There is nothing like seeing fresh designs rolling into Speedweeks in the midst of the Florida breeze.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is rapidly approaching. In less than three weeks, the Sprint Media Tour is set to begin. And in just over one month, cars will be roaring around Daytona International Speedway with speeds surpassing 190 mph.
For the 2015 season, there are plenty of drivers in new places, crew chiefs moving all over the place and even sponsors departing the sport. However, with yet another set of changes for the rules package heading into the new year, NASCAR is prepared to possibly have one of their best seasons since the Chase for the Sprint Cup was implemented in 2004.
There are some drivers who are expected to have breakout seasons, but others – not so much. Let’s take a look at what to expect in the 2015 Sprint Cup Series season from each team.
-Jamie McMurray: In 2015, the No. 1 car will have a new man at the top of the pit box. McMurray will be working with former Robert Yates Racing developmental driver and Richard Childress Racing engineer Matt McCall. RCR attempted to sue McCall to prevent him from leaving the team, but on Jan. 1, it was made known that their efforts were unsuccessful. Coming off of a season with seven top fives, McMurray has a solid shot at making the Chase for the Sprint Cup after recording a career-high in laps led with 368. The team lost LiftMaster as a sponsor, but McDonalds and Cessna will likely continue to fill up the schedule for the No. 1 Chevrolet.
-Brad Keselowski: Not much will be changing for Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford. The team was arguably set to win a championship in 2014, and they have potential to do even better in 2015 with the abundance of success that was seen this past season.
-Austin Dillon: Dillon is coming off of a rather disappointing rookie year. He entered the season as Kevin Harvick’s replacement, and was expected to be more of a contender than what he was, especially after winning the pole for the Daytona 500. However, combining limited experience with a lack of speed shown throughout the RCR camp, Dillon finished 20th in points, which was just shy of winning Rookie of the Year honors. With Gil Martin returning in 2015, the No. 3 team has a realistic shot at making the Chase for the Sprint Cup. They might be able to sneak in a win at a restrictor plate track, but they will need to improve from their 17.5 average finish on the season.
-Kevin Harvick: Nothing will be changing on the No. 4 team other than the attempt at becoming a back-to-back champion. Harvick has been great with pressure over the years, and the crew enters 2015 in much better shape than they did in 2014, when Rodney Childers pieced everything together over the off-season. Without the aches and pains of mechanical issues, Harvick will likely be contending for wins on a weekly basis once again. He’ll attempt to be the first back-to-back champion since Jimmie Johnson won five straight titles from 2006 to 2010.
-Kasey Kahne: Kenny Francis will not be leading the No. 5 team in 2015. Instead, McMurray’s former crew chief Keith Rodden will oversee Kahne’s efforts. He has a mediocre 2014 season, so expect him to be more competitive in 2015. Kahne needs a solid season after resigning with Hendrick Motorsports through 2018. With a variety of sponsors, the No. 5 Chevrolet should be a force to be reckon with this season, but inconsistency has plagued Kahne throughout his career.
-Trevor Bayne: After a disappointing season in the Xfinity Series with Roush Fenway Racing, Bayne is moving up to the Cup Series. Bringing back the No. 6 Ford made famous by Mark Martin, the pressure will be on Bayne to perform after racing part-time for the Wood Brothers since making his debut with the organization in 2010. The 2011 Daytona 500 champion DNQ’ed at Charlotte with Roush, and his top 2014 finish in the No. 21 car was a 19th-place result at Texas and Michigan. With Roush’s obvious pain due to the new rules package in 2014, the new round of changes could play into their favor, which is similar to what teams had in the mid-2000s, where Roush saw plenty of success. Expect Bayne to be a mid-pack driver with a handful of top-10 results.
-Sam Hornish, Jr.: The No. 9 team will have a driver change in 2015 after Marcos Ambrose departed for his native Australia. Hornish is expected to run stronger than Ambrose, and possibly better than Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Aric Almirola. Sponsorship has still yet to be announced for this Ford team, but Twisted Tea is expected to up the number of races they fund. Hornish has run just two Cup Series races over the past two years, so the new testing policy probably won’t fall into his favor. Moreover, after running strong with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series, he should be competing for top-10 finishes every few races. He could possibly lock in a Chase for the Sprint Cup spot with a victory at one of the road course events, or even at the restrictor plate tracks.
