The 10 biggest surprises of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season
The 2015 season was consistent in pretty much one thing all year. No, it wasn’t Kevin Harvick’s runs up front or Joey Logano’s wins. Instead, it was the rain and wet weather that plagued the Sprint Cup Series all season. Rain made for many long and frustrating days, nights and weekends for anyone that worked in the NASCAR industry.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesRobert Laberge
Roush Fenway Racing continues search for answers
At the outset of 2015 season, Roush Fenway Racing drivers and officials admitted things had not been going well on-track for the organization. They were confident changes made in the offseason would bolster their performance and lead to better results. That was not the case. The struggles continued and the team continued to search for answers. Collectively, the three-car team earned just four top fives and nine top 10s, with Greg Biffle finishing the highest in points in 20th.
Getty ImagesJerry Markland
The collapse of MWR
While this may not be a surprise for some, it is disheartening to know that three years after Clint Bowyer finished second in the season standings for Michael Waltrip Racing, the team would shut its doors for good. MWR had been involved in multiple controversies ever since its inception in 2007 and by 2015 the on-track results had fallen off dramatically. When team co-owner Rob Kauffman announced he purchased a stake in Chip Ganassi’s team, the final nail was in the MWR coffin.
Getty ImagesTim Bradbury
Ryan Blaney's speed
It’s not often a part-time driver for a part-time team can make a big impact, but nearly every time Blaney hit the track in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford, he was fast. Blaney finished a season-high fourth at Talladega in May, but rain kept him from qualifying for three races. The strong showing paid off, as Wood Brothers Racing announced they would return for the full season in 2016, with Blaney behind the wheel.
Getty ImagesTodd Warshaw
Kurt Busch's about-face
When the 2015 season started, Kurt Busch was sitting on the sidelines serving an indefinite suspension from NASCAR. The elder Busch brother was accused of domestic abuse, and while he was never criminally charged, NASCAR, sponsors and even Chevrolet distanced themselves from the 2004 champ. When his name was cleared, Busch returned in a big way: he scored two wins, made the Chase, got engaged to a new girlfriend and began receiving more cheers from the crowd.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesSean Gardner
Tony Stewart's struggles
With two years of off-track issues behind him, many thought Tony Stewart would return to full-time competition in 2015 with momentum and drive behind him. The three-time champion struggled, however, often running from mid-pack to the rear of the field. Given the strength of Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, Stewart’s struggles were a true head-scratcher. The 2016 season will be Stewart’s final full season.
Getty ImagesLachlan Cunningham
Joey Logano's Daytona 500 win
While Joey Logano earned five wins in his second season with Team Penske, the driver of the No. 22 Ford opened the 2015 season with the biggest win of his career, the Daytona 500. The victory set the tone for Logano’s season, which saw him earn a series-leading six wins and make a serious run at the title.
Getty ImagesJared C. Tilton
Austin Dillon's Daytona wreck
Safety was brought to the forefront in NASCAR once again after Kyle Busch’s Daytona wreck in February, but Austin Dillon’s last-lap wreck in the July race was surprising and frightening at the same time. NASCAR constantly works toward more safety, but Dillon’s wreck proved there is more work to be done.
Getty ImagesChris Graythen
Matt Kenseth's temper
Matt Kenseth is one of the calmer, more reserved drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage. However, that was not the case during the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Kenseth’s buttons were pushed when Joey Logano wrecked him for the lead at Kansas Speedway. He returned the favor by intentionally wrecking Logano while leading at Martinsville two weeks later, a move that led to a two-race suspension. Last year, Kenseth went after Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski at Charlotte, but this season Kenseth’s temper was shown on the track and in the media, with barbs thrown at the Team Penske drivers and even NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesBrian Lawdermilk
Kyle Busch's amazing recovery
Few could have imagined after the season-opening XFINITY Series race at Daytona that Kyle Busch would hoist the Sprint Cup trophy at Homestead in November. Not only did Busch fully recover from compound fractures of the left leg and right foot, he won five races and earned his first Sprint Cup title.