With the 2016 Sprint Cup season on the horizon, following are a handful of drivers feeling some heat to improve their performance after a lackluster 2015.
Getty ImagesBrian Lawdermilk
It’s tough to judge an individual driver when the organization he drives for had as bad a season as Roush Fenway Racing did in 2015. But Bayne finished 29th in points, well behind teammates Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (25th) and Greg Biffle (20th). Bayne didn’t have a single top-five finish and posted just two top 10s.
Getty ImagesDaniel Shirey
The problems for Stewart on and off the track the last couple of seasons have been well documented. Now, with Stewart having announced that 2016 will be his last season as a driver, the clock is ticking to win races and be relevant on the track. It’s now or never for one of the greatest drivers of this or any other generation.
Getty ImagesJeff Zelevansky
Certainly, job security will never be an issue for Dillon, who drives for his grandfather, Richard Childress. Last year, Dillon’s teammates Ryan Newman and Paul Menard both made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, while Dillon did not. And there are certainly a lot of fans who would like to see the No. 3 back in Victory Lane.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesChris Trotman
In 2014, Larson won NASCAR Sprint Cup Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors after posting eight top-five and 17 top-10 finishes. In 2015, he finished 19th in points, with just two top fives and 10 top 10s, while his Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammate Jamie McMurray made the Chase and finished six positions ahead of Larson in points. And like Dillon, he’s entering his third full season still looking for his first Cup race victory.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesBrian Lawdermilk
The numbers don’t lie. Kahne went winless and missed the Chase in 2015, while his three Hendrick Motorsports teammates all made the Chase and combined to win nine races. In 2012, Kahne’s first year with Hendrick, he finished fourth in points. He hasn’t finished better than 12th since. No one wants to be last on his team in performance, and Kahne certainly doesn’t. Expect him to show marked improvement in 2016.