-Danica Patrick: Following plenty of changes late in the 2014 season, the No. 10 Chevrolet will continue with Daniel Knost as the crew chief. Other than that, no changes will occur for Patrick’s team. Showing some improvements on-track in 2014, Patrick is expected to record at least five top 10s in 2015. However, Knost struggled with Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch, who has a lot more experience than Patrick. There might be some growing pains between the two, but increasing her 23.7 average finish is going to be the biggest key. Her qualifying effort improved by approximately eight positions on average, but she bettered her average finish by a mere 2.4 spots.
-Denny Hamlin: Dave Rogers will take over the helm for Darian Grubb in 2015. Grubb and Hamlin never seemed to have the success that was expected of them. However, after earning a spot into the final round of the Chase as an underdog, Hamlin should have plenty of momentum entering the new season. The team struggled to find speed at intermediate tracks, as did all of the Toyota cars, which will be the key to their success during the new season. Expect Hamlin to earn a few wins, and likely improve upon his seven top fives.
-Casey Mears: Mears will return to Germain Racing with limited changes to the No. 13 crew. He had an up and down 2014 season, but performed well when momentum was on their side. Expect him to improve from 26th in points to approximately 23rd to 25th. As they continue their RCR alliance, they should be able to run very well at the road course events, which is Mears’ strong suit.
-Clint Bowyer: Toyota was lacking horsepower in 2014, but Michael Waltrip Racing fell behind more than that. Bowyer failed to make the Chase in what was arguably his worst season since his rookie year in 2006. His best finish was third-place at both Talladega races and Richmond, yet other than that, he led just 109 laps on the year. For 2015, MWR will have to come up with a way to score a victory. Expect Bowyer to be competitive at the short tracks, but have some struggles at the intermediate tracks after having an abysmal average finish of 17.1 in 2014.
-Greg Biffle: Biffle had a sub-par 2014 season to say the least. Although he made the Chase with Roush Fenway Racing, Biffle was extremely inconsistent. With just three top fives and 11 top 10s, 2014 was arguably just as mediocre as 2011 for the Roush driver. In 2015, he’s going to be the veteran of the camp. RFR is making plenty of changes, and Matt Puccia is staying aboard as his crew chief. With new sponsor, Ortho, coming on board, the No. 16 team will look to not only make the Chase, but get back in Victory Lane during the new season.
-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.: After missing the Talladega race in October, Stenhouse and the No. 17 team’s struggles were fully exposed. The high expectations that were laid upon him following back-to-back Xfinity Series titles were too abundant, and he has struggled since going full-time in the Cup Series. In 2015, if RFR can fix the aerodynamic issues that have plagued them, Stenhouse and new crew chief Nick Sandler have a chance at finishing inside of the top-20 in points. It would be a stretch for them to get a victory, but a handful of top fives is realistic for this bunch.
-Kyle Busch: With the Gibbs struggling at intermediate tracks, Busch was not able to perform well at his favorite places. Earning just one victory in 2014, the driver of the No. 18 car is looking for more success in 2015. He will be working with Adam Stevens, who won 19 Xfinity Series races with Busch over the past two years. Expect Busch to run better in 2015, especially after being paired with a man he has great chemistry with. The pair should easily make the Chase, but don’t expect more than four wins from them, which has been his plateau since 2009.
-Matt Kenseth: Kenseth, like his teammates, struggled on the intermediate tracks in 2014. One could say that it is the runner-up slump, which seems to occur nearly every season. Earning a career-high seven wins in 2013, the driver of the No. 20 Toyota earned no victories in 2014. Kenseth had more top fives and top 10s during his second year with Gibbs, yet he just couldn’t find Victory Lane. He was the most consistent of the team’s three cars last year, and that should be the case once again in 2015. Expect Kenseth to win early in the season, but he will likely earn three to four victories – showing he is fast, but consistent as well.
-Ryan Blaney: Blaney will be running at least 12 races for the Wood Brothers in 2015. He might get a handful of events with Team Penske in a third car, but that will depend on sponsorship. Jeremy Bullins returns to the Wood Brothers after being Penske’s Xfinity Series crew chief, where he brought them back-to-back owner’s titles. Blaney finished runner-up with Brad Keselowski Racing in the Camping World Truck Series in 2014, and earned 13 top 10s in 14 starts under Bullins’ leadership. Expect Blaney to run better than Bayne did, especially with the Team Penske alliance.
