Championship 4 drivers Kyle Busch (left) and Martin Truex Jr. (right) made huge improvements over 2014 in the final standings.
Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images
The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season saw a number of drivers and teams step up their respective games in a big way. In terms of points positions, here are the drivers in the top 30 who made the biggest gains this season.
5. Danica Patrick, +4
The 2015 season saw Patrick finish 24th in points, her first time inside the top 25. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver posted top-10 finishes in the spring races at Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.
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5. Carl Edwards, +4
In his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing, the veteran Edwards won two of the biggest races of the year, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Edwards ended the year fifth in points, just missing a title shot.
Like Edwards, Busch is a proven talent with a top team that had a stellar season. Busch won the first races at both Richmond International Raceway and Michigan International Speedway and had a good playoff run, finishing the season eighth in points, his best result since 2009.
4. David Ragan, +5
It was a bit of a star-crossed season for Ragan, who opened the season with Front Row Motorsports, then filled in for the injured Kyle Busch for nine races before moving to Michael Waltrip Racing for the final 26 events. The good news is that Ragan moved up to 27th in points in 2015. The bad news is he’s out of a job after MWR shut down.
4. Jamie McMurray, +5
One of the drivers who had a strong 2015 was McMurray, who qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time in his career, after narrowly missing out on several occasions. Although McMurray did not win a race in ’15, he finished second at Phoenix International Raceway in the spring and second at Martinsville in the fall. He ended the year 13th in points.
Another first-time Chase driver was the steady Menard, who finished the year a career-best 14th in points. Menard had a pair of top-five finishes and five top 10s during the season, as he used consistency to make it to NASCAR’s playoff round.
2. Kyle Busch, +9
Busch had one of those amazing, you-cannot-make-this-up seasons to storm to his first Sprint Cup championship, despite missing the first 11 races of the year to due to serious leg and foot injuries suffered in the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway. In addition to his heroic championship run, Busch won five races.
1. Martin Truex Jr. +20
The biggest leap of the year belonged to Truex, who had a career-best points finish of fourth after finishing 24th in points the year before. Truex and his new-for-2015 crew chief Cole Pearn hit it off exceptionally well in a banner season for the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing team.