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Look Ahead

2017 Daytona 500 in 80 days

by Anthony Ballantoni
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

During the off-season, Look Ahead gives a snapshot of where drivers finished in 2016 and what’s ahead for them in 2017. We will look at drivers who finished in the top 40 in the Sprint Cup Series (becomes the Monster Energy Series in 2017) point standings and those who ended the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series standings in the top 30 in points. Since many teams have yet to firm up their 2017 plans, we will include updates in future columns.

With 80 days to go until the 2016 NASCAR Monster Energy Series season-opening Daytona 500, here are a few of the driver recaps followed by a tentative list of 2017 Sprint Cup Driver/Team lineups.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS):
2016
: Josh Wise (The Motorsports Group No. 30 Chevrolet) - In 28 NSCS races, he had a 35.0 average start, a 20.0 average finish, earned 168 points and closed out the season 40th in the standings. Wise made eight XFINITY Series “start and park” starts; best start of 20th and finish of 36th.  He also entered the 9/24 Camping World Truck Series race; started 26th, finished 27th.
Best 2016 NSCS start: 31st – Richmond 4/24
Best finish: Kentucky 7/9
Last career NSCS win: None so far.
2017: No firm plans for 2017. The No. 30 team does not have a NASCAR charter at this time.

2016: Reed Sorenson (Premium Motorsports Nos. 55 and 98 Toyota and Chevrolet) - In 28 NSCS races, the Peachtree City, GA driver had a 37.5 average start, a 24.0 average finish, earned 198 points and closed out the season 39th in the standings. Sorenson also entered eight Camping World Truck Series races; averaged a 25.7, led two laps, averaged a 22.8 finish and had a best finishes of 18th (Pocono 7/30 and Talladega 10/22).
Best 2016 NSCS start: 12th – Talladega 10/23
Best 2016 finishes: 22nd – Daytona 7/2
Last career NSCS win: None so far.
2017: No firm plans for 2017. The Nos. 55 and 98 teams do not have NASCAR charters at this time.

2016: Jeff Gordon (Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet) - In eight races subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. (recovering from recurrent concussion symptoms), the Pittsboro, IN driver led seven laps, scored two top-10s, had a 16.4 average start, a 13.9 average finish, earned 218 points and closed out the season 38th in the standings.
Best 2016 NSCS start: 10th – Martinsville 10/30
Best 2016 finish: 6th – Martinsville 10/30
Last career NSCS win: Martinsville Speedway on November 1, 2015.
2017: Gordon will return to the TV broadcast booth for FOX’s coverage of the 2017 NASCAR premier Monster Energy Series season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is expected to return full-time in the No. 88 for 2017 but Gordon will be available to fill in if needed. He will also compete in the IMSA sports car racing January 28-29, 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Gordon will pilot Wayne Taylor Racing's No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R with co-drivers Jordan and Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli.

2016: Cole Whitt (Premium Motorsports Nos. 55 and 98 Toyota and Chevrolet) - In 26 races, the Alpine, CA driver led two laps, had a 35.3 average start, a 30.5 average finish, earned 276 points and closed out the season 37th in the standings. Whitt entered two XFINITY Series races scoring finishes of 16th and 18th. He also drove a truck at Martinsville; started 21st and finished 12th.
Best 2016 NSCS start: 22nd – Watkins Glen 8/7
Best 2016 finish: 11th – Daytona 7/2
Last career NSCS win: None so far.
2017: Whitt left Premium Motorsports early in November. At this time he has no firm plans announced.

NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS):
2016
: Ryan Ellis (Nos. 15, 25, 77 and 97 Chevrolet) - In 16 races, the Ashburn, VA driver had a 33.1 average start, a 29.1 average finish, earned 191 points and closed out the season 30th in the standings. He entered four Sprint Cup Series races and averaged a 36th place finish. Ellis also made four NCWTS starts, three “Start and Park”, and a finish of 20th in his full-race attempt at Pocono.
Best 2016 NXS start: 35th – Texas 11/6
Best 2016 finish: 32nd – Indianapolis 7/24
Last career NXS win: None so far.
2017: Ellis does not have any firm plans at this time. He will most likely be a fill-in driver for various teams again in 2017.

