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NASCAR Draft Kit: Xfinity Series Driver Rankings

Mark Taylor

Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A four-time FSWA award winner, Taylor was named the 2016 Racing Writer of the Year. He is also a military historian, specifically the World War II U.S. Navy in the Pacific.

1. Kyle Busch/Joey Coulter - No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota - The most dominant team of the last several years returns in 2015 with Busch at the helm for almost all the companion events to the Sprint Cup Series. He will team with Coulter for all the non-companion events to round out the 33-race schedule. Busch alone accounted for seven victories and 25 Top-5 finishes in his 26 starts. Sam Hornish Jr. chipped in with another victory and three Top-5 finishes in his seven starts. The youngster Coulter is a bit of a downgrade from Hornish, but this team shouldn't drop off much. With Sprint Cup star Busch making the vast majority of the starts the team will once again push the 7-9 victory plateau and about 22-plus Top-5s. The No. 54 Toyota should once again be the most dominant force in this series.

2. Chase Elliott -
No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet - The reigning Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year and 2014 Champion will return to the No. 9 Chevrolet to defend his title in the upcoming season. Elliott proved spectacular in his first full season of racing in this series. He claimed two pole positions, three victories and 26 Top-10 finishes en route to the championship in his rookie season. The 18-year-old son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott definitely has the gift of his father's talent, and possibly more. Rick Hendrick and JR Motorsports are pouring tons of resources into his development to someday make the jump to NASCAR's top division. Elliott is by far the leading candidate to win this season's Xfinity Series championship.

3. Brad Keselowski/Ryan Blaney/Joey Logano -
No. 22 Penske Racing Ford - This team and driver rotation has been a potent force in the Xfinity Series the last few seasons. Keselowski returns to take on his usual 12 or so starts and the rest will be filled by the platoon of Blaney and Logano. Alex Tagliani got the road course starts in 2014 and will likely return to fill that same capacity in 2015. This driver conglomerate chimed in with a combined six victories and 25 Top-10 finishes last season, making them the most dominant Ford team on the track. They're likely to reclaim that title again this season and pace the Ford field with the No. 22 car. Given that Penske has averaged about 7.5 wins per season with this team over the last four years, big things are always expected.

4. Kevin Harvick/Kasey Kahne/Dale Earnhardt Jr./Ben Rhodes -
No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet - Last season's dominant No. 5 team gets rebranded with the No. 88 in 2015, but boasts pretty much the same driver lineup and start dispersion. Harvick will shoulder the burden with around 15 starts or just under half the schedule. Then a handful of drivers, headed up mainly by Kahne and Earnhardt, will fill the remainder. We expect to see youngster Rhodes for a healthy dose of around 9 starts. That might slightly diminish this team's value in 2015, but not by much. Rhodes captured last season's K&N Pro Series East championship and was a capable driver in limited truck series schedule. Last season this team accounted for five victories and 20 Top-10 finishes, so they're not to be taken lightly.

5. Regan Smith -
No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet - Smith will set out once again with his eye on capturing that elusive Xfinity Series championship. The veteran driver has claimed second- and third-place finishes in the standings the last two seasons with JR Motorsports, but the title has proven to be a tricky accomplishment indeed. The 2014 season looked like Smith's year with the recent departure of drivers like Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but Chase Elliott proved to be too big a foe in his rookie season. Smith will shake that off and rely on the team excellence that saw him through to one win and 26 Top-10 finishes last season. This may not be Smith's ceiling either. Jason Burdett takes over as team crew chief, and he and Smith will see if the championship is an attainable goal in 2015.

6. Kyle Larson/Dylan Kwasniewski -
No. 42 HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi Chevrolet - The 2014 Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year stayed very active in the Xfinity Series ranks last season. Despite his first full season of racing in NASCAR's top division, the young driver still made 28 of the 33 starts in the No. 42 Chevrolet. Over that slate, Larson claimed two victories and 21 Top-10 finishes. His performance was good enough to challenge for the championship, had he been eligible. Ganassi has partnered with HScott Motorsports to field this team in 2015. When Larson is not racing the companion events, up-and-comer Kwasniewski will handle the driving duties. We expect to see a little more of Kwasniewski and a little less of Larson that we did last year, so the team should come close to hitting the same numbers this year.

