NASCAR: Five Drivers Thankful the 2016 Season is Over

Apr 30, 2016; Talladega, AL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer looks on during qualifying for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team celebrate their seventh championship. However, other drivers and teams are thankful the 2016 season has finally come to a close.

The 2016 NASCAR season means many different things to many different people. From Jimmie Johnson claiming his seventh championship to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s injury and Tony Stewart’s final ride. 2016 had a little bit of everything. Win, lose, or draw the 2016 NASCAR season is over and some divers are more happy about it than others.

Here are five drivers who are thankful the 2016 season has finally come to a close.

Feb 14, 2016; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer (15) during qualifying for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Clint Bowyer

When the announcement came that Clint Bowyer would take over for Tony Stewart in 2017 everyone wondered how Bower’s 2016 season would unfold. As it turns out Bowyer’s one year deal with Harry Scott Jr. didn’t amount to much of anything.

While his focus is ultimately on the No. 14 team for 2017 I’m not sure anyone expected Bower to finish 27th in the standings. Three top ten as the highlight of the year isn’t what anyone wanted.

Thankfully for Bowyer it’s finally time to move on and get some equipment under him that can move the needle.

Nov 20, 2016; Homestead, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart (14) before the Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Stewart

While I’m sure Tony Stewart enjoyed his farewell tour, a tough season of inconsistent finishes is finally over. One trip to victory lane was the bright spot of his season but Stewart will gladly put the balance of 2016 behind him.

It’s time for Stewart to finally get back to enjoying racing again. Dirt track style. Fewer politics and moving from under the microscope of the public eye. That’s what Stewart will enjoy most. The end of 2016 also means Stewart is now only responsible for one job. Being a NASCAR Cup Series owner.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has to be ecstatic the 2016 season has come to a close. He only competed in the first 18 races this season due to being sidelined with a concussion. But now it’s finally time. If everything goes according to plan, Earnhardt Jr. will be in the No. 88 car the next time it takes the track.

While Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t been medically cleared just yet he expects to be sometime in December. This will bring to an end the long road that was the 2016 season. Earnhardt Jr. will start his 19th Cup series season with 100% focus on winning and becoming the 2017 Cup Series champion.

Nov 18, 2016; Homestead, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (78) during qualifying for the Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Martin Truex Jr.

In time Martin Truex Jr. will look back on the 2016 as a great year for himself and Furniture Row Motorsports. He nearly won the Daytona 500, dominated the Coca Cola 600, and won his first Southern 500. So why is he even on this list?

Entering Talladega Truex Jr. was a favorite for the championship and definatley looked like he would advance to the round of eight. However, that wasn’t meant to be and his championship hopes went up in smoke with an engine failure. Truex Jr. had respectable performances at Martinsville and Texas but struggled in the final two races finishing 40th and 35th.

Finishing the season with two finishes outside the top 30 and the disappointment of not being in contention for the championship has Martin Truex Jr. happy to put 2016 in the rear view mirror.

Feb 20, 2016; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Greg Biffle (16) during practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Biffle

As reported by NASCAR, Greg Biffle won’t be returning to Roush Fenway racing for the 2017 season. While I’m sure it was a hard decision for both parties it’s was also inevitable. In the past two seasons Biffle only finished in the top ten seven times and hasn’t went to victory lane since Michigan in 2013.

It’s easy to see that it was time for a change. While Biffle hasn’t announced any plans for 2017 it’s hard to believe he won’t be picked up by some organization before Daytona. We’ve seen many other drivers end long term driver/owner relationships and come out better on the other side.

Biffle can take notes from former teammate Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, and Joey Logano. Be thankful he’s on to bigger and better things next season.

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