The one thing that every NASCAR fan waits for more than the green flag is the green flag to start the season. Keep in mind, the finish to last season was in mid-November, just over a week before Thanksgiving. It has been a long three months of waiting to get back onto the track.
But, we’re here, and the season is under way.
Even with the focus being on Daytona to start off the year, there were many off-season changes and stories to keep everyone intrigued. Here are just a few of the ones that became big news both after the year ended, and shortly before this year began:
New Teams, New Faces for New Year: During the 2014 season, the biggest move as far as drivers were concerned was Carl Edwards leaving Roush-Fenway Racing, a team he was with for 11 years. He would finish second in the championship twice, but never got to taste that big win.
So, he felt it was time for a change, and away he went to become the fourth driver for the Joe Gibbs organization, and it meant a fresh start for him and possibly a new beginning.
Only time will tell on that one.
In place of Edwards is Trevor Bayne, a driver who already has a Sprint Cup victory to his credit, that being the 2011 Daytona 500. However, he was unable to get a full-time ride in the main series, yet had great success in the then-Nationwide Series for Roush. Finally, his opportunity presented itself.
He now leaves the Wood Brothers for a full-time campaign in the No. 6 Ford, a car made famous by Mark Martin. Taking over for Bayne in the part-time No. 21 car is Ryan Blaney.
Fresh starts for all, something that often is needed to find success, or have success once again.
Touch the Skirt, Pay the Price: Alright, I’m gonna try to keep this simple to explain it. During the Chase last season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a comment about Brad Keselowski in the very first race of the 10-race title hunt, claiming he was cheating because he was noticing the side skirts on the right side of his car were flared out. NASCAR said everything after the race was fine with the call, so at the time the claim meant nothing.
Then, race by race, minus Talladega, teams began doing it more and more. The side skirts on these cars are not sheet metal. Instead they are plastic, which is riveted into the body. Under caution, or at the first pit stop, they would pull the skirts out, as it would create some downforce on the car, and make it handle better.
At the time, it was just a little bit, but by the end of the year it seemed like every car had the skirts on both sides pulled out like an umbrella. It looked extremely weird, and fans began saying it was an issue, and NASCAR mentioned they would address it, however not till after the season, citing that they didn’t want to make a change during the title hunt.
Fast forward, NASCAR made a decision. The pulling of the side skirts will not happen this year. Any team caught doing so will be forced to pit to fix the purposely made damage to NASCAR’s liking. They would also be penalized a lap for doing so.
Bottom line, the skirts are staying in place. A very good decision indeed.
24 Seasons for #24, One Last Ride: Without question, the biggest story to come this off-season was the one that was made a few weeks before the year began. A driver that has spent his entire career driving one car, for one team, at one organization, has decided that when the final checkered flag waves this season, he will no longer run full-time.
Yes indeed, Jeff Gordon, the man who started his career with a team named the “Rainbow Warriors” has declared that the 2015 season will be his last behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevrolet.
Here’s a driver that has raced against many generations of drivers, ranging from the likes of Earnhardt to Wallace and Martin, then to Johnson, Elliott and Stewart, and finally ones named Dillon, Larson and Busch. He’s won at all but one track that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series runs on. He’s seen changes to the cars, the drivers, crews and even the series sponsor. He’s also gotten married, then divorced, married again and became a father.
For 24 years he’s been the guy at the wheel of one of the most famous cars on the track. He signed a contract that guaranteed he would be in that car until it was he that elected to step away. Now, that time has come.
It’s already been determined that Chase Elliott, the son of 1988 champion Bill Elliott, will take over the car, a very capable and very talented young man. But for now, this will be a year to remember for Gordon, as he is ready to step behind the wheel for one final run at the championship, which is something he could very well win this year, meaning he’s leaving on top.
Welcome to the Pit Report for 2015. Strap in, because this is just the first of four parts to Daytona Speedweeks.
RESULTS: 1-Kenseth 2-Truex Jr. 3-Edwards 4-Mears 5-Larson 6-Logano 7-Gordon 8-Kyle Busch 9-Earnhardt Jr. 10-Patrick
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Harvick 13-Stewart 22-Johnson 25-Keselowski
CAUTIONS: Lap 24-29 (#2, 42, 22 Accident-FS), 46-49 (#11, 15, 27, 43, 1, 14, 41, 18, 5, 16, 4, 48, 17, 20 Accident-FS), 63-66 (#17, 3, 10 Accident-T3), 69-71 (#41, 14, 16, 24, 18 Accident-BS).
LEAD CHANGES: 14 among 9 drivers. Menard 1-7, Keselowski 8-9, Kenseth 10, Truex Jr. 11-13, Kenseth 14, Truex Jr. 15-25, Harvick 26, Earnhardt Jr. 27-39, Truex Jr. 40-45, McMurray 46, Biffle 47-48, Truex Jr. 49-55, Kenseth 56-68, Edwards 69, Kenseth 70-75.
TIME OF RACE: 1 Hr, 22 Mins, 59 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 135.569 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.219 Seconds