-Joey Logano: Logano came extremely close to winning the 2014 Sprint Cup Series championship. Earning five wins and an average finish of 11.3 in the No. 22 car, Logano was able to reach his full potential this past season. If it weren’t for a faulty pit stop late in the season finale at Homestead, Logano might have been able to contend for the title with Harvick. Expect 2015 to be just as good for the 24-year-old, who recently got married. The team hasn’t changed anything in the No. 22 camp for the fresh season, and that should give them plenty of momentum heading into 2015.
-Alex Bowman: Bowman will not be returning to BK Racing in 2015. He is headed over to Tommy Baldwin Racing – replacing Annett in the No. 7 car. Bowman’s rookie season was horrific. He had six DNFs with one top-20 finish (Daytona in July – 13th-place). For the majority of the season, he was being overly aggressive, which caused him to have just three finishes on the lead lap. The equipment is going to be better in 2015, but Bowman will need to improve his maturity level if he wants to be successful and help build this team.
-Jeff Gordon: With Gordon retiring at the end of this season, he is expected to go out on top. The No. 24 team excelled in 2014, earning four victories and an average finish of 10.4, which was Gordon’s best since 2009. Although an aching back could harm his results, it didn’t have much of an effect on him last year. His retirement tour is going to be extremely emotional for the entire sport. Hendrick Motorsports is set to have Chase Elliott fill in for him in 2016. But for now – you will see Gordon still competing for wins, and he should be able to win a handful of events in 2015, with the potential at winning his elusive fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Gordon will also be in the booth for FOX Sports during select NASCAR Xfinity Series events.
-Paul Menard: Menard is coming off of his best year int he NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Leading RCR with five top fives and 13 top 10s, the Wisconsin-native is expected to continue the momentum from last year. He has emerged as a team leader and mentor for the organization’s younger drivers, which should give him more potential to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2015. Although Menard’s average finish was 17.9, his handful of top fives is showing the potential that they have to succeed this season.
-The Motorsports Group: Ron Hornaday, Jr. is going to be the team’s primary driver in 2015. The soon to be 57-year-old has not raced in the Sprint Cup Series since 2003, and only ran more than three events in one season (2001). However, working with an upstart Chevrolet team, Hornaday should bring expertise that they need following nine and a half straight years running the Truck Series. Expect the team to struggle to make races at first, but they should catch on mid-way through the season. Sponsorship has always been a concern for them in the Xfinity Series, but Curtis Key has self-funded the program for multiple seasons.
-Ryan Newman: Some way or another, Newman finished second in points. He didn’t have a great season, but the runner-up curse might hit him in 2015. Earning a mere five top fives and 16 top 10s, the No. 31 team excelled under pressure. Expect them to earn a win victory this year, making the Chase, but not getting too far. RCR was strong at the intermediate tracks, which could fit Newman’s aggressive driving style.
-Go FAS Racing: Bobby Labonte will pilot the No. 32 Ford in each of the plate races this year. His brother, Terry Labonte, drove the car for a handful of years, but retired following the Talladega race in October. The team hasn’t announced their primary driver, yet they are expected to have multiple co-pilots once again. Travis Kvapil was the primary driver for this team last year, but it has not been announced if he will return.
-Circle Sport Racing: This team has not announced their plans, but RCR will run the No. 33 car for approximately 10 events, with Circle Sport filling out the rest of the year.
-David Ragan: Ragan is returning for another season with Front Row Motorsports in the No. 34 car. In 2014, he earned the team their first top-10 result at a non-plate track with a 10th-place result at Martinsville. The organization struggled mightily in 2014, and he seldom ran inside of the top 25. However, 2015 should see an improvement with a third team.
-Cole Whitt: Whitt moves over to FRM after working with Swan Racing/BK Racing in 2014. He wasn’t exceptional in either ride, but he was the top driver while working for both organizations. Running inside of the top 25 was considered a solid run for Whitt, and that will be the case again in 2015. Expect him to outrun his teammates, but seldom run inside of the top-20.
-David Gilliland: Earning the pole at Daytona was the highlight of Gilliland’s 2014 season. He continually spoke about the lack of an alliance with one of the larger Ford organizations. Expect him to improve in 2015, but he won’t get much better than his 28.8 average finish last year.
-Landon Cassill: Getting the most out of little equipment is what Cassill did best with in 2014. He was consistently the top underfunded team, and raced with limited sponsorship throughout the year. If he can continue to improve, Cassill will bring Hillman Racing into the top 25 on a weekly basis.
