NASCAR: What to expect for Edwards, Bayne, Hornish with 2015 changes

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The transition from 2013 into 2014 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series saw a bevy of drivers heading to new teams. The number is much smaller heading into 2015, but no less notable. Here’s an outlook on who’s going where in driver or team changes: 

Carl Edwards to Joe Gibbs Racing

How it happened: The summer’s worst kept secret was that Edwards and Roush Fenway Racing were headed for a separation after more than a decade together. Much the same as some other veterans of late, 2014 champion Kevin Harvick, runner-up Ryan Newman and 2013 runner-up Matt Kenseth among them, Edwards is at the point of his career where a change of scenery will likely serve him well.

What to look for in 2015: On the whole, Toyotas seemed to struggle for power this year a year after they had the power, but not the reliability. Edwards should get on well with JGR eventually, but I’d see this shaping up as more a Kurt Busch to Stewart-Haas-type situation at least initially. The team’s expanding from three to four cars, and it takes time for all the new pieces to gel. Edwards will work with crew chief Darian Grubb, who has most recently worked with Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart. You could foresee at least a win or two, but more than that with a serious championship challenge would seem a surprise.

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Bayne in the 6. Photo: Getty Images

Trevor Bayne to Roush Fenway Racing

How it happened: Bayne signed with RFR full-time on the Saturday before the Coca-Cola 600 in May, which also served as the unofficial confirmation of Edwards’ departure at year’s end. The iconic RFR No. 6 returns and will take on the No. 99 owner points from this year. Bayne has been part-time in Sprint Cup for the better part of five seasons and was always going to move up to full-time; it was just a matter of when.

What to look for in 2015: At present, Bayne’s the only full-time rookie-of-the-year candidate, so while ROY is a realistic and expected goal it’s not going to be the only thing he’s after. There’s a lot for Bayne to prove at the Sprint Cup level. He’s rarely run that well in the non-restrictor plate races, and the RFR performance across the board this year left much to be desired. Without the steady hand of crew chief Jimmy Fennig to guide him – Fennig heads into deserved semi-retirement – Bayne will have a new voice atop the pit box guiding him throughout his first full year. He also has the problem of expectations. Kyle Larson raised the bar for rookies in 2014 and although Larson didn’t make the Chase, he did lay down the gauntlet in terms of top-10s and near-wins. Realistically, you’d like to see Bayne end the season top-20 in points, bank a handful of top-fives and anywhere from about seven to 10 top-10s.

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Hornish back full-time. Photo: Getty Images

Sam Hornish Jr. to Richard Petty Motorsports

How it happened: Marcos Ambrose’s return to Australia created the vacancy, and Hornish was the perfect fit for the Sammy Johns-led team at Richard Petty Motorsports. Hornish has starred in the Nationwide (now XFINITY) Series the last three years with wins in each season, and was desperately unlucky to miss out on the 2013 title. While Ambrose was a road course star who had occasional oval highlights, notably on short tracks, Hornish should be an overall upgrade in a well-deserved second full-time Cup chance.

What to look for in 2015: Richard Petty Motorsports almost usurped Roush Fenway Racing as second-best team in the Ford stable behind Team Penske this season, and the addition of Hornish alongside Aric Almirola for 2015 should further the team’s growth. He’s been able to spend time in the shop to learn and begin to mesh with the organization. He’s found his rhythm and comfort zone in stock cars after an extended learning process, but he’s also developed and honed the skills that he showcased in his IndyCar heydays. He should work well with crew chief Drew Blickensderfer. Considering Almirola won a race and made the Chase this year, it wouldn’t surprise to see Hornish achieve the same feat, and became the latest first-time Cup winner. That’s a realistic expectation, with anything beyond that a bonus.

Inside IndyCar’s iRacing revolution: Oliver Askew, team take it seriously

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No laps have been turned in the NTT IndyCar Series this season, yet rookie Oliver Askew incessantly is analyzing fresh lap data with his Arrow McLaren SP team.

For the past two weeks, Askew has turned hundreds of laps in iRacing at Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park, and his support team meticulously has scoured the data in real time.

Race engineer Blair Perschbacher, assistant engineer Mike Reggio and strategist Billy Vincent are connected via all the software and timing systems that are on Askew’s real-world No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet. After every run, numbers instantly are crunched, and Askew debriefs with his crew on improving the handling of his car in search of every fraction of a second as he would in real life.

WATCH: IndyCar iRacing Challenge, 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSN or streaming here

The only difference is Askew is sitting inside a simulation rig housed by a 45-foot trailer in West Palm Beach, Fla., while each team member is in an Indianapolis area home.

