NASCAR Midseason Report Cards: Hendrick Motorsports on the Honor Roll, Roush Fenway Keselowski Gets a Big Fat ‘F’

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Chase Elliott poses with his trophy after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400.

The NASCAR Cup Series season has reached its official halfway point, so it’s time to hand out midyear grades to all the major organizations competing in the sport’s premier division.

For purposes of this “report card,” we’ll first take a look at the teams on the “Honor Roll.” Next, we’ll examine the next tier of teams – those who get a “Passing” grade for their 2022 performance. Finally, we’ll wrap it up by ruminating out loud on the teams that’ve been well wide of the mark over the first 18 races. This last group will be categorized as “Failing,” but that doesn’t mean each team has earned an “F.”

All teams will receive some type of letter grade, however, so you can know exactly how we rate each team from first to worst.

Let the grading begin!

Hendrick Motorsports and Trackhouse Racing headline the honor roll

Hendrick Motorsports (A+): The singular fact that all four Hendrick drivers have gone to Victory Lane this year is enough for the powerhouse organization to deserve our top ranking. In addition to that, though, Hendrick driver Chase Elliott is atop the standings – where he’s been since the conclusion of the season’s fifth race – and a driver from the organization owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rick Hendrick has triumphed in a third of the events contested so far. No matter what happens over the rest of the regular season, Hendrick drivers (Elliott, William Byron, Alex Bowman, and Kyle Larson) will account for one-fourth of the original 16-driver playoff field that’ll be set in September. Impressive? Yeah, the Hendrick bunch has been that and more this season.

Trackhouse Racing (A-): It’s hard to believe that at this time a year ago, Trackhouse Racing was a first-year, single-car team with nary a Cup Series win to its credit. But the combination of Trackhouse purchasing the assets of Chip Ganassi Racing – an established organization – last offseason and this year’s rollout of the Cup Series’ Next Generation race car has catapulted Trackhouse from pretender to contender status in seemingly no time. It also didn’t hurt that Trackhouse co-owner Justin Marks added a second team for 2022, bringing driver Ross Chastain into the fold. Chastain gave Trackhouse its first Cup win – while scoring his first career Cup victory in the process – at Circuit of The Americas, then needed only a few weeks to return to Victory Lane at Talladega. Teammate Daniel Suarez recently joined Chastain in the win column, notching his first career Cup victory on the road course at Sonoma.

Team Penske (B+): NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner Roger Penske’s organization gets major bonus points for opening the season with a victory at the Daytona 500 courtesy of Cup rookie Austin Cindric.

Teammate Joey Logano has since put two more wins on the board for Team Penske, but Penske’s Ryan Blaney – coming off a career-best three-win season in 2021 – is surprisingly winless in points-paying events (Blaney did win the All-Star Race at Texas).

Joe Gibbs Racing (B): For most organizations, going to Victory Lane three times in the first half of the Cup Series campaign would be considered a major success. Not so for Joe Gibbs Racing. Denny Hamlin leads the organization in wins, with two, but is a lowly 20th in the standings due to extreme inconsistency (four top-10s in 18 starts). JGR’s other win is credited to Kyle Busch, but even Busch acknowledged he got lucky at the Bristol dirt race when frontrunners Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe tangled in the final corner, allowing the No. 18 Toyota to skate by. JGR drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Christopher Bell are winless but in position to make the playoffs based on points, although Bell currently holds the 16th and final spot and could easily end up locked out.

Michael Jordan’s 23XI Racing earns 1 of the passing grades

Stewart-Haas Racing (B-): For the second season in a row, the organization co-owned by three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart has struggled to field consistently fast race cars – even though this year’s Next Generation car is nothing like its “Generation 6” predecessor. As it stands today, Chase Briscoe – by virtue of his win at Phoenix – is the only one of SHR’s four drivers with a ticket punched to the playoffs. Veteran Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola – in his final season as a full-time Cup driver – are the first two drivers behind the playoff cutline, while SHR’s Cole Custer is nowhere in the picture.

Richard Childress Racing (C+): Had these grades been released before Sunday, July 3, RCR wouldn’t have fared even this well. But thanks to Tyler Reddick and his playoff-clinching win at Road America, the organization founded by six-time Cup champion team owner Richard Childress has at least half of its two-man driver roster in the hunt for a championship. Reddick’s teammate, Austin Dillon, is a disappointing 19th in the standings and will almost certainly need a win in the next eight weeks to qualify for the playoffs.

23XI Racing (C): The growing pains continue in Year Two for the Michael Jordan- and Denny Hamlin-owned organization, which expanded to a two-car team in 2022 with the addition of Kurt Busch. A veteran driver and former series champion, Busch earned 23XI its first playoff berth with a win at Kansas, but teammate Bubba Wallace has dealt with myriad issues on pit road and struggled to keep a positive attitude toward his team. This organization remains a work-in-progress.

JTG Daugherty Racing (C-): After a horrendous start to 2022, lone JTG Daugherty driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has made some modest strides that included four consecutive top-10 finishes spanning the entire month of May. Stenhouse has since fallen off the proverbial wagon, however, failing to post a top-15 in his last four outings.

Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing earns the worst of the failing grades

Kaulig Racing (D+): In its first full season of Cup competition, Kaulig Racing has endured the kind of struggles you might expect from a fledgling organization. One notable bright spot came when driver Justin Haley – Kaulig’s lone full-time Cup driver – finished third at Darlington. Another came on the road course at Circuit of The Americas when AJ Allmendinger managed to take part in a late three-way battle for the lead. Unfortunately for both driver and team, though, they came out on the short end when Allmendinger spun and finished 33rd. Allmendinger is sharing Kaulig’s second car with Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson this season.

Front Row Motorsports (D): There’s been no repeat this season of Michael McDowell’s 2021 Daytona 500 heroics, but the veteran driver has been able to bag seven top-10 finishes despite being 21st in points. Rookie teammate Todd Gilliland has fared worse, with nary a top-10 result.

Petty GMS Motorsports (D-): The off-season merger of Richard Petty Motorsports and GMS Racing hasn’t borne much fruit as the organization’s top-running Cup driver, Erik Jones, has gone winless while posting only one top-five. Jones was leading at Talladega, however, before getting shuffled from first to sixth on the final lap.

Wood Brothers Racing (F): Little positive can be said about this year’s results for the single-car Wood Brothers organization, which works closely with Team Penske as part of a longstanding technical alliance. Like fellow rookie Todd Gilliland, Cup Series newcomer Harrison Burton has been unable to record a single top-10. The second-generation driver – who is the son of 21-time Cup Series race winner turned NASCAR on NBC announcer Jeff Burton – has an average finishing position of 23.7 and is 28th in the standings. 

Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing (F): Brad Keselowski has failed miserably in his plan to make the organization now bearing his name a contender.

Keselowski, who left Team Penske to become a co-owner and driver this season at the newly branded RFKR, has finished no better than ninth and is 30th in the standings where he leads only two other full-time drivers. Teammate Chris Buescher finished second at Sonoma, but that’s his only top-five, and he’s 22nd in points.

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