7. Matt Kenseth/Denny Hamlin/Erik Jones/Other Drivers -
No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota - Kenseth took on his largest Xfinity Series slate since 2007 with his 19-start 2014 campaign. The results showed in the No. 20 JGR team. Kenseth raced his way to one victory and 15 Top-10 finishes. Other drivers tallied an additional eight Top-10 finishes, making this one of the stronger rides in the Xfinity Series. The team should return for most if not all the schedule in 2015 and with a similar driver lineup that will feature a bit more of Jones. The youngster made three starts with this team last season and claimed Top-10s in all three starts. So there's not much drop off between Jones and Kenseth. The bottom line is that this is Gibbs' excellent equipment and team support no matter who's behind the wheel.

8. Ty Dillon -
No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet - The rising RCR star came up short in his quest for the championship during his rookie season. Chase Elliott's star shone a little brighter last year, so Dillon was left to finish fifth in the final driver standings, but on the strength of one victory and 24 Top-10 finishes. It was still a very successful campaign by any measure. Dillon will return to the unchanged team and give the championship run another try. With the funding and personnel put behind this team to win the Xfinity Series title, you can bet they'll be strong, if not better than last season. We must remember that his older brother, Austin, won the championship in this same car two seasons ago so this is a championship-winning operation.

9. Elliott Sadler -
No. 1 Roush Fenway Racing Ford - The 20-year NASCAR veteran makes the jump from Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota over to the Ford camp at Roush Fenway Racing for the 2015 season. Sadler will be paired with crew chief Phil Gould in the newly-branded No. 1 team. Primary sponsor, OneMain Financial, stays with Sadler and makes the jump to Roush to fund his championship effort. Sadler quietly claimed one victory and 25 Top-10 finishes last year, while being overshadowed by more successful Gibbs' No. 54 and No. 20 teams. It's a bit surprising to realize that Sadler quietly finished third in the overall driver standings. While Roush will be a welcome, fresh start for this veteran driver, it could take some time to get back to the level of excellence he's enjoyed the last four years competing in this racing series.

10. Darrell Wallace Jr. -
No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford - Wallace makes the jump from the Camping World Truck Series to the Xfinity Series in the upcoming season. The talented youngster also makes the swap from Joe Gibbs Racing to Roush Fenway Racing for this year. He'll be without a doubt the leading contender for Rookie of the Year in this racing series and pilot the same car that Trevor Bayne rode to 21 Top-10 finishes in 2014. The pairing with Chad Norris at crew chief should yield immediate results. Wallace claimed four victories and 14 Top-10 finishes in his stellar final season of truck series racing at Gibbs. The talent is undeniable, but it could take some time to find his groove in the Xfinity Series.

11. Brian Scott -
No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet - Mike Hillman Jr. takes over as crew chief of the No. 2 RCR Chevrolet as Scott sets out on his third season of racing for Childress in the Xfinity Series. Last year was the best campaign of his six-year career with an impressive 23 Top-10 finishes and fourth-place effort in the driver standings. Those are good marks to build on. Scott is still winless 175 starts in this division of NASCAR, and that's where the focus will fall in the upcoming season. Hillman has the experience to help Scott break through this barrier and become a much more serious contender for the championship. With consistency seemingly nailed, it's now time for Scott to start winning races.

12. Chris Buescher -
No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford - Buescher was one of the most pleasant surprises of last season. Were it not for a super deep and super talented rookie field last year (that included champion Chase Elliott) it could have easily been Buescher who walked away with the ROTY in a typical season. The 22-year-old claimed his first series win (Mid-Ohio) and 14 Top-10 finishes in his first full season in the Xfinity Series. The young Texan was also a 10-time winner in the ARCA Series during his five years of preparatory racing in that division of NASCAR, so Buescher definitely knows how to close the deal and win races. The 2015 holds all kinds of promise for this talented youngster as starts to become a focus of Roush driver development.

13. Austin Dillon/Paul Menard/Brandon Jones -
No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet - This driver conglomerate will be headed up by former series champion Dillon and his RCR teammate, Menard. Throw in Jones for what should be a handful of starts and you have a good combination of youthful energy tempered by veteran experience. The No. 33 team was pretty strong in 2014 with one win (Menard) and seven Top-10s in just a 21-race slate. With the team running full-time this season and featuring Dillon in most of the races, we would expect better than extrapolation of these stats. With Nick Harrison returning atop the tool box to call the shots, this team should show some real improvement in the coming year.

