As the beginning of a new year of racing approaches, it’s often difficult to keep up with the off-season changes. Drivers move to different teams, crew chiefs come and go, new sponsors are announced and more. To aid your transition into the 2016 NASCAR season, I’ve compiled a list of the major changes.
Tony Stewart – No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Stewart, who announced that 2016 will be his last season driving in the Sprint Cup Series, will end his career with a new crew chief. Mike Bugarewicz, the former race engineer for Kevin Harvick’s car, will be on top of the pit box in Stewart’s final season. He replaces Chad Johnston who is moving to the crew chief position for Kyle Larson.
Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet
Chad Johnston moves from Stewart-Haas Racing to become Larson’s new crew chief, replacing Chris Heroy. Johnston was most recently crew chief for Tony Stewart.
Brian Scott – No. 9 – Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
Scott will replace Sam Hornish Jr. as he heads to Richard Petty Motorsports to drive the No. 9 RPM Ford. He will be paired with crew chief Chris Heroy (Larson’s former crew chief). Scott has 17 previous Cup starts but this will be his first full-time Sprint Cup season. He will be competing for Rookie of the Year.
Danica Patrick – No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Patrick will have a different crew chief in 2016 as Billy Scott moves from Michael Waltrip Racing who closed their doors at the end of the 2015 season. He replaces Daniel Knost who was promoted to a senior leadership position within the company. This is Patrick’s third crew chief in as many seasons. Nature’s Bakery will join Patrick as a new primary sponsor.
Clint Bowyer – HScott Motorsports Chevrolet
Bowyer will move to HScott Motorsports for one season before moving to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017 to replace Tony Stewart after his final season. 5-Hour Energy will make the move with Bowyer as primary sponsor for 24 races in 2016.
Justin Allgaier – No. 7 – JR Motorsports Chevrolet
Allgaier will move to the XFINITY Series in 2016 with JR Motorsports. He competed for the last two years in the Cup Series with HScott Motorsports but lost his ride when the organization added Clint Bowyer to their lineup. He has three wins in the XFINITY Series.
Greg Biffle – No. 16 – Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Biffle will also be the recipient of a new crew chief, veteran Brian Pattie. Pattie replaces Matt Puccia who had been with Biffle since mid-2011.
Sam Hornish Jr. – Unknown
Hornish previously drove the No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports but Brian Scott takes over driving duties in 2016. Hornish has not announced his future plans.
AJ Allmendinger – No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
Allmendinger will have a new competition director as Ernie Cope moves to JTG Daugherty Racing. Cope’s most recent position was as crew chief for Chase Elliott in the XFINITY Series in 2015. Allmendinger will also have a new crew chief, Randall Burnett. Burnett was an engineer on Kyle Larson’s car this past season.
Chris Buescher – No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford
After winning the 2015 XFINITY Series championship, Buescher is moving to the Sprint Cup Series in 2016. He had six Cup starts for FRM last year with a best finish of 20th place at Auto Club Speedway. Buescher will be in the running for Rookie of the Year.
Darian Grubb – Vehicle Production Director – Hendrick Motorsports
Hendrick Motorsports recently named Grubb to the newly created position of vehicle production director where he will oversee every facet of race car manufacturing for the organization. Grubb was formerly employed by HMS in 2003 in various capacities including race engineer and crew chief before leaving to join Tony Stewart at SHR in 2009. He moved to Joe Gibbs Racing and in 2012-2014 worked with Denny Hamlin. In 2015, he was the crew chief for Carl Edwards. He has 23 Sprint Cup victories as a crew chief.
Ryan Blaney – No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Blaney will run a full schedule in the No. 21 in 2016. It will be the first time since 2008 that Wood Brothers Racing has run a full-time schedule in the Sprint Cup Series. Blaney has 18 Cup starts with a best finish of fourth at Talladega in 2015. Because he has not run for Sprint Cup points in his career, Blaney will be eligible to compete for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award.
Denny Hamlin – No. 11 – Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Hamlin will have a new crew chief in 2016 as Mike Wheeler, who has been Hamlin’s race engineer for much of his career, takes over the position. Wheeler also served as crew chief in 2015 for the No. 20 car in the XFINITY Series. He replaces Dave Rogers who will move to the pit box for Carl Edwards.
Carl Edwards – No. 19 – Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
As noted above, Edwards will have a new crew chief in 2016 with Dave Rogers taking over the job, replacing Darian Grubb. Rogers is an experienced leader having worked previously with Kyle Busch as well as Hamlin with 15 Sprint Cup victories.
Jeffrey Earnhardt – Go FAS Racing – No. 32 Ford
Earnhardt recently signed a multi-year deal with Go FAS Racing to drive in the Sprint Cup Series beginning in 2016. He will run the majority of the races for the No. 32 team while Bobby Labonte will drive for several events. Earnhardt made his Cup debut at Richmond in 2015 and also competed at Loudon. He will be eligible for the Rookie of the Year award.
Chase Elliott – No. 24 – Hendrick Motorsports
Elliott moves into the No. 24 ride in 2016 after Jeff Gordon’s departure in 2015. He captured the XFINITY Series championship in 2014, the youngest driver, at age 18, to win a NASCAR national series title, and finished second last year. Elliott made five Cup starts last year in preparation for this season and will be competing for Rookie of the Year honors in 2016.
Furniture Row Racing – Will change manufacturers from Chevrolet to Toyota in 2016
After running only Chevrolets since their debut in 2005, Furniture Row Racing has entered into a partnership with Toyota and will field the No. 78 Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. in 2016. Toyota Racing Development will build the engines and Furniture Row Racing will also benefit from a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing.