Year in Review: 5 Lessons Learned in 2015

At Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia on April 26, 2015. CIA Stock Photo
At Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia on April 26, 2015. CIA Stock Photo

5. Danica Knows How To Woo Sponsors

When GoDaddy announced early in the 2015 season that it would not return as Danica Patrick’s primary sponsor in 2016, questions about the Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s future in NASCAR ratcheted up in a hurry. In the final year of a three-year contract with SHR and with no primary sponsor in place for beyond 2015, Patrick faced the real possibility of being out of a ride. But now with a new multi-year contract and three primary sponsors sharing the load, the Sprint Cup Series’ only female driver is secure not only for 2016 but for several years to come. NASCAR/Getty Images

4. Dale Jr. Is Madly In Love

After spending much of his adult life as a bachelor, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will join the ranks of the married sometime next year. Junior, who turned 41 in October, will tie the knot with fiancée and longtime girlfriend Amy Reimann, to whom he proposed while vacationing in Germany in June. Amy, who lives with Junior and is often seen with him at the track, seems to be the perfect woman for NASCAR’s most popular driver. And don’t be surprised if the two lovebirds become parents somewhere down the road. “I think the greatest accomplishment in life is to be able to raise a child,” Earnhardt said after getting engaged. CIA Stock Photo

3. Roush Fenway Racing Is Way Off

For the first time since the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup was implemented in 2004, Roush Fenway Racing failed to put a single driver in NASCAR’s playoff. Equally bothersome, however, is that none of RFR’s three drivers went to Victory Lane in 2015, and Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. didn’t even really come close to getting there. For an organization that spent some two-and-a-half decades as one of NASCAR’s best, the results from 2015 are at best worrisome and at worst downright frightening. Will Roush Fenway soon return to the prominence it once enjoyed? Or does the company need a major overhaul to move up? NASCAR/Getty Images

2. The Retirement Age Is Going Down

Remember a decade or two ago when drivers raced well into their 40s, and sometimes even into their 50s? The late Dale Earnhardt won twice and finished second in points in 2000, his last full season, before perishing at the 2001 Daytona 500. He would have turned 50 that April. But with the recent decisions of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart to call it quits from Sprint Cup Series competition well shy of 50, it seems that the trend is now for drivers to hang it up sooner rather than later. If the trend continues, expect Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson to all retire in the next five years. NASCAR/Getty Images

  1. At Least One Little Team Really Still Can

 When Furniture Row Racing, a single-car team based out of Denver, Colorado, made the Chase in 2013 with Kurt Busch, the NASCAR world took notice. After all, this was a major accomplishment for an organization that lacks the resources of its main competitors. What Furniture Row did in 2015 with driver Martin Truex Jr. was even more amazing, however. After struggling in 2014, Truex was consistently fast in 2015 and punched his ticket to the Chase with a win at Pocono in June. But Truex didn’t just make the Chase. He advanced through three rounds once getting in, becoming one of four finalists for the winner-take-all season finale. CIA Stock Photo