Row Joe" for a spate of first and second place qualifying efforts during the late 90's and early 2000's. Unfortunately, he only scored a handful of wins and never really broke out, not even during a brief tenure with Hendrick Motorsports in 2002-03. He restarted his own team in 2009, and despite regularly attempting the full Cup schedule, has run for Nationwide points since the 2011 rule change. 2014 sees him merge said owner-driver effort with MWR's part-time 66 team for sponsorship and owners point purposes, while also switching his declaration to the Truck Series, where he runs a partial schedule at tracks where son John Hunter is too young to race.
Brett Moffitt (#66, 6 races) - A younger driver who primarily works as a testing and development driver with Michael Waltrip Racing, running full-time in K&N East. Identity Ventures Racing fields him on a part-time basis as part of their arrangement with MWR.
Mike Wallace (#66, 4 races/#49note was originally entered as 87, number changed mid-week; 87 owner points used for this team, 1 race) - The younger brother of 1989 Sprint Cup champion Rusty Wallace and the older brother of Kenny Wallace, Mike is best known for his achievements in the lower series, particularly the Trucks, where he won their inaugural Daytona race in 2000. He struggled to gain full-time Cup rides and was more often used as a fill-in or a restrictor plate ace, particularly after 2001.
Joe Gibbs Racing
Founded by former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs in 1992, this team originally drove Pontiacs (and then Chevrolet Monte Carlos after Pontiac left NASCAR in 2003). Initially finding success with a number of drivers that included Dale Jarrett (who gave them their first win in the 1993 Daytona 500), Bobby Labonte (who won Gibbs their first championship in 2000), and Tony Stewart (who won the 2002 and 2005 championships), the team switched to driving Toyota Camrys in 2008. YMMV on how well this has worked - JGR has won a high number of races but tends to suffer either from bad consistency or fizzling out in the Chase, and hasn't yet delivered Toyota a championship in the Sprint Cup.
Denny Hamlin (#11) - Hamlin set a modern-era record for points finish by a rookie with wins at both Pocono races and the Budweiser shootout, an appearancein the Chase, and a third place finish in the 2006 points, note the all-time record is James Hylton's runner-up in '66 providing a near-instantaneous turn-around for a third Gibbs car that was mid-pack at best under a multitude of drivers the year before. He's had his share of issues with consistency, but made the Chase from 2006-12, and came close to winning a title several times, most notably in 2010, where he was leading the points going into Homestead, but lost the title to Jimmie Johnson. 2013 saw his first missed Chase after a back injury at Auto Club benched him for four full races, with Michael Waltrip Racing drivers Mark Martin (at Martinsville) and Brian Vickers (at Texas, Kansas and Richmond and a mid-race driver swap at Talladega with Hamlin starting and Vickers taking the wheel at the first caution) filling in for him. Hamlin initially made a very dynamic return, finishing runner-up to Kenseth at Darlington and posting another top five at the Coke 600. After this though, Hamlin's performance fell off dramatically for several months, only recovering in October and November when he went on a string of top tens that culminated with him winning in the finale at Homestead. 2014 continued the bounceback — he won both the Unlimited and his Duel during Speedweeks, and finished second in the Daytona 500. He then won his first career points paying restrictor plate race in the Aaron's 499 at Talladega that May. He got nailed later in the season with a major penalty after a parts violation was found at Indianapolis, but this wasn't enough to keep him out of the Chase, and he ultimately found his way to the Contender round despite suffering both a broken fuel probe and terminal crash damage at New Hampshire. He was able to avoid this degree of trouble once there and made it to the Eliminator round.
Kyle Busch (#18) - Kyle is hated by many fans for his reckless driving and recurring bouts of Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome, which made him the black sheep of the Hendrick stable when he drove for them from 2005-'07. He also had a noticeable rivalry with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. from 2007 to 2008 with one wrecking the other on at least three occasions.