-Kurt Busch: Once the court case with Busch’s ex-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, is completed, the No. 41 team can focus without any distractions. It appears that there is something going on with Busch almost every year, and this one is no different. However, if he can put the distractions behind him, he can be a contender for the championship. With the exception of Harvick, SHR struggled in 2014, especially at the intermediate tracks. Earning just six top fives and 11 top 10s last season, Busch should improve going into this season.
-Kyle Larson: Coming off of a stellar rookie season, Larson is now a father. He has extra motivation to do well. Not to mention, he also has more funding with Target cutting one of their IndyCar Series teams, which gives more focus on the No. 42 car. Earning eight top fives and 17 top 10s in his first full-time season, expectations are high for the Drive for Diversity graduate. In 2015, he’s going to focus on the Cup Series, but he will split the XFINITY Series season with Ganassi development driver, Dylan Kwasniewski. Expect Larson to make the Chase and pick up a victory or two at one of the intermediate tracks.
-Aric Almirola: Almirola made the Chase last season with a win at Daytona. But other than that victory, there weren’t too many bright spots for the No. 43 team. He tallied up a mere seven top-10 finishes in 2014. Although that is a career-high for the Florida-native, Almirola drove better than that. Inconsistency plagued this team severely, but they showed speed nearly every week, which is the bright side. In 2015, expect Almirola to miss the Chase. However, he will be running near the top 10 more frequently, especially with Richard Petty Motorsports getting stronger with Hornish’s arrival.
-AJ Allmendinger: He finally made it to Victory Lane in 2014. It doesn’t get better than that for a small team and a driver trying to revive a career that was extremely promising a few years ago. The team wasn’t too horrific considering they are a single-car operation. Allmendinger showcased his leadership skills by getting this team a win at Watkins Glen, but also getting them competitive enough to run inside of the top 15 when they didn’t have anything go wrong. For 2015, expect Allmendinger to miss the Chase if he doesn’t win at one of the road courses. However, he should be more consistent in his second season with JTG.
-Jimmie Johnson: Disappointment. That is the only way to describe 2014 for Johnson and the No. 48 team. Chad Knaus and he had plenty of chaos throughout the year. The speed just wasn’t there for this team, and neither was any luck. Johnson usually struggles in the summer, but 2014 was arguably the worst summer of his career. Although he won four events and led 1,310 laps, the six-time champion set career-lows in multiple categories, including average finish, laps completed, top 10s and more. In 2015, expect them to rebound tremendously. Johnson has a history of doing well following a sub-par season, and that’s what is expected of him this year.
-Justin Allgaier: Allgaier didn’t have the greatest rookie season, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. He was consistently near the top 25, which is decent for a rather new single-car team. Toward the end of the year, the No. 51 team started to finish inside of the top 20. They have potential to earn a handful of top 10s in 2015, especially with a second car, but don’t expect much more than a top-25 finish in points.
-Premium Motorsports, LLC: This team’s plans are unknown for 2015. They raced with Mike Wallace late last season, but didn’t perform well at all.
-Martin Truex, Jr.: 2014 was a disappointing year for this team. Besides the on-track struggles Truex had, his personal life faced too much adversity. His long-time girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the summer, and she has been on a rough journey since. But the fighter that she is, Pollex is slowly fighting the cancer off, and she will hopefully be in remission sooner rather than later. Truex and this team are better than the 20.2 average finish they recorded last year, and 2015 will certainly be better. They have plenty of motivation, along with stronger equipment due to their growing alliance with RCR.
-JJ Yeley: Yeley will be piloting one of the BK Racing machines in 2015. Following two solid runs in a handful of races with the struggling team, they gave Yeley a full-time job for the new season. Expect him to earn a few solid finishes, and be a leader for a team that went with inexperienced drivers last year.
-Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Expectations for NASCAR’s most popular driver are high in 2015. Coming off of one of the best years in his career, Earnhardt should continue to do well this upcoming season. Earning multiple wins for the first time in a decade, the son of a NASCAR legend enters the new year with arguably his best chance at a title. In 2014, he and Steve Letarte had an average finish of 12.2 with 12 top fives. Expect Earnhardt to continue to run well with a handful of wins as Greg Ives takes over as crew chief for the No. 88 team.
-Michael McDowell: Sponsorship is finally piecing together for McDowell. He will have Thrivent Financial aboard the No. 95 car for 10 events in 2015, along with K-LOVE for a few races. McDowell will run a minimum of 20 races for Leavine Family Racing, but that will likely increase as the season rolls on. In 2014, there were signs of potential from this small team, yet that never came to fruition as they continued to have struggles. However, 2015 should be solid for them with a partnership with Team Penske expanding. Expect McDowell to race around 25th for the most part, but he should be able to earn a handful of top-20 results this year.
