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These Are The Fastest Full-Time NASCAR Teams to Fold

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With the sudden and shocking closure of Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of the 2024 season, we here at the Daily Downforce thought it would be interesting to take a look back at some of the other big teams with high-profile drivers who left the sport just as quickly as they came in. Not all of these teams have reached the height of success as SHR. Some of these teams had high points but unfortunately went winless during their entire existence. On the other hand, there are several teams on this list that reached unimaginable heights only to close so quickly that it made our heads spin, The Exorcist-style. Before we get into our list, here are a few prefatory matters.

List Qualifications:

  • We are looking strictly at NASCAR Cup Series teams here, not teams exclusive to the lower divisions of NASCAR. Nor are we looking at the successful Cup teams’ failed offshoots into those other series. So omitted from this list are Kevin Harvick Inc., Kyle Busch Motorsports (the truck and Xfinity teams, the latter of which lasted all of two seasons), and Brad Keselowski Racing.
  • Another criterion is that we are only counting the seasons in which the team went full-time. For example, several teams started out as part-time starters and parkers. We’re not including the history of those teams here in our tally.
  • Lastly, we’re looking at mostly high-profile teams. So we’re not including teams like NY Racing or even StarCom, the latter of which ran full-time but had no highlight reel whatsoever. Also not making this list is Live Fast Motorsports.

Now, with no further ado, here are the 5 biggest full-time NASCAR Cup Series team with the shortest lifespans at NASCAR’s highest division. Check it out.

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Honorable Mention: Furniture Row Racing (2006-2018; 13 seasons)

Yeah, yeah, I know this is supposed to be a “top 5” list but bear with me. I couldn’t go through without at least mentioning this team. Despite its abrupt demise, Furniture Row Racing was one of the unlikeliest success stories in NASCAR history. The team was technically a part-time start ‘n park effort when they were founded in 2005. But they were ambitious as they planned to go full-time the following year in 2006. Because they intended to be a full-time team, that’s where their history, for the purpose of this list, begins.

They started the 2006 season with veteran driver Kenny Wallace behind the wheel of the flagship number 78 Chevy. But after failing to qualify for 12 of the first 22 Cup races in the 2007 season, he was swapped out for drivers such as Scott Wimmer and Sterling Marlin before hiring Joe Nemechek to finish out the season. Nemechek stayed with the team in 2008 and failed to qualify in only 4 races of the scheduled 36.

For the 2009 season, the team dropped back to part-time racing before returning to full-time racing in 2010 with driver Regan Smith. Smith also delivered the team its first-ever win at the 2011 Southern 500. But even with the win at Darlington, the team was still largely considered a backmarker. That was until Kurt Busch came over from Phoenix Racing to run the 2013 season. Busch never won with the team but did elevate it so they could take that next step.

The big move in history was hiring Martin Truex Jr. to drive the 78 car in 2014, in conjunction with leaving Chevrolet for Toyota in 2016. Truex became their flagship franchise driver, while the manufacturer change meant a strong working relationship with Joe Gibbs Racing. Unfortunately, that very relationship led to the team’s demise.

Like a well-crafted story, Truex took the little team that could and ended up winning a championship with them in 2017. They were looking to do the same in 2018 but fell just shy of the mark finishing 2nd in the season-ending point standings. The team ended up closing its doors following the 2018 season. But why? The speculation was that it had something to do with their agreement with JGR. Some sources reported that JGR was upping its technical support price by over 300%. With owner Barney Visser’s health issues, owning and operating a NASCAR team was no longer viable.

Ultimately, Furniture Row Racing went from part-time start ‘n parkers to full-time back markers. Then to champions. When they completed their 13th season in the sport and shut their doors, they were at the top of their game. It almost makes you wonder what could have been.

#5: Dale Earnhardt Incorporated (1998-2008; 11 seasons)

This one personally hurts me the most. Dale Earnhardt Incorporated actually started back in the 1980s as a part-time effort in the Xfinity Series for team owner Dale Earnhardt. Eventually, the Busch team went full-time, but their history in the NASCAR Cup Series didn’t begin until the 1998 season. By ’97, Dale Earnhardt was beginning to think of the bigger picture. He realized that there were more years behind him in his NASCAR driving career than ahead of him, and he wanted to build for the future. He entered the number 1 in select races in 1997 with the intention of going full-time in 1998.