On the other hand, despite his Ax-Crazy tendencies, Busch's raw talent is indisputable, and since he arrived at Gibbs in 2008, he frequently wins a dozen or more races across the three national series. Which made 2012 a notable off year for him, as his only win was the spring Sprint Cup race at Richmond in May. He wasn't in the Chase, but he recorded seven top tens and led the most laps at at least three of the Chase races, and won several Chase pole positions. He bounced back big in 2013, eventually tying his best Nationwide season with thirteen wins, snagging five wins and the owner's title in Trucks,note he runs his own race team in this series, which ran three trucks in 2013. Two of them fielded full-time Truck drivers Joey Coulter and Darrell Wallace, Jr., while the one that won the title ran a rotation of part-timers when Busch wasn't driving. Besides Busch's own wins, Erik Jones drove this truck to victory at Phoenix. and got four Cup wins and a best ever Chase finish of fourth. 2014 has seen him improve his Truck numbers, with five wins in his first five starts and six overall, but he's fallen back to six Nationwide wins and has only won once in Cup, a defense of his 2013 Auto Club win. After a summer of misery, his performance picked up significantly in the Chase, enough for him to make it into the Contender round, even managing to come back from major crash damage for a top ten finish at New Hampshire. In the Contender round, Kyle managed a very timely first career top five at Kansas and another one at Charlotte. Unfortunately, these weren't enough to get Kyle to the Eliminator round after he was swept up in a Big One at Talladega, ultimately finishing 40th.
Matt Kenseth (#20) - For over a decade, Matt Kenseth was very successful with Roush Fenway Racing, which included delivering the organization both its first Sprint Cup (2003) and its first Daytona 500 victory (2009. He won the race again in 2012). Thus far, he's brought that success with him to Gibbs - before engine failure sidelined him at lap 150, he was well on his way to a third Daytona 500 win, and the next seven races included wins at Vegas and Kansas - although the latter was briefly nullified by penalties stemming from a parts violation in the engine.note the Appeals Board walked back the vast majority of the sanctions, including restoring the win as a factor in Kenseth's Chase seeding/Wildcard eligibility And even that didn't slow his pace much, if any, as Kenseth led the most laps in the two races after Kansas, and then, with interim crew chief Wally Brown on the pit box instead of regular crew chief Jason Ratcliff, Kenseth overtook Kyle Busch to win his first Darlington race and become the first three-time winner of the season. He followed that up with wins at Kentucky and Bristol, which positioned him as the top seed going into the Chase by three points over Johnson and teammate Busch, and opened the Chase with back to back victories at Chicagoland and New Hampshire. However, he was eventually overwhelmed by Johnson down the stretch and settled for second in points, although he and others still consider it possibly his best season to date. 2014 likely won't get the same notice, as Kenseth has yet to return to victory lane, but he has maintained a top five points position throughout the regular season and, with three Chase slots left available for winless drivers, was easily able to make it in. He then transferred into the Contender round after surviving two separate crashes at New Hampshire. Kenseth was able to avoid that degree of trouble despite clashing with Keselowski at Charlotte, and ended up transferring to the Eliminator round as well.
Michael Waltrip Racing
Michael Waltrip started his own team on a part-time basis in 2002, initially running DEI-built Chevrolets for other drivers while Waltrip himself was still driving for DEI. In 2006 he left DEI and moved to his team full time, running Dodges in a temporary alliance with Bill Davis. In 2007, MWR spearheaded Toyota's much-publicized entrance into the Cup Series, and struggled all year. The team has improved since then, winning a handful of races, and both its full-time drivers made the Chase in 2012. However, they've been mired by controversy and scandal multiple times — in 2007, Waltrip's car for the Daytona 500 contained what appeared to be jet fuel, and in 2013, they tried to manipulate the points at Richmond to alter who made it into the Chase.
