The Motorsport.com team have come together to determine who the ten best NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers were during the 2015 season.
Jim Utter (JU) - NASCAR Editor
Lee Spencer (LS) - NASCAR Editor
Nick DeGroot (NDG) - News Editor
Charles Bradley (CB) - Editor-in-Chief
David Malsher (DM) - U.S. Editor
Valentin Khorounzhiy (VK) - Editorial Assistant
Pete Fink (PF) - Motorsport.com Germany U.S. Racing Expert
Welcome to Part 2, where we will count down the final five on the Motorsport.com list. Before you continue, be sure to check out who slotted in between 6th and 10th on the list (READ HERE) and which drivers just missed out on cracking the Top 10.
5.) Matt Kenseth - Joe Gibbs Racing - 15th in points, 5 wins
JU: Kenseth appeared a serious contender for his second career Cup title until two rather large incidents took place - Logano bumped and passed him for the win at Kansas and Kenseth then intentionally wrecked Logano at Martinsville and was suspended two races by NASCAR.
LS: Kenseth earned five wins in the first 28 races but was not victorious at crunch time. No doubt Kenseth was hosed at Kansas Speedway and Joey Logano may never feel safe again.
NDG: I picked Matt Kenseth as the 2015 champion at the start of the Chase and I still believed that right up until Kansas, when it all fell apart for he and consequently, Joey Logano. His 'eye for an eye' mentality led to an audacious act of vengeance two weeks later -- the final nail in the coffin for his otherwise stellar year.
CB: Ended the season as the ogre after his Logano run-in, but that’s to ignore his five wins and strong input into the Gibbs squad.
VK: He was best of the Joe Gibbs Racing bunch for most of the season and at one point seemed a shoo-in for the Championship Four, so he had every right to be upset with Logano. However, that does not excuse Martinsville and his actions may cast a shade on JGR's otherwise amazing season in the history books.
PF: Responsible for best drama in 2015 and should have been in the Final Four as well.
4.) Martin Truex Jr. - Furniture Row Racing - 4th in points, 1 win
JU: Truex's season began with far more success on the track than it ended. But it was still a remarkable accomplishment for him and Furniture Row Racing to advance to one of the four drivers competing for the series championship in the season finale.
LS: It was career season for Truex and Furniture Row Racing. If he can repeat the feat in 2016, his accomplishments will be even more impressive
NDG: The biggest surprise of 2015. For this single-car team from Denver, Colorado to make their way into the Championship 4 was no easy feat, to say the least. Deserves every accolade he's getting after that season.
CB: Truly heroic effort with a minnow team among giants – taking his title challenge right until the final round.
DM: For what they did with what they had, Truex and Furniture Row became the underdog superstars of the series, shaming many more advantaged driver/team combos. But I honestly don’t think either team or driver can realistically expect to achieve fourth place in the standings again, although I’d love to be proven wrong.
VK: Despite his presence in the Championship Four, Truex's whole second half of 2015 seemed quiet in comparison to his sublime streak of top 10s early on. But even when the slump kicked in, he did a superb, professional job to give his one-car team a shot at the title.
PF: Surprise of the year. Incredible achievement to bring a small single-car-team into the Final Four. Much respect for that achievement.
3.) Joey Logano - Team Penske - 6th in points, 6 wins
JU: Was a clear title favorite until Kenseth's retaliation at Martinsville. Now, it's a the story of what-could-have-been.
LS: Logano was expected to go the distance — but didn’t despite three Ws in the Chase. Lesson learned.
NDG: More wins than any other driver this season. He swept an entire Chase round and was likely going to make it four-in-a-row before the No. 20 got involved. His performance was only topped by one other driver -- A champion in waiting.
CB: Dream start with his first Daytona 500 win, and a season-high six race wins. But he messed with the wrong man at the wrong time, and paid a big penalty. His time will come, but this was a hard lesson to learn.
DM: When Keselowski fought to get Logano into Penske for 2013, the cynic in me wondered if it was just to help a buddy who Brad knew he could beat. Now we see the wisdom of the move. Logano is fulfilling the promise he displayed in lower series and which got buried at Joe Gibbs Racing, and between them Logano and BK have helped make two-car Penske a threat against all the multi-car teams at every type of track.
VK: Yes, he absolutely shouldn't have spun Kenseth at Kansas. That aside, Logano was on a superb run of form in the Chase and very much deserved a title shot at Homestead. However many enemies he's now got in the paddock, however many fans jeer him at the race track, they might not be able to stop him from being the champion for much longer.
PF: Best season of any other driver. Six victories. Dominated the contender round and should have easily made it into the Final Four.
2.) Kevin Harvick - Stewart-Haas Racing - 2nd in points, 3 wins
JU: For the second consecutive season, Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team were the fastest and most consistent in the series week-in and week-out. This year, though, Harvick came up one position short in the finale.
NDG: Consistently the quickest team every week, but the wins didn't come as easily in 2015, making Homestead a fitting end for a season where he finished 2nd a total of 13 times.
CB: Only three wins, but last year’s champion was certainly the most consistent force in 2015.
DM: The defending champ did a great job, and for the second straight year, he and the #4 Stewart-Haas Racing crew became Chevrolet’s most consistent front-runner – a mantle once held by Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48. If SHR can become as deep in human talent as Hendrick Motorsports, I still think Harvick can grab a couple more titles before he quits.
VK: So good on so many tracks that he surely should've had more than three wins all year. His escape from the Challenger Round at Dover was masterful, but his escape from the Contender Round at Talladega - whether a deliberate move or just a terrible mistake – should've seen NASCAR intervene and take him out of contention.
PF: If somebody finishes second 13 times in one year, number two in the points standings is completely appropriate. Mr. Consistency 2015.
1.) Kyle Busch - Joe Gibbs Racing - 2015 Champion, 5 wins
JU: One of the biggest successful comeback stories in all of sports. Busch broke his leg and foot in February at Daytona; celebrated his first Cup championship in November. The recovery and birth of he and his wife's first child in between those events were no walk in the park, either.
LS: Rowdy’s comeback story is one for the ages. His battle on and off the track is befitting of a champion.
NDG: Do I even have to offer an explanation? Missed nearly a third of the season with significant leg injures, still wins four races before the Chase and tops it off with a championship and fifth victory at Homestead. One of the most remarkable comeback stories in the history of NASCAR.
CB: From hospital bed to the darling of the champions’ banquet, this was a far-fetched Hollywood script of a season with a happy ending. Have the boo-boys finally been silenced? Probably not. He’ll remain a divisive figure, but he’s all the more interesting for it.
DM: It goes against my principles of compiling Top 10s to include someone who missed so many of the season’s races ... But I can’t ignore the new champ! Through the summer, winning races came as naturally to Kyle as it ever had before the leg-breaking accident. The difference now compared with previous years is that he doesn’t frustratedly throw the 18 car at the wall or his fellow competitors when he doesn’t have a potential winner. A smart and deserving champion.
VK: Even putting aside that 'small' matter of a broken leg, it is very difficult to imagine a more worthy champion in the chaotic 2015 season than the brilliantly reliable Kyle Busch. He did exactly what was needed at each stage of the Chase despite his own fair share of misfortune and then managed to win at what looked like his worst track on the calendar.
PF: You have to give credit, where credit is due. Missing 11 races, then coming back so strong and winning the title. It can't be topped.
*Each position inside the Top 10 is worth a single point on the chart
|Martin Truex Jr.||8th||5th||4th||6th||8th||5th||4th||35|
|Dale Earnhardt Jr.||6th||6th||8th||9th||9th||6th||8th||25|