14. Daniel Suarez -
No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota - One of the top Rookie of the Year candidates will be Suarez in 2015. He signed with Joe Gibbs Racing to pilot the No. 18 Toyota with Eric Phillips as crew chief and mentor for season one. The 23-year-old Mexican made his debut with a couple starts in the Xfinity Series last year and is now ready to take on a full-time schedule. Suarez is a product of the lower divisions of NASCAR and has three victories and 22 Top-10 finishes in the K&N Pro Series East as well as 10 victories and 34 Top-10 finishes in NASCAR's Toyota Series (Mexico). There's little doubt about his ability to wheel a race car around an oval. That will be put to the test with his first full season in the Xfinity Series, but he'll have tremendous support from JGR to succeed.

15. TBA -
No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota - With the departure of Elliott Sadler and primary sponsor OneMain Financial from this team, the No. 11 Toyota is in limbo entering the new season. If Gibbs still plans to field this team, the driver lineup has not been released at this point. The potential is here to do some great things, as Sadler's one victory and 25 Top-10 finishes in this car showed. If a skilled driver can be signed, or even a driver conglomerate can be arranged, there is some serious potential here. If Gibbs decides to make the team part-time or fold it all together, then obviously you can drop them down the rankings considerably.

16. Brendan Gaughan -
No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet - The 39-year-old is coming off his most successful season of racing in Xfinity Series in 2014. Gaughan surprised for two wins and an impressive eighth-place finish in the final driver standings. The victories were his first in this racing series, but the lack of consistency did tarnish his overall effort. Gaughan only collected seven Top-10 finishes last season and that prevented him from being able to further climb the standings. The veteran driver will get another chance to work on that consistency in 2015. He'll again be paired with crew chief Shane Wilson and with primary sponsor South Point Resorts. We expect improvement in season two of this driver/team combination.

17. Ryan Reed -
No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford - The 21-year-old was generally outdone by his teammate, Chris Buescher, but then the expectations for this driver and team were not as high. Reed made the full-time jump to the Xfinity Series in 2014 after only a relative handful of starts in NASCAR's lower divisions. He got some serious on the job training last season. That yielded only one Top-10 finish but a noteworthy ninth-place finish in the driver standings. With an average finish of 17.1 in his rookie campaign, Reed has a lot to work on in the upcoming season. The good news is that the team, sponsorship package and crew chief are all returning for season two. Reed might get a little lost in the mix at the growing Roush camp, but he has a lot of upside nonetheless.

18. Dylan Kwasniewski/Other Drivers -
No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet - Kwasniewski had a pretty rocky and turbulent season of racing in his rookie 2014 year. He bounced back and forth between the No. 31 and No. 42 rides, filling in for Kyle Larson when he was away. Over the full 33-race slate Kwasniewski only managed three Top-10 finishes, but many times more disappointing efforts. He'll look to work on that in 2015 as it's expected that this team will return. However, the cloud of the Turner & Scott ownership breakup hangs over the effort before the season begins. At the very worst, the team closes and Kwasniewski shares the No. 42 ride again with Larson in the upcoming season. The young driver will improve this year, but a lot of that will depend on his team situation and how much he races.

19. James Buescher -
No. 99 RAB Racing Toyota - The older of the racing Buescher brothers is tabbed to return to RAB Racing in 2015. The No. 99 team lost primary sponsor Rheem for the upcoming year, so some funding and sponsorship issues need to be settled. However, we still expect those to be worked out and for Buescher to race the full schedule. He claimed only two Top-10s last season and finished 10th in the final driver standings. Those are marks to improve on in 2015, but not likely given this team's unsettled funding situation entering the year. Of the smaller, single-car teams running the full schedule, there's a lot of upside at RAB Racing. Buescher just needs to up his game a couple notches in order to make it happen.

20. Dakoda Armstrong -
No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford - The 2014 season was a bit rocky for Armstrong's jump from trucks to Xfinity Series cars. However, things started looking much better in the final third of last season. Armstrong grabbed all three of his season's Top-10 finishes in that home stretch run last year. That bump in performance also saw him finish on the lead lap more often than not. RPM announced in early January that Armstrong will return for a second season at RPM and he'll be paired with new crew chief Frank Kerr. Now that this young driver has 40 starts of Xfinity Series experience, we should start to see the fruits in 2015.

