ThatsRacin

Midterms 2016: Grading NASCAR’s Sprint Cup teams so far

Kyle Busch has three victories this season and leads another strong Joe Gibbs Racing team.
Kyle Busch has three victories this season and leads another strong Joe Gibbs Racing team. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

As NASCAR’s Sprint Cup season nears its halfway point, here’s a report card on the sport’s most prominent teams:

Joe Gibbs Racing – A

The Gibbs team really hasn’t missed a beat after Kyle Busch won the 2015 Cup championship. JGR’s four drivers (Busch, three; Carl Edwards, two; Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth) have won nearly half (seven) of the season’s 15 races. The bench is deep, too, with Daniel Suarez (Xfinity) and Charlotte’s William Byron (who drives for Busch’s Truck team) having excellent seasons.

Furniture Row Racing – A-minus

Martin Truex Jr. won in dominating fashion at Charlotte, all but clinching Furniture Row another spot in the Chase. Not bad for a one-team outfit based in Denver, far from NASCAR’s base.

Stewart-Haas Racing – B-plus

Any team featuring the ever-consistent Kevin Harvick (one victory and the points leader) is always going to be in good shape. But Kurt Busch is also having an outstanding season after winning at Pocono. Danica Patrick continues to be a non-factor and owner-driver Tony Stewart is struggling through his final season as a Cup driver.

Wood Brothers – B-plus

This iconic team, making its return to full-time racing, has put together a solid season behind rookie Ryan Blaney, who is 16th in points. It’s a non-charter team, however, which means Blaney and his No. 21 Ford isn’t guaranteed a spot in the field each week.

Team Penske – B

Brad Keselowski already has two victories and Joey Logano – who won a Cup-high six races in 2015 – finally won last week at Michigan. Logano, it seems, could be ready to break out this season.

Hendrick Motorsports – C-plus

Jimmie Johnson (two victories) and rookie Chase Elliott (six top-five finishes) are doing their part to help Hendrick try to keep pace with the sport’s other super teams – Gibbs and Penske. But a disappointing season by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has yet to win, and the continuing decline of Kasey Kahne are holding the Hendrick team back.

Chip Ganassi Racing – C-plus

Ganassi’s Kyle Larson continues to be one of the best-who-have-never won drivers, and he keeps getting closer. But his No. 42 Chevy failed post-race inspection after finishing third at Michigan, docking him 15 points and dropping him to 21st in the standings. Jamie McMurray, in the meantime, is headed for another Chase berth (14th).

Richard Childress Racing – C-plus

Austin Dillon is on target for a Chase spot (12th in the standings) and has three top-fives. Ryan Newman, steady and unspectacular as always, is doing just enough (15th) to make the Chase, but his season’s best is just a seventh at Kansas.

Roush Fenway Racing – C

A second consecutive ho-hum season is well underway for Roush Fenway, which didn’t have a driver in the postseason in 2015 for the first time in Chase history. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (tied for 19th in points) is the best hope to get the team back in the Chase.

JTG Daugherty Racing -- C

AJ Allmendinger, this Harrisburg-based team’s only driver, was as high as 12th in points after finishing second at Martinsville. He’s dropped to 19th now, but he’s a road-course ace and Sonoma and Watkins Glen are coming up.

Richard Petty Motorsports – D

No victories, or even anything close, for Aric Almirola or rookie Brian Scott.

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