-Josh Wise: Wise will return to Phil Parsons Racing in 2015. They only missed one race last year, which isn’t bad for an independent team. Finishing 23rd at Bristol after holding off the leaders certainly gave them plenty of attention, and that brought on Reddit and Doge. He made it into the All-Star Race with the fan vote, and had a few solid runs on the year. For his first true full-time season (without more than two start-and-park deals), Wise ran rather well for this team. Expect them to do better for the new year with more sponsorship dollars coming through, along with better equipment.
Then, there are several drivers who are still searching to resign with their 2014 teams, or are searching for new ones:
-Ryan Truex: Truex was awful in his time with BK Racing. Most of it was due to the lack of equipment, but he also had four DNFs due to accidents. Missing the Daytona 500 wasn’t the lowest point of his season. Instead, getting the boot after Chicago was. In 23 races, the brother of Martin Truex, Jr. had just two finishes inside of the top-30. His plans are unknown for 2015, but he is still under contract for RPM as a development driver.
-David Stremme: Stremme will likely appear in some events for one of the smaller teams in 2015. He ran a few races for Circle Sport, and might return for them. If not, there are still some open seats for him with part-time teams.
-Parker Kligerman: Kligerman’s plans are unknown for the new season. He is expected to return to NASCAR competition, but is also working with NBC’s NASCAR America. Kligerman ran a handful of Sprint Cup Series races last year, but Swan Racing closed and the rest is history.
-Reed Sorenson: Sorenson had a mediocre season with TBR. It doesn’t look like he will return, but he could run part-time for the organization. Returning to full-time competition for the first time since 2009, he definitely had trouble getting readjusted to the Cup Series. Having blank quarter-panels certainly didn’t help his cause. However, he ran decent at the short tracks, and showed the possibility for improvement if they had the funding to do so.
-Travis Kvapil: Expect Kvapil to land at BK Racing in 2015. Team owner Ron Devine circled him on his list for drivers to race in 2015, and he doesn’t have a ride yet. Kvapil would be a solid co-pilot with Yeley, and they could elevate the team to the middle of the pack. He ran 21 races last year, but the highlight of his year was at Talladega, where he finished sixth for Circle Sport. If he doesn’t sign with BK Racing, expect him to run for Go FAS Racing, or Circle Sport.
-Joe Nemechek: Nemechek will likely run just a few Cup Series races this year. His focus is going to be on the Truck Series with his son, John Hunter. He partnered with Jay Robinson last season, and never finished better than 30th. If he races in the Cup Series, it will either be under the NEMCO Motorsports banner, or he will run a handful of events for a small team like RAB Racing.
You can follow me on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.
It took a while for German Quiroga to find success in his home country of Mexico. Once he did, however, Quiroga was on the move. After winning the 2011 NASCAR Toyota Series title with backing from Telcel – the largest cell phone company in Mexico.
Swapping from division to division, the Mexico City-native has found a home in NASCAR. Thanks to developing in the Toyota Series, he developed his skills on multiple short track ovals, albeit his main experience has been on road courses. But even while getting prepared for the higher NASCAR ranks while in Mexico, Quiroga wanted to move up the ranks.
After racing for a smaller team in the Mexico City Nationwide Series event in 2007, he stayed in Mexico for a few years. Once he won the title, it was time for him to make the swap to the United States.
“From NASCAR Mexico to here, it was a pretty big change,” Quiroga said. “It is a very big step. Once I get a little more confidence and more comfortable – we are just going to strike it every single week. We have had the speed since last year at a lot of tracks. We have done well, especially since I haven’t run at the ovals never in my life. I didn’t experience the K&N Series or something like that. I did a couple of road course races there, but it wasn’t even with that competitive of a team. Everything was new for me. I had to learn a lot of new things. Each time we go out there – we are getting closer to getting strong in the series and moving forward in my career.”
Even though he contemplated on racing in the Nationwide Series, he opted to race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Kyle Busch Motorsports signed Quiroga to run select circuits in 2011 and 2012, yet he just didn’t perform well due to not being at the track on a weekly basis. Thanks to racing in Mexico, however, he has been able to adjust to NASCAR’s third-tier division rather quickly.
