Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: Who Didn’t Return to NASCAR in 2016?

Last year before the season-ending NASCAR action at Homestead-Miami Speedway, this space chronicled the stories of a few drivers who, after coming to the track and racing in 2014, did not, for whatever reason, do so in 2015.

Interesting enough concept, so why not try it again?

With just races at Homestead and Phoenix International Raceway left on the docket, there’s a formidable list of racecar drivers who have not appeared in the finishing results or on the DNQ list of any race in the Sprint Cup, XFINITY or Camping World Truck series in 2016 that either raced or attempted to qualify in 2015. That list could change with the addition of any of these folks at Phoenix or Homestead, but the bulk will remain the same.

And that list doesn’t even count Jeff Gordon, who was expected to retire after 2015 but came out of retirement to run a part-time schedule in the Cup Series to substitute for the ailing Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the No. 88 for his old team, Hendrick Motorsports. Maybe next year’s will, but hey, never say never at this point with Gordon, apparently. Keeping an eye on you, Tony Stewart.

Wondered where some of these drivers went? Want a refresher on a few that you might have even forgot existed? Let’s take a look at a few of them, with a full, alphabetical list following.

(Photo: Mike Neff)
Mason Mingus is just one face you haven’t seen in NASCAR this season. (Photo: Mike Neff)

James Buescher: The 2012 Truck Series champion has been nowhere to be seen in 2016; in fact, he hasn’t raced in one of the top series since the third race of the 2015 season at Martinsville Speedway. He’s since gone into realty.

Ron Hornaday, Jr.: Speaking of former Truck Series champions, four-time champ Hornaday has been out of commission since his ill-fated stint with The Motorsports Group in the Cup Series last year, being released by the team after the first Bristol Motor Speedway event. His company, Hornaday Race Cars, builds dirt modifieds, and he was part of the nominee shortlist for the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductions, though he did not end up inducted.

Brian Keselowski: Brad’s younger brother went back to running his ARCA Racing Series team… at least at the beginning of the 2016 season. But a lack of funding kept the Michigan-based team away from the track after Toledo Speedway despite two top-10 finishes in three races.

The Wallaces: As in, Kenny, Mike and Mike’s son Matt. It’s weird to think, but this is the first time in a long time that no one from the famed Wallace family competed in a race in NASCAR’s national series (although the name remained, thanks to Darrell Wallace, Jr.). Not surprising on Kenny’s part, as he retired after running Iowa Speedway for Joe Gibbs Racing in the XFINITY Series last year, moving on to modifieds. Brother Mike had heart surgery in spring 2015 and has been out of commission since — and made the news earlier this year after he and his daughter were attacked and beaten at a Rascal Flatts concert in Charlotte in June. A mistrial for his alleged attackers was declared last month.

Kyle Weatherman: A NASCAR career seemed possible for Kyle Weatherman, who drove the season finale in the Truck Series last year for Lira Motorsports, which was making its own series debut with two trucks, the other for David Levine. Lira planned a full-time schedule in 2016, and Weatherman had a full slate of racing in ARCA for the team as well. Instead, Lira’s Truck Series effort folded after just two races in 2016, and its ARCA side followed in June, effectively damaging the chances for Weatherman to secure a series title. He still ended up running 15 of 20 races and finishing seventh in the standings.

Brad Teague: In news of drivers saying they’re retiring and actually meaning it, Teague, 68, capped off a three-decade, 241-race career in the XFINITY Series with one final race at Bristol last summer in Carl Long’s No. 13, finishing 26th.

Justin Jennings: After becoming a familiar face in the Truck Series the last few seasons, with 46 races run between 2012 and 2015, Jennings moved on to Team Penske, where he became a tire specialist for the team’s No. 22 XFINITY Series entry.

Mason Mingus: Mingus ran full-time in the Truck Series for Billy Boat Motorsports in 2015. Neither returned in 2016. Mingus did, however, end up in one ARCA race for Mason Mitchell Motorsports, finishing eighth at Salem Speedway.

Dalton Sargeant: Sargeant ran four races — and scored two top 10s — in the Truck Series for Wauters Motorsports but hasn’t yet surfaced in NASCAR this season. That’s partially because he’s been busy in the ARCA Racing Series, with 15 of 20 races run in 2016 for Venturini Motorsports, winning one of them in August while coming home eighth in overall points.

The full list:

Mike Affarano
Lawson Aschenbach
Tanner Berryhill
Chad Boat
Justin Boston
Zach Bruenger
Daniel Brown
Chuck Buchanan, Jr. (withdrew from Truck race at Martinsville)
James Buescher
Wendell Chavous
Cale Conley
Madeline Crane
Jamie Dick
Adam Edwards
Cody Erickson
Chad Finley
Kyle Fowler
Matt Frahm
Cassie Gannis
Joey Gattina
Stew Hayward
Ron Hornaday, Jr.
Justin Jennings
Terry Jones (withdrew from Truck race at Talladega)
Ross Kenseth
Brian Keselowski
Will Kimmel
Jody Knowles
Dylan Kwasniewski
Cody Lane
Charles Lewandoski
Johanna Long
Mason Mingus
Donnie Neuenberger
Kevin O’Connell
Ruben Pardo
Travis Pastrana
Bobby Reuse
Dalton Sargeant
Michael Self
Peyton Sellers
Bryan Silas
Tyler Tanner
Brad Teague
Kenny Wallace
Matt Wallace
Mike Wallace
Kyle Weatherman
Jim Weiler
Jimmy Weller
Brian Wong

About the author

Rutherford is the managing editor of Frontstretch, a position he gained in 2015 after serving on the editing staff for two years. At his day job, he's a journalist covering music and rock charts at Billboard. He lives in New York City, but his heart is in Ohio -- you know, like that Hawthorne Heights song.

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Tom B

What about Mike Bliss and Eric McClure?

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