“They basically set up their own timing stands in their living rooms,” Askew told NBCSports.com. “It’s awesome.”

It’s the new reality for IndyCar, which will play host to the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (NBCSN) at virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

Last Saturday, Askew started and finished fifth at Watkins Glen International, where he practiced with the advisement of his team for more than 15 hours in the SimMetric Driver Performance Labs simulator. Despite a relative sim racing newbie, Askew, 23, finished only two spots behind Will Power, who has more than 1,500 starts and 150 victories on iRacing road courses.

Askew already has practiced for more than 10 hours this week in his simulator for Barber, where he hopes to make the podium against a 29-driver field that will include many champions and winners.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” he said. “You can tell by the results at Watkins Glen. You know which drivers have built their sims properly. How much they’ve been practicing. Those are the guys who finish up front.

“I’m still trying to represent everyone. It’s cool we have the same paint scheme. We’re just trying to represent Arrow and our partners the best as possible. We know they’re all watching, and it seems the viewership is going up.”


The Jupiter, Florida, native has found an edge through his friendship with SimMetric Driver Performance Labs, which is based in nearby West Palm Beach, Florida. Askew and SimMetric CEO Greg De Giorgis met last year through mutual friends. Last year, Askew had done a few simulator sessions before winning the 2019 Indy Lights championship (and graduating to the ride with Arrow McLaren SP).

With an official simulator partnership in the Road to Indy program, SimMetric’s simulator travels in a trailer to racing events around the country, providing drivers with extra preparation time for the real world.

“While time in a driving simulator will never fully replace real seat time, sim seat time can go a very long way in supplementing the seat time a driver gets,” De Giorgis told NBCSports.com in an email. “With three added benefits you don’t get in the real car: Significantly lower cost per hour, no risk of bodily harm or damage to the car, and of course, no limitations on time.”

There are some limitations for how much Askew can practice, though. A schedule was set up last week so the team, Askew and De Giorgis (who helps run the simulator and maintain communications with the team) could work together while also maintaining self-isolation with their families.

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The trailer with the simulator is parked indoors at the Riviera Beach, Florida, shop of Extreme Velocity Motorsports, which also has an unofficial affiliation with SimMetric.

“We’re practicing social distancing and making sure the trailer and everything is clean,” Askew said. “We’re taking that very seriously. It’s still a job for me, so I need to get what I can out of it.”

He’s gotten a lot from it despite a lack of experience. The team can compare simulation data from iRacing to real-world historical data from past races and test sessions.

Reggio handles fuel data, and Simpson monitors strategy and timing. While setups are fixed for the iRacing IndyCar Challenge, Perschbacher is able to work with brake bias. “He’s just trying to bend the rules as much as we can,” Askew said. “We’ve done a lot with brake bias. That’s pretty much all we can change.”

Fans also can watch Askew practicing via a YouTube channel provided by De Giorgis, who has chatted with viewers about the car’s laps in real time during the streams that are available by clicking here.

Fans will be able to find a live stream of Askew’s race Saturday by clicking here.


It’s all relatively new to Askew, who doesn’t even have a sim rig at his Indianapolis home. His previous sim experience mainly came on the Chevrolet simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina.

“Honesty, for me personally, I’m a little late to the party,” Askew said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I’m young and they assumed I’ve been doing this. I’ve never even had my own iRacing account before. Guys like (McLaren driver) Lando Norris, (Watkins Glen winner) Sage (Karam), all these guys have been streaming live on Twitch and have been running iRacing for multiple years now.

“ It’s a great way to get fans engaged in the race weekend and get eSports get bigger and bigger every year. Very interesting moving forward. It’s cool that IndyCar has dipped their feet into these waters now. Even once the season starts, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do more of these races.”

If so, he and his team have learned to keep an eye on Power, a real-world ace on road courses. During some practice races Thursday, Askew thought he’d done well by qualifying third, but Power then put a half-second on the field by winning the pole position.

“Will is unbelievably quick and does the same things in real life as well,” said Askew, who did turn the fastest lap in the practice race. “He just pulls it out somehow. That’s where the engineers and our staff in Indy come into play because they’re able to watch his on-board in real time and replay his on board to figure out what he’s doing to get the most of out of his car in the video game.

“It gets the creative juices flowing again. It’s still very different from real life, but I think we’re going to be able to start the season a little more fresh than we would have without this.”

Chris Graythen / Getty Images