“We have a couple of very nice ovals down there – nothing like here," he told Speedway Digest on Friday morning. "The weight of the car is totally different. The tires and how you manage the race is kind of different. It is a good transition. I am learning a lot in this series for sure. I think Nationwide would have been a bigger step – like to go straight from the Toyota Series. Still, here is kind of too much. But I’m learning. I’m fortunate to have a great team. We just have to keep learning. Every race is a new experience. We have been successful so far, but we need to improve that.”
After joining Red Horse Racing, he became a teammate to Timothy Peters – who has seven victories since joining the organization in 2009. Although good results didn’t occur for Quiroga last season, he has steadily improved in 2014. With seven top-10s through the first 11 events, he has already bettered himself in that category from last year.
The biggest improvement for the 34-year-old has been his feedback to the crew. In 2013, he worked with five-time Nationwide Series winner Dan Stllman. But the chemistry just wasn’t right according to Quiroga. He didn’t know how to give ‘good’ feedback to the team. However, working with Peters’ former crew chief, Butch Hylton, the driver of the No. 77 Toyota Tundra has made great strides this season.
“Well, I have more information that I can give to him. Butch Hylton is a very experienced crew chief. He has been at the top of the sport for many years, and I think that gives me confidence with all of his years being a crew chief at the Cup level and with the Nationwide cars. Sometimes, I haven’t been at the tracks for a while or don’t have many laps, and he tries to help me as much as he can. The sky is the limit, so we are working very hard to improve."
“I mean we are pretty close," he continued. "At Texas, we had an engine failure. If it were not because of that, we would be leading the championship. I think what we need is to get a couple of wins for sure, finish in the top-five every weekend and there is more than half of the season left. We’ve made mistakes at the beginning of the season. We’ve given away spots that we shouldn’t have. It is what it is. We can’t change that. But now we have that experience to get the best out of it and do our best to be a contender.”
As he continues to show speed, Quiroga is now settling into his role at RHR. After being involved in multiple on-track incidents with Tyler Reddick at Pocono Raceway, he fell to sixth in points. But he’s just 43 markers behind Ryan Blaney for the championship lead. However, there is still improvement to be done, and if anyone understands that – it is the driver himself.
“Of course, we want to get that first win and try to battle for the championship. We are fifth right now, and we have had a couple of downs which I would have liked not to have happen, but it is what it is. The good thing is – we have to keep working hard and trying to do our best. Sometimes when things are not going really good for us, we are calm and we make the most out of our day.”
While he continues to make those strides towards Victory Lane, he is also looking to gain experience, especially at tracks that he has never raced at. That is where Hylton and he have become a force to be reckoned with. After running up front Gateway, the team finished second to Darrell Wallace, Jr. He has also finished on the lead lap in all but three races through this point in the season. After 11 races in 2013, he had just three top-10s.
However, it might be time to move on after this year. If he can start winning races with Red Horse Racing, Quiroga wants to make the jump to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and eventually – the Sprint Cup Series.
Making less money than he did in Mexico, he has had to readjust his entire life style. According to Racing-Reference, Quiroga made $314,258 last year, but on average – drivers in the Truck Series earn around 30-40 percent of race winnings – if they are fortunate enough to do so. Besides the financial differences, his social life has changed immensely as well.
“I’m totally away from friends and family," Quiroga said. "I’m trying to build a new community around me with friends – getting to know people and I mean everything. The money that I was winning in Mexico was a lot more than I am now. My life style was totally different. It is just a matter of trying to get there. It doesn’t really matter to me. I know what my goals are. I am really focusing on what I want to achieve. I know it’s not going to be easy. Some nights I tell you, it is very stressful and very sad. I’m here for a reason and I want to be successful in this sport."
“I really just focus on the next day. I try to see how far I have gotten. Like so far, I have done things that no other Mexican has ever done. We just have to keep working hard. I wake up every day at 5:30 in the morning to go to the gym and work hard. I just keep reminding myself how far I want to get and how long it took me in Mexico to be successful and be the guy to beat. Then, to be the guy that wanted to jump out of the game and move over to another series.”
That hard work has started to pay off for Quiroga and his No. 77 team. For the rest of the year, he will need to perform at his highest ability. Making infrequent mistakes will be the biggest key for him, and he is starting to show just that.
Brennan Poole was a contender for the ARCA Series title a mere two years ago. However, he was able to race just five times in 2013, and he has yet to race this year.