2016: Derrike Cope (Derrike Cope Racing No. 70 Chevrolet) – In 29 races, the Spanaway, WA driver had a 35.1 average start, a 32.69 average finish, earned 202 points and closed out the season 29th in the standings.
Best 2016 NXS start: 30th – Chicago 9/17
Best 2016 finish: 25th – Darlington 9/3
Last career NXS win: New Hampshire Motor Speedway on May 7, 1994.
2017: Cope will attempt qualifying his own No. 70 Chevrolet Camaro for every XFINITY Series race in 2017 as long as he can obtain sponsorship.

2016: Jeff Green (Nos. 10, 14, 15, 17 and 99 Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota) – In 29 races, the Owensboro, KY driver led three laps, scored one top-10, had a 28.1 average start, a 33.6 average finish, earned 219 points and closed out the season 29th in the standings.
Best 2016 NXS start: 18th – Daytona 7/1
Best 2016 finishes: 7th – Daytona 7/1
Last career NXS win: Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 25, 2002
2017: Green, a veteran XFINITY Series driver, will continue driving for various teams in as many races as he can make the field. No firm plans announced on which team(s) will hire him in 2017 at this time.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS):
2016
: Jennifer Jo Cobb (Cobb Racing Nos. 1 and 10 Chevrolet) – In 16 races, the Kansas City, KS driver had a 29.6 average start, a 25.9 average finish, earned 113 points and closed out the season 30th in the standings. She also made one XFINITY Series start at her home-town track (Kansas Speedway); started 37th, finished 29th.
Best 2016 NCWTS start: 24th – Las Vegas 10/1
Best 2016 finish: 17th – Michigan 8/27
Last career NCWTS win: None so far.
2017: Cobb will continue to field her Nos. 0, 1 and 10 Chevrolet Silverado’s in 2017.  She will, again, switch off with various drivers on those team trucks. No plans announced for the Kansas City XFINITY race but Cobb will most likely enter at her home track again next October.

2016: Cody Coughlin (Nos. 05, 18 and 51 Chevrolet and Toyota) – In 10 races, the Delaware, OH driver led three laps, had a 12.6 average start, a 21.8 average finish, earned 113 points and closed out the season 29th in the standings.
Best 2016 NCWTS start: 7th – Talladega 10/22
Best 2016 finish: 12th – Texas 6/10
Last career NCWTS win: None so far.
2017: No firm plans announced at this time but Coughlin will likely drive one of Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra’s again in 2017.

2016: Kaz Grala (GMS Racing Nos. 24 and 33 Chevrolet) – In 9 races, the Westborough, MA driver scored three top-10s, had an 11.7 average start, an 18.3 average finish,  earned 132 points and closed out the season 28th in the standings. He entered two NASCAR Pinty’s Series races at Bowmanville, Ontario; started 8th in both and scored finishes of 20th and 18th. Grala entered 8 of the 14 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races. He scored 5 top-10s, led 9 laps and averaged a 10.1 finish and finished that series 16th in the standings.
Best 2016 NCWTS starts: 4th – Iowa 6/18 and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park 9/4
Best 2016 finish: 7th – Loudon 9/24
Last career NCWTS win: None so far.
2017: Grala will pilot the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado full time in 2017, across all 23 races of the NCWTS. Jerry Baxter (formerly crew chief at Kyle Busch Motorsports in the trucks) will be moving to GMS as crew chief for the No. 33 team. When he’s not improving his race skills to become an accomplished NASCAR driver, Kaz is an honor-roll high school senior at Worcester Academy in Worcester, Massachusetts. The 17-year-old who has a birthday on December 29th is currently interviewing with colleges for the fall of 2017.

