There have been some news-making driver moves during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series “silly season” for 2015, the most notable of those being Carl Edwards’ move to Joe Gibbs Racing from Roush Fenway Racing to drive a fourth car at JGR. That move prompted RFR owner Jack Roush to move Trevor Bayne up to full-time Cup competition. Also, Sam Hornish Jr. returns to full-time Sprint Cup action for 2015, heading to Richard Petty Motorsports to climb into the No. 9 vacated by Marcos Ambrose.
Most of the 2015 “silly season” action his come from within the crew chief ranks, and all the aforementioned driver changes involve only at least somewhat established drivers. Edwards has been at the Cup level for years, Hornish has been there before and Bayne has been running Sprint Cup on a significant basis for several seasons.
Where are the rookies? I guess we got our fill of rookies in 2014 with that season’s bulging rookie class that included, among others, Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon. I checked out the 2015 driver/team chart on Jayski.com to make sure I wasn’t missing somebody.
Actually, there may be one Rookie of the Year contender from among NASCAR’s top teams — Bayne. I don’t really think of him as a rookie at this point, considering how many Cup races in which Bayne has competed in the last few years. Heck, he even already has a Daytona 500 victory under his belt. But, apparently, when NASCAR went to that “declare one series” stipulation a few years ago, or sometime after that rule went into effect, that rule about drivers not being eligible for ROY if they competed in more than seven Sprint Cup races during a previous season went out the window. Jayski explained that and listed Bayne as the sole 2015 ROY candidate; at least that was where we stood on Jan. 9.
Before 2014, there were several seasons where there was only one driver legitimately vying for top rookie honors at the Cup level, and some of those ROY recipients didn’t get much respect from NASCAR nation because their honors were viewed as pretty much being by default. Okay make that prior to 2013 when Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. went head-to-head for the honor. Well, it looks like Bayne may be the 2015 Sprint Cup ROY by default, but at least he’ll, surely, get more respect than some of the recent ROYs before him. Kevin Conway, anyone? Bayne does have a Daytona 500 trophy, for crying out loud! Is it just me or is it odd that a driver would win the Daytona 500 before his ROY season even begins?
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Before you go, check out the photo gallery to relive Bayne’s 2011 Daytona 500 win (photos courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).