The 23-year-old continues to search for funding as he has a seat waiting for him at Venturini Motorsports with his close friend, Justin Boston. In just 28 career starts, Poole has won five ARCA Series events. But even winning races is not enough when you have to compete with others to find funding.
This weekend, Poole has the chance to race for Venturini Motorsports – well, kind of. John Wes Townley, driver of the No. 15 Toyota, is racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Wauters Motorsports. As he attempts to compete for both championships, Townley will have Poole qualify and practice his car this weekend at Pocono, and possibly a few other events this season.
“We did pretty well. We were just a little tight. This track has changed a lot over the winter,” Poole said. “We didn’t even make a qualifying run in practice. We will have to see what happens and hope the changes will work for John.”
The car which Townley will be racing at Pocono is the one Poole went to victory lane with at Michigan last season – a race which he ran up front in. Though he is not sure when he will be back in a car for Venturini Motorsports, Poole hinted that he is working on a deal to get him back in the car, but everything revolves around funding in this era of racing.
Poole was able to set a lap time of 53.223 seconds which was just over a tenth slower than Kyle Larson's time of 53.106 seconds.
Being a rookie in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series might be one of, if not the most challenging part of some racer’s lives. This year, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year class is abundant. Even though one rookie has lost his ride due to funding issues, the rest of the rookie class appears to be secure in their seats – at least for the remainder for the season.
Alex Bowman, 21, is one of those rookies. Bowman is racing for the underfunded BK Racing organization. After releasing both of their primary drivers from the 2013 season, BK Racing opted to go with two rookie drivers at the helm of their Toyota Camry’s with Bowman as well as Ryan Truex. Together, the pair has had their struggles, but there is light at the end of the tunnel in Bowman’s eyes.
“The transition to the Cup Series has been a challenging one. Having a crew chief in Dave Winston and a great team around me, it has made that transition easier,” Bowman said.
After racing for RAB Racing in 2013, Bowman proved to BK Racing’s owner, Ron Devine, that he was capable of racing in NASCAR’s highest rank. Bowman tested for the organization over the off-season at Charlotte and also appeared at the Daytona test.
However, with the jump to the Sprint Cup Series, the No. 23 team has experienced adversity 12 races into the season. In his lone Nationwide Series season, Bowman had six top-10 finishes, and also had two pole awards. This year has been anything but successful though. His best finish was 22nd at the Auto Club Speedway, yet he has had seven finishes of 32nd or worse.
“The longer races have been the biggest transition for me. When you add the extra 100 or 200 miles or laps it takes time to get used to it,” he said to Speedway Digest. “We need to continue to get better each and every week and I feel that we will continue to become more competitive. We need to continue to get better each and every week and I feel that we will continue to become more competitive.”
What has been Bowman’s culprit this year? It is simple – bad luck. At Martinsville, he was on his way to a solid run, but wrecked multiple times and was relegated to a 36th place finish.
As an underfunded team, BK Racing utilizes Race Engines Plus, owned by Joey Arrington. Besides BK Racing, Joe Nemechek’s Identity Ventures Racing. Entering this season, expectations were not set high for Bowman, and he understood that. Moreover, the team has sporadically performed well this year, but their results don’t show it. Having three consecutive top-30 finishes at Darlington, Richmond and Talladega was a step in the right direction for this small team, even though it does not sound like the greatest of achievements.
“Probably my feedback to Dave and the crew guys. I continue to get use to the way these Sprint Cup Series cars drive compared to a Nationwide car,” Bowman said on what he needs to improve on.
Meanwhile, as Bowman continues to look for success, his teammate, the younger brother of Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., has had some struggles. Truex has more experience in NASCAR competition than Bowman, but has not finished better than 30th this season after missing the Daytona 500 and the race at Texas. Currently, the No. 23 team with Bowman sits 34th in owner points and is relatively safe from missing races. Meanwhile, Truex's No. 83 team is 42nd in owner points, and is not guaranteed into each event.
Amidst their struggles, the two have developed a close bond, closer than just teammates. With such a small team, they are able to work with each other in multiple ways, on and off the race track. Besides developing a friendship, their crews led by Winston and Doug Richert, are now working better, and results are on their way.
“Ryan and I try to work together and compared notes and driving styles. Dave has been great to work with. Him brings a ton of knowledge from the team’s that he has worked with in the past. Dave is certainly a calming voice on the radio each weekend.”