The driver he chose to pilot the team’s flagship number 1 was Steve Park. Park, a Busch Series regular, had a lot of promise, but his start with the team in the NASCAR Cup Series was slow. He ran in the Daytona 500 and the next race at Rockingham and finished outside the top 30 in both. During practice the next week at Las Vegas, Park crashed and was injured. The no. 1 team withdrew only to return but failed to qualify the next two weeks with Phil Parsons and Ron Hornaday behind the wheel, respectively.

Then entered Dale’s longtime rival and friend Darrell Waltrip, who, while subbing for the injured Park, went on to have something of a late-career resurgence. Waltrip made 13 starts for the team before Park’s return at that year’s Brickyard 400.

The team synonymous with DEI, however, was actually the second team added to the fold: the number 8 driven by NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Little E scored the first ever victory for the team, winning the 2000 spring race at Texas. He also won one of the team’s 3 Daytona 500 victories in 2004 (Michael Waltrip, driving a number 15 expansion team from 2001-2005, scoring the other two) and was the only DEI driver to make a serious run at the Cup Series title in both 2004 and 2006.

The first domino to fall in the team’s ultimate demise happened all the way back in 2001 with the death of team owner Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt was tragically killed in an accident on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. For a while, it seemed as though the team would survive the loss of their frontman. However, with B E’s death, the team was owned and operated by Dale’s widow, Teresa Earnhardt, who would have a bitter rights battle with Dale Jr. until little E left the team following the 2007 season. After Jr. made the jump from DEI to Hendrick Motorsports, the team lasted only 1 more year.

For the 2009 season, Martin Truex Jr. (the then driver of the 1) left the team for the greener pastures of Michael Waltrip Racing. The team “merged” and was subsequently engulfed by Chip Ganassi Racing and Teresa was out of the sport for good. Today, the only DEI that exists is the gift shop and museum found on the campus of the old race team. Teresa Earnhardt still currently owns the rights and likeness of the number 1 font used for the team’s flagship team. Recently, however, she let the trademarks on the font for the 8 and 15, respectively, lapse. Michael Waltrip purchased the 15, while DEJ Holdings Inc. (Dale Jr.’s company) is now trying to gain custody of the number 8’s likeness.

The team lasted for 11 seasons, from 1998 to its closure in 2008.

#4: Michael Waltrip Racing (2007-2015; 9 seasons)

When Michael Waltrip Racing burst onto the scene in 2007 with backing from Toyota, it quickly became a laughingstock in the NASCAR garage. Unlike most start-up teams, it didn’t have just 1 full-time entry; it had 3: the 55 Napa-sponsored car for owner-driver Michael Waltrip, the 00 Aarons and Domino’ s-sponsored car for David Reutimann, and the number 44 UPS-sponsored Camery for veteran driver and former NASCAR champion Dale Jerrett.

The story of the first season was just how abysmal MWR was when it came to qualifying for races. Of the 36 on the schedule, Waltrip failed to qualify for 22 of them, Jarrett failed to qualify (even with his champion’s provisional) for 12 of them, and Reutimann for 10.

In 2008, with the addition of Joe Gibbs Racing under the Toyota umbrella, the team saw an uptick in performance. They were then able to qualify for most of the races and stay inside the 35 in owner points. Michael Waltrip also got the team their best finish to date with a 2nd place at New Hampshire that year.

The team’s first win came at the 2009 Coca-Cola 600 with David Reutimann behind the wheel of the Aaron’s/Tums 00 Toyota. The team went on to win a total of 7 times, the bulk of those wins coming from the likes of Clint Boyer (who joined, driving the number 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota in 2012) and part-timer Brian Vickers. Martin Truex Jr. (driving a Napa-sponsored number 56) also scored his second-career victory for the team at Sonoma Raceway in 2013.