2017 Monster Energy Series Lineup - Full-time teams(Tentative)

Car

Driver

Sponsor

Make

Owner

1

Jamie McMurray

Cessna/McDonald’s/

GearWrench

Chevrolet

Chip Ganassi Racing

2

Brad Keselowski

Miller Lite/Alliance Truck Parts/Wurth/Autotrader

Ford

Team Penske

3

Austin Dillon

Dow//Bass Pro Shops/

American Ethanol/AAA

Chevrolet

Richard Childress Racing

4

Kevin Harvick

Busch Beer/Jimmie Johns/

Mobil 1

Ford

Stewart  Haas Racing

5

Kasey Kahne

Farmers Insurance/Great Clips/

LiftMaster/Quicken Loans/ Panasonic/Mountain Dew/

AARP/UniFirst

Chevrolet

Hendrick Motorsports

6

Trevor Bayne

AdvoCare/Liberty National

Ford

Roush Fenway Racing

10

Danica Patrick

Nature’s Bakery/Aspen Dental/ TaxACT/Mobil 1/Code 3 Assoc

Ford

Stewart  Haas Racing

11

Denny Hamlin

FedEx/Sport Clips

Toyota

Joe Gibbs Racing

13

Ty Dillon

Geico

Chevrolet

Germain Racing

14

Clint Bowyer

Haas Automation

Ford

Stewart Haas Racing

16

?

?

Ford

Roush Fenway Racing

17

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Fastenal/Fifth Third Bank/

SunnyD

Ford

Roush Fenway Racing

18

Kyle Busch

M&M’s/Skittles/

Interstate Batteries

Toyota

Joe Gibbs Racing

19

Carl Edwards

Arris/Stanley/Sport Clips/Subway

Toyota

Joe Gibbs Racing

20

Matt Kenseth

DeWalt

Toyota

Joe Gibbs Racing

21

Ryan Blaney

Motorcraft/Quick Lane/SKF

Ford

Wood Brothers Racing

22

Joey Logano

Shell-Pennzoil/Autotrader/AAA

Ford

Team Penske

23

?David Ragan

Dr Pepper

Toyota

BK Racing

24

Chase Elliott

NAPA Auto Parts/3M/Kelley Blue Book/Mountain Dew/SunEnergy1

Chevrolet

Hendrick Motorsports

27

Paul Menard

Menards

Chevrolet

Richard Childress Racing

31

Ryan Newman

Caterpillar/Grainger

Chevrolet

Richard Childress Racing

32

?

Can-Am

Ford

GoFAS Racing

41

Kurt Busch

Monster Energy/Haas Automation/

State Water Heaters

 

Ford

Stewart Haas Racing

42

Kyle Larson

Target/Energizer/Coca-Cola/AXE/Clorox

Chevrolet

Chip Ganassi Racing

43

Aric Almirola

Smithfield Foods/U.S. Air Force

Ford

Richard Petty Motorsports

44

?

Medallion Bank

Ford

Richard Petty Motorsports

47

AJ Allmendinger

Kroger/Scott Products/ Kingsford Charcoal/Bush’s Baked Beans

Chevrolet

JTG Daugherty Racing

??

Chris Buescher

???

Chevrolet

JTG Daugherty Racing

48

Jimmie Johnson

Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools

Chevrolet

Hendrick Motorsports

77

Erik Jones *

5-Hour Energy

Toyota

Furniture Row Racing

78

Martin Truex Jr.

Furniture Row/

Denver Mattresses/Bass Pro Shops/5-Hour Energy

Toyota

Furniture Row Racing

83

?Matt DiBenedetto

?

Toyota

BK Racing

88

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Nationwide/Axalta Coatings/

Diet Mountain Dew

Chevrolet

Hendrick Motorsports

95

Michael McDowell

?

Chevrolet

Leavine Family Racing-Circle Sport

 

 

* Rookie of The Year candidate

 

 

Part-time/Questionable teams

7

Regan Smith

Nikko RC/Toy State

Chevrolet

Tommy Baldwin Racing

15

**

 

 

 

30

**

???

Chevrolet

The Motorsports Group

?33

?

???

Chevrolet

Circle Sport

38

?Landon Cassill

???

Ford

Front Row Motorsports

56

?

?

?

?

55

**

?

?

Premium Motorsports

98

**

?

?

Premium Motorsports

 

 

 ** No Charter

 

 

 

Anthony Ballantoni

Anthony Ballantoni is a Senior Sports Writer at NBC Sports Edge.