21. Landon Cassill -
No. 01 JD Motorsports Chevrolet - Cassill did a great job balancing full-time Sprint Cup racing with full-time Xfinity Series racing in 2014. The young driver made the No. 01 Chevrolet competitive on a weekly basis and even grabbed three Top-10 finishes along the way. DNF's in four of the final seven races slightly tempered what was overall a successful campaign. Owner Johnny Davis is returning the team intact for another full slate in the upcoming season. We expect to see some growth in the team and performance, but realize that Cassill is limited to only what JD Motorsports can give him in the way of equipment.

22. John Wes Townley -
No. 25 Athenian Motorsports Chevrolet - This team came together mid-season last year. As a start-up things got off to a pretty good level with Townley cracking the Top 20 in three of his first six starts. However, things tapered off as the season wore on and lack of funding limited the No. 25 team's participation. Athenian Motorsports hopes to run the full schedule in the upcoming season, but funding is still an issue and Townley only has a part-time sponsorship commitment from Zaxby's. If some pieces and parts can come together, this is a team and driver with a lot of potential. Still, the reality is that Townley will likely end up sharing this ride with one or more drivers due to sponsorship issues.

23. Ryan Sieg -
No. 39 RSS Racing Chevrolet - Sieg was one of the more pleasant surprises of 2014. He started out last season focusing on the truck series and was only intending to run a part-time schedule in the Xfinity Series. The No. 39 team performed so well in those early season starts that Sieg abandoned his truck series aspirations and ran the full Xfinity schedule. Over those 33 starts he claimed two Top-10 finishes and earned a respectable 20.0 average finish. With 21 Top-20 finishes, Sieg proved to be one of the most reliable, performing drivers in the deeper end of the driver field. The team has not announced its plans for 2015, but they are expected to return for the full schedule and pick up right where they left off last season.

24. Mike Bliss -
No. 19 Tri Star Motorsports Toyota - The 49-year-old veteran is expected to return to Tri Star Motorsports in 2015. Bliss has been quite productive in the last four seasons of racing for this team. Last year he grabbed six Top-15 and 22 Top-20 finishes. With only four DNF's and a 20.4 average finish, Bliss was a dependable week-to-week performer during the 2014 season. While there's little room for improvement due to the team's size/funding and Bliss's age, there's a good trend line here and we know what to expect. He is a staunch competitor and experienced hand behind the wheel with close to 350 starts in his 16-season Xfinity Series career.

25. Jeremy Clements -
No. 51 Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet - It's hard to believe that the 30-year-old is quickly approaching the 200-start plateau, but Clements certainly is on the trail. If he races the full 2015 season he'll hit that 200 mark in the season finale at Homestead this December. With all that experience we started to see some real results last year. Clements piloted his small, self-owned team to two Top-10 and 13 Top-20 finishes. That was good enough to earn the driver of the No. 51 Chevrolet a 15th-place finish in the final driver standings. This is the mark he's nearly averaged in each of his last four seasons of Xfinity Series racing. Clements should hold serve in 2015 and continue to mix it up competitively in the mid-pack of this NASCAR division.

26. Jeffrey Earnhardt -
No. 4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet - Earnhardt completed his first full season of racing in this series in 2014, but to little affect or applause. The nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr. labored to only six Top-20 finishes with his JD Motorsports team last year. The season highlight was an impressive 12th-place finish at Bristol during the midsummer. A rash of six DNF's over the final nine events dropped Earnhardt's average finish to a lowly 26.3 for the campaign. Much more is expected for the upcoming season. While no plans have been announced at this point, it's expected that the team will return with Earnhardt behind the wheel but potentially with a new crew chief. There are lots of questions to be answered before this young driver can climb the rankings.

27. Eric McClure -
No. 24 JGL Racing Toyota - McClure merged his organization with JGL Racing over the off-season and will launch the new team in 2015. The veteran driver's longtime sponsor, Hefty/Reynolds, will come with him to the new team and set up for a solid campaign ahead. Veteran Jay Guy has been named crew chief and he will team with McClure's 250-plus starts of experience in the Xfinity Series. The 36-year-old has battled major health issues the last couple seasons, so it's something to keep in mind during fantasy draft day. However, if McClure's health holds up and he races the full 33-event slate, he can pose some value and performance with this newly formed team.