As he continues to adjust to the higher level of competition, expect the Arizona native to run closer to the top half of the field. It is going to be a long, tough road, but Bowman believes he is up for the challenge. The new qualifying format which NASCAR implemented at Phoenix has also helped him gain extra experience, something extremely valuable for a driver looking to find a home for multiple years at a young organization.
“(The) Biggest adjustment is that these guys never take a lap off. Each and every lap they go as hard as they can.”
Parker Kligerman and Cole Whitt, two of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders, might be searching for a new job after the eighth event of the year.
Swan Racing released a statement on Thursday afternoon that they are unsure whether or not their two Toyota teams will be racing at Richmond next weekend.
“Swan Racing is in the process of reviewing its current situation and the ability to continue to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The team has been unable to secure the kind of sponsorship required to effectively operate the team. As a result, the team management is exploring every available option. We hope to be in position to provide a detailed update in the near future," the team said in an official release.
The team is owned by Brandon Davis, and co-owned by former NFL player, Bill Romanowski as well as entrepreneur, Anthony Marlowe. Marlowe is the listed owner for Whitt's No. 26 vehicle on a weekly basis. Prior to investing in Swan Racing, Marlowe sponsored multiple Sprint Cup Series teams with his company, TMone.
Kligerman joined Swan Racing towards the end of the 2013 season as he prepared to leave Kyle Busch Motorsports' Nationwide Series team which was closing due to a lack of funding. He finished ninth in points with three top-five finishes and 13 top-10s. However, he made the move to compete in the Sprint Cup Series on a full-time basis rather than returning to the Camping World Truck Series or racing for another Nationwide Series organization.
During the off-season, Kligerman stated that his goal was to be a top-25 team on a weekly basis. However, he has started out the season with either accidents or mechanical issues in all but one event (Darlington). He was able to race his way into the Daytona 500 after a stunning practice wreck in which his No. 30 Toyota was sent into the midst of the air, flipping multiple times - landing on his roof.
“I think any rookie campaign will have some struggles. It’s a gruesome and long schedule. The Sprint Cup Series is no walk in the talk. It is the best 43 drivers and teams in the world. There is no doubt in my mind that the most competitive racing series in the world is the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, I don’t think anyone can argue that when looking at the lap times and stuff like that. There will be times that a rookie will struggle, but the ability to have a consistency and having the average finish you want for the entire season is the key. As long as we can always go out there, always improving and always looking forward, never taking a step back, we will show the people that we’re here to stay, we’re a force to be reckoned with and we’ll keep making that next step towards victory lane," Kligerman said over the off-season when asked what will happen if he will struggle.
Though he has struggled, he has shown improvements, as had Whitt. Whitt finished a career-best 18th at Fontana, but has four finishes of 31st or worse.
The news comes after the team signed Speed Stick to sponsor Whitt's car for the first four races of the year. However, he has been sponsorless since Fontana. Kligerman, however, brought two companies to the team this year - Lending Tree (Daytona) and Aria Hotels (Las Vegas). He also had SMS Audio on his Toyota Camry at Texas and Darlington, but that company has a minority stake in Swan Racing as it is owned by rapper, 50 Cent.
Possibly, the team might not race at Richmond. If that is the case, this could harm the future of both young drivers. They have each experienced sponsorship woes in the past, but not so early in the year at NASCAR's highest tier.
Michael Waltrip is known for his humorous character. However, he has notably taken his one-of-a-kind personality to help develop Michael Waltrip Racing from a marketing standpoint.
Over the past few years, MWR has teamed up with partners such as Five-Hour Energy, Aaron's and NAPA to create some interesting TV-spots. This year, with Brian Vickers driving the No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota on a full-time basis, the organization is working with Aaron's on a brand new commercial.
Vickers is not known for his television skills like Waltrip. However, over the years, Vickers has done multiple commercials, albeit not as outstanding as Waltrip's which have gained notoriety amongst his peers.
This commercial features Vickers in a bathtub - yes a bathtub. Then Waltrip, his boss and two-time Daytona 500 champion, shoves his way through a crowd of teenage girls - showcasing his comical point-of-view. It might be far fetched, but what commercial with Waltrip has not been one that catches the eye of race fans? He even teamed up with Mark Martin over the past two years for some commercials with Aaron's.
The commercial is a part of Aaron's “Own the Life You Want” campaign. This campaign puts a greater emphasis on how “Aaron’s makes owning easy through lease ownership, so you can own the life you want.” Vickers earned his first top-five finish of the 2014 season at the Texas Motor Speedway this past weekend, and continues to improve in his return to full-time racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.