Clint Bowyer (#15) - Originally Richard Childress Racing's number two driver behind Kevin Harvick, he left the organization after they shut down the #33 following the 2011 season. Bowyer immediately became the linchpin in MWR's dramatic and near-instantaneous rise into NASCAR's elite, winning three races and pulling off a career-best second in the 2012 points. However, he also became the linchpin in the aforementioned Spingate scandal after drawing the caution at the September 2013 Richmond race to get then-teammate Martin Truex, Jr. into the Chase, and a winless year throughout ended with him falling back to seventh in points. Bowyer continued to slide in 2014, as he still hadn't found his way back to victory lane at the end of the regular season, and ended up seven points short of the last available Chase spot.
Brian Vickers (#55)- Seemingly left for dead in NASCAR after the dissolution of the Red Bull team, Vickers was picked up by MWR for the Martinsville, Bristol, New Hampshire and road course races, and immediately impressed, earning him an extra Cup race for MWR in 2013 and a Nationwide ride with Joe Gibbs. Gibbs later selected Vickers ahead of his Nationwide teammate (and fellow exiled Cup vet), Elliott Sadler,note who's getting a few Cup starts of his own in a part-time Gibbs entry to fill in for Denny Hamlin while he recovered from his back injury. Michael Waltrip Racing has officially announced that Vickers will drive the #55 full-time beginning in 2014. Unfortunately, 2014 wasn't what many were expecting for Vickers, as he ran in the top ten in points early in the season only to run into long stretches of bad luck in the summer, and without a victory, he was ultimately well out of Chase position by Richmond.
Jeff Burton (#66, 2 races)note originally schedule for 6-8; most of schedule reportedly taken over by Brett Moffitt - A veteran who has been around the sport since the mid-1990s, Jeff has had one of the biggest roller-coaster careers of anyone. Driving for Roush in the late '90s and early '00s, Burton was a championship contender and won races on a regular basis. However, he imploded over the next few years, leading to his departure from Roush and his joining RCR in 2004. He came back for a while, notably in 2007 and 2008, but he has been going downhill again since around 2010, and his tenure with RCR ended after the 2013 season. Waltrip picked him up for a one-year part-time deal for the re-numbered 66, and in 2015 he'll move to the broadcast booth with NBC Sports.
Michael Waltrip (#66, 4 races) - The younger brother of three-time champion Darrell Waltrip. Mikey came onto the scene in the 1980s but for years lived under the shadow of his older brother. He went winless for over a decade, until finally breaking through with DEI and scoring a victory at the 2001 Daytona 500, marred by the death of his team owner, Dale Earnhardt. He didn't have a top five finish after that until the Pepsi 400 and return to Daytona that year, finishing an emotional second to teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Waltrip would win three races in 2002 and 2003 (the 2002 Pepsi 400, as well as a rain-shortened 2003 Daytona 500 and fall EA Sports 500 at Talladega), but didn't see much success besides that, and left for his self-owned team in 2006. He retired from full-time racing in 2010, and has raced part-time since then, focusing on running MWR and joining his brother in the broadcast booth.
Swan Racing Company
Founded under the name Inception Motorsports in 2011, this team spent its first two years on the circuit as a start-and-park with David Stremme, before original owner Timothy McSweeney sold the team to Swan Energy CEO Brandon Davis at the end of 2012. Davis put a lot more money into the team in order to upgrade them to a full-race competitor, and later released Stremme and used the rest of 2013 to audition up-and-comers for an expanded two-car squad in 2014. Unfortunately, the economic stresses of multi-car ownership proved too great, and as a result Swan suspended operations and sold off its cars just prior to Richmond.
Cole Whitt (#26)(R) - See BK Racing.
