2015 Sprint Cup Series Forecast- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.


Mar 30, 2014; Martinsville, VA, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr prior to the STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Narrow the gap

What he accomplished in 2014

Best finish- second at Bristol (March)

5 top 10 finishes

27th in the driver standings

What to expect in 2015

Continuous forward progress

Major changes are on the way for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2015. For the third consecutive season, Stenhouse will have a new crew chief atop the pit box once the green flag drops at Daytona in February.  Roush Fenway Racing announced last week that they have promoted Nick Sandler to the role of crew chief. Sandler spent the last four seasons working side by side with Jimmy Fennig as an engineer on the #99 car. In addition to a crew chief change, Stenhouse also inherits sponsorship from Fastenal following the departure of Carl Edwards. Amidst the whirlwind of changes taken place at Roush Fenway Racing, one question remains constant heading into the 2015 season: Can Ricky Stenhouse Jr make an impact this season?

The answer to this question depends heavily on Stenhouse’s ability to become a team leader at RFR this season, a tall task indeed for a driver who regressed considerably in 2014. Should Jack Roush be at all concerned about a driver that fell eight positions in the standings last season?

If he fails to improve upon last season’s disappointing efforts, then the answer is “yes.” Another reason why we should be concerned about Stenhouse moving forward is the fact that he failed to lead a single lap in 2014, despite finishing second at Bristol in March. Before you can be considered a championship contender in the Sprint Cup Series, you have to find a way to find the winner’s circle with regularity, and leading laps is paramount in today’s competitive Sprint Cup Series if you want to have a fighting chance at making the Chase. On a positive note, the former two time Xfinity Series champion can take full advantage of Roush Fenway Racing’s thin driver lineup heading into 2015 and establish himself as the team’s top driver.

The 2015 season promises to be a crucial year in the development of Stenhouse as he enters his third season with Roush Fenway Racing. We often talk about make or break seasons; well, it’s gut check time for Stenhouse, because another season of poor performances could spell the end of his days as the driver of the #17 car.  Although it seems unjust to determine a driver’s fate after only three seasons, it should be duly noted the amount of time and energy Roush has spent building for the future with Stenhouse at the helm. Stenhouse showed a great deal of promise in his rookie year, but that seems like an eternity ago.

Ultimately, Stenhouse’s future with the organization could be upended by the recent acquisition of Darrell Wallace Jr. Wallace signed a full time Xfinity Series deal with  Roush Fenway Racing in December and will compete for the championship in 2015 . But don’t expect him to hang around that series for an extended period of time. Wallace has an extraordinary amount of talent, and there’s a wide consensus his future seat in the Sprint Cup Series is being kept warm by one of the current three Roush Fenway Racing Cup drivers.

Let’s hope Stenhouse can survive another year of lackluster performances, because you get the feeling another Roush Fenway Racing uprising is on the way.

Wins- 0

Top 5’s -1

Top 10’s – 5

Poles- 0

24th in the standings

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