28. Cale Conley -
No. 44 Tri Star Motorsports Toyota - Conley makes the jump from part-time racing to full-time racing in 2015. The young driver made 11 starts for the Richard Childress Racing No. 33 team last year and claimed one Top-10 finish in those efforts. Conley will now likely pilot the No. 44 Toyota at Tri Star Motorsports and expand his experience in the Xfinity Series. The 22-year-old has 35 starts of experience in the K&N Pro Series East over the last four years, so Conley is not completely inexperienced. However, his resume is short enough to cause some concern. Tri Star will expect a lot of Conley in his first season with the team, but we're likely to see more growing pains than successes in his first 33-event slate.

29. J.J. Yeley -
No. 28 JGL Racing Toyota - Yeley made 27 of his 30 starts for this team in 2014 and was able to make some headway for JGL Racing. It's assumed he'll return to this seat in the upcoming season given the solid 16th-place finish Yeley netted in the season finale at Homestead. The journeyman driver claimed 13 Top-20 finishes last season, so he has a lot to offer this race team. Fast approaching 200 career starts in the Xfinity Series, Yeley has the experience to keep him in a ride like this all season long and be productive in those starts.

30. Tanner Berryhill -
No. 17 Vision Racing Toyota - This was little more than a start-and-park ride for Berryhill last season. The 21-year-old Oklahoman had 14 DNF's and 3 DNQs in his 29 starts for the No. 17 team in 2014. The Vision Racing team hopes to add a second car in the upcoming season, so that would lead us to believe that Berryhill will return and do more than just start-and-park racing. While all this remains to be seen in the pre-season, it is encouraging enough to move Berryhill up our radar. The young driver did crack the Top 25 in two starts in the second-half of last season, so when given the opportunity to race Berryhill can perform.

31. David Ragan/Other Drivers -
No. 98 Biagi-Denbeste Racing Ford - While only a part-time ride, this team showed some real pop and performance potential in their part-time slate of 2014. NASCAR veteran, Ragan, made six starts with this team and grabbed a pair of Top-10 finishes in those events. He teamed with Aric Almirola, Jeb Burton and a handful of other drivers to make 15 starts total or roughly half the schedule. The conglomerate garnered a respectable 18.3 average finish. While no plans have been announced, we expect a similar slate and driver lineup for 2015. When on the track this small team can be very competitive, especially when Ragan is behind the wheel.

32. Ryan Blaney/Joey Logano -
No. 12 Penske Racing Ford - This team doesn't get out of the Penske shop often, but when they do they tend to turn heads. Blaney and Logano alone made five starts with this team during the 2014 campaign. In those starts they went five-for-five in the Top-5 finish department. To say that they were a threat to win each time would be an understatement. The part-time effort is headed up by veteran crew chief Greg Erwin, so you can bet they'll be fast off the hauler every time. A similar schedule and driver lineup should be in store for the upcoming season. Whenever the No. 12 Ford is on the entry list, which isn't too often, they are a great one-off start in most fantasy racing leagues.

33. Blake Koch -
No. 8 Tri Star Motorsports Toyota - Koch has been resigned to drive the team's No. 8 Toyota in 2015. He'll be paired with crew chief Bruce Cook and look to move this team forward. Koch made 28 starts for Tri Star last year, in a couple different cars, but the body of work wasn't the greatest. It was mostly a start-and-park operation with 14 DNF's and 2 DNQs. However, there were bright spots along the way. Koch did claim nine Top-25 finishes when the team raced competitively. So the potential is there to do much more, but funding and sponsorship needs to improve before Koch can climb the driver rankings.

34. Joey Gase - Jimmy Means Racing -
No. 52 Chevrolet - Gase returns to the No. 52 Chevrolet again this year. The 21-year-old turned in his best effort last year during his first full season of Xfinity Series racing. He made all 33 events and achieved an average finish of 29.4 over those starts. However, that included a total of 11 DNF's which pulled down some better performances. Those were the four Top-25 finishes he claimed along the way. Gase has a lot of upward potential, but it's limited by this small team's resources and funding.

35. Jamie Dick -
No. 55 VIVA Motorsports Chevrolet - The team ran a 21-race schedule last season and with some success along the way. Dick claimed a couple of Top-25 finishes in the limited schedule and was generally running at the end of most of his starts. As of early January there have been no releases from the team indicating their plans for the upcoming season. We can only imagine they'll field Dick again in a part-time capacity due to lack of funding. With the many obstacles this small team faces, it will be difficult to expect more from this driver in the way of performance.