Parker Kligerman (#30, released after race eight)(R) - Kligerman posted solid numbers in Trucks and Nationwide as part of Penske's development program, but elevated his game when he moved to the Toyota camp mid-way through 2012, including a Truck win at Talladega and a top-ten points run in Kyle Busch's #77 Nationwide car. Swan gave him a two-race trial run in fall 2013, and after posting surprisingly strong numbers relative to the team's previous performance, they increased to two cars and hired Kligerman. Unfortunately, Kligerman's 2014 was basically one long string of crashes and parts failures, and when the #30 was sold to XXXtreme Motorsports, he was not retained in the transfer.note it has been clarified that Kligerman remains under contract to Swan, who have made vague comments about attempting to get him back on the track later in the season Kligerman's since been sighted in the Indianpolis area, preparing to test cars in Indy Car's development series, Indy Lights, which seems to signal a permanent departure from NASCAR.
Famous Past Drivers
Tim Flock - One of the most successful drivers of NASCAR's formative years, winning the 1952 and 1955 championships. Tim was one of several members of a famous racing family, but none came close to matching his achievements on the track. In 1955, Flock had 18 victories and 19 poles in 45 races, the latter of which still stands as the NASCAR record.
Lee Petty - Another famous driver, being the first driver to win at least three championships, the inaugural Daytona 500 winner, and is tenth on the all-time wins list with 54. However, he is largely remembered today for being the father of his more famous son, Richard.
Junior Johnson - As a driver, he has the dubious honor of having the most wins (50) without a championship to go along with them. As an owner, he has 139 wins and six championships, and fielded several other members of this list.
Ned Jarrett - The "father" half of the sport's second Father-Son championship duo, winning the title in 1961 and '65. He was also a broadcaster for a number of years with both CBS and ESPN. This gave him the opportunity to call quite a number of son Dale Jarrett's race wins, including his first win in 1991, and his first Daytona 500 win in 1993.
Richard Petty - Perhaps the single most prolific driver in the sport's history, winning a total of 200 races (including 27 in one season, 1967 - for comparison, there are only 36 races on the schedule today) and seven championships (1964, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1979). His #43 "Petty Blue" car has become emblematic of the sport as a whole. He dominated the series throughout the '60s and '70s. He did fizzle out in the 1980s as younger, more competitive drivers racing for better teams began to appear, and by 1990 he was consistently running near the rear of the field. He retired at the end of the 1992 season.
David Pearson - Won 105 races and three championships (1966, 1968, 1969). These numbers could have been even higher - for a good part of the 1970s, Pearson drove a part-time schedule with the Wood Brothers. Richard Petty famously claimed once that Pearson was the only driver who could beat him anywhere.
Bobby Allison - He won his only Sprint Cup in 1983 at the age of 45, making him the circuit's oldest champion. He was also rather prolific as a race winner, being tied for fourth all-time with Darrell Waltrip at 84note some claim this total should be as high as 86, with one win being a combination race in which Allison raced a Grand American-spec car instead of Grand National (now Sprint Cup), while the other is officially credited to Cale Yarborough, who is rumored to have used an oversized engine (along with runner-up Richard Petty). Others say it should only be 83 - for that, see Scandalgate below. His third Daytona 500 win in 1988 makes him the oldest winner of that race as well (age 50), but a near-fatal crash at Pocono later that season forced his retirement from NASCAR.
Cale Yarborough - Famously tough, he not only raced, but played semi-pro football and was a Golden Gloves boxer as well. He was the first driver to win three consecutive championships (1976, 1977, 1978, all with Junior Johnson's team), a feat that would not be repeated until Jimmie Johnson in the 2000s. His 83 race wins sit at sixth on the all-time list, although he was in the top five of this list until Jeff Gordon passed him in 2011.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. - The Intimidator. Earnhardt won championships in 1980, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, and 1994, and racked up 76 race wins, currently seventh on the all time list. He was both revered and hated; he was noted for an aggressive driving style, giving them the aforementioned title. He became a household name as the sport exploded in popularity during The Eighties and The Nineties. Tragically, he died in a crash on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
Darrell Waltrip - Waltrip was the champion in 1981, 1982, and 1985 while driving for Junior Johnson, and for years was the winningest driver in the modern era with 84 (currently tied for fourth on the all time list), until being caught and passed by Jeff Gordon in 2011. Initially, he was famously rivals with Dale Earnhardt, and was widely disliked for his aggressive, brash driving style, and attitude, but slowly became better liked as time went on, even winning Most Popular Driver in 1989 and 1990 note This was largely caused by a run-in with the far less liked Rusty Wallace at the 1989 All-Star Race. He retired in 2000 and since then has worked as a broadcaster for NASCAR on FOX.
Bill Elliott - "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville" has only one championship (1988) but is widely remembered, possibly due to his popularity (he won the Most Popular Driver award sixteen times, including ten in a row, before Dale Jr. entered the series) In the 1980s, he drove for Harry Melling, winning eleven races in 1985, and in 1987 posted the fastest ever qualifying lap in Cup history at Talladega - something that thanks to restrictor plates will probably never be matched. He moved to Junior Johnson's team, and lost the 1992 championship to Alan Kulwicki by a mere ten points (the smallest margin in the pre-Chase era). In the late '90s he was one of the many drivers who decided to follow Kulwicki and race for his own team, which resulted in some good runs but a long winless streak. He briefly came back driving for Evernham in the early '00s, but elected to drive part-time from 2004 onwards. He officially retired in early 2013, stating a desire to focus on his son Chase, who is part of Hendrick Motorsports' development program.
Rusty Wallace - 1989 Champion. When he first came into NASCAR in The Eighties, he was noted for his aggressive, brash, driving style, much like a younger Darrell Waltrip, and therefore not very well-liked. But opinion of him did improve over time, and he is generally respected today. Throughout The Nineties he became instantly recognizable as the driver of Penske's #2 Miller Lite Ford Taurus. He was also a close friend and major rival of Dale Earnhardt on the track, with the two having a heated battle for the championship in the tragedy-marred 1993 season, to which Rusty finished second. His 55 race wins rank ninth on the all-time list. Is now retired, and works as a broadcaster for ESPN.
Alan Kulwicki - Kulwicki is most remembered for winning the 1992 championship with a one-car race team that he owned and managed himself, outpacing drivers racing for multi-car, well-funded powerhouses such as Yates and Junior Johnson. His tragically short career ended when he died in a plane crash midway through the 1993 season. He popularized the "Polish victory lap," which involves driving a single lap around the track the wrong way.
Dale Jarrett - Ned Jarrett's son, he first broke into Sprint Cup in the late '80s. Jarrett was the driver who originally put Joe Gibbs Racing on the map, giving them their first win in the 1993 Daytona 500. A few years later, he moved to Yates and delivered them a Sprint Cup title in 1999. Jarrett is also the driver who started the tradition of "kissing the bricks" at Indianapolis, after his first of two Brickyard 400 wins, in 1996. In 2007, he moved to Michael Waltrip Racing to try to help them get off the ground, but like his teammates he struggled all through the year, and decided to retire after the first five races of 2008. Since then, Dale, much like Ned, moved to the broadcast booth with ESPN.
Mark Martin - Martin first rose to prominence with Roush in 1989, driving their then-flagship #6 until 2006. During this time, he finished runner-up in the points four times, but could never quite get the championship. note Special mention goes to the 1990 season, where Martin would have actually won the championship over Dale Earnhardt except for a heartbreaking points penalty suffered early in the year. After a couple part-time seasons, he returned full time with Hendrick Motorsports and added another runner-up points finish to his resume. After 2011, he left Hendrick and joined MWR, and was nearly as important as Clint Bowyer in the team's ascendancy, delivering very solid results on a limited schedule for the team. In August 2013, it was announced that Martin would leave MWR early to serve as a sub-in for the injured Tony Stewart at SHR. At the end of the year, he decided to step back from Sprint Cup, although, fittingly enough, he refused to call it "retirement".