Perhaps the strongest performance from the team was the 2012, which saw Clint Boyer finish 2nd in the overall points standings behind Brad Keselowski. The team, however, started to unravel during the 2013 season with the infamous spin gate controversy. Simply put, at Richmond that year, team president Ty Norris ordered Brian Vickers to pit and Clint Boyer to intentionally spin out. This was an effort to get Martin Truex into the NASCAR Playoffs. The attempt to cheat failed and cost MWR a massive $300,000 fine.

Sponsors such as Napa left the team, causing it to drop down to a 2-car team before ultimately closing its doors for good by the end of the 2015 season. The team lasted in the top level of NASCAR for a total of nine seasons.

#3: Darrell Waltrip Motorsports (1991-1998; 8 seasons)

The infamous Darrell Waltrip Motorsports is lasting one year less than his brother’s team at 8 seasons. Unlike his younger brother’s team, DWM was a one-car operation throughout its whole existence in the NASCAR Cup Series. For their first two seasons in 1991 and 1992, the team used engines provided by Hendrick Motorsports. It was during those seasons when the team scored Darrell Waltrip his final 5 wins of his career: North Wilkesboro and Pocono in ’91 and Pocono, Bristol, and the Southern 500 in ’92.

What ultimately caused the downfall of DWM from 1993 onward (other than the age of the team’s owner-driver) was their decision to start manufacturing their own engines. For the remainder of the team’s existence, engine failures plagued the team, not to mention DW’s faltering confidence as a driver.

DWM ended up closing its doors following the race at Darlington in 1998, selling the team to Tim Beverly who went on to form Tyler Jet Motorsports.

#2: Levine Family Racing (2016-2020; 5 seasons)

The most recent (not to mention one of the briefest) teams on this list is Levine Family Racing. The team was founded by owner Bob Levine and started running full-time in 2016, with Ty Dillon and Michael McDowell sharing the seat in the number 95 Chevy. Michael McDowell went full-time in the car in 2017 before leaving for the greener pastures of Front Row Motorsports. During the 2018 season, Kasey Kahne signed on to be the team’s full-time driver, but his health eventually took him out of the car after the Southern 500 of that year. Regan Smith ended up finishing out the year.

In 2019, with driver Matt DiBenedetto, the team switched to Toyota (after the closure of Furniture Row Racing) and aligned themselves with JGR. Instantly, there was a noticeable difference in performance as Matty D. was able to run in the top-5 on occasion. Perhaps the team’s most memorable moment was during the fall Bristol race in ’19 which saw the 95 lead a number of laps and contend for a win against Denny Hamlin. Unfortunately, they ended up finishing 2nd.

For the 2020 season, JGR developmental driver Christopher Bell moved up from the Xfinity Series to join the team. After losing him at the end of the season to JGR, the team abruptly closed up shop. The word was that it was a similar situation as with Furniture Row that prompted the Levine family to cut their losses and pull out of NASCAR.

The team went winless, though they did come close that one time at Bristol. Their lifespan in NASCAR was 5 seasons.

#1: Red Bull Racing (2007-2011; 5 seasons)

In Formula One, one of the best teams, inarguable, is Team Red Bull. But did you know that the famed F1 team once tried their hand at NASCAR racing? With the introduction of Toyota in 2007, Red Bull Racing made the jump to stockcar racing. And, in that season, they performed only slightly better than all the other Toyota teams. Meaning, that they missed a lot of races and struggled to find their footing.

For the 2007 season, RBR had 2 full-time entries: Brian Vickers in the 83 Red Bull-sponsored Toyota and A. J. Allmendinger in the number 84 Red Bull-sponsored Toyota. Similar to MWR, RBR struggled to make races, with Vickers failing to qualify for 13 of the 36 scheduled races and Allmendinger failing to qualify for a whopping 19 of the 36. After Allmendinger failed to make the first three races of the 2008 season, he was replaced by former F1 driver Scott Speed, who didn’t fare any better.

Also like MWR, the team (the number 83 team for Vickers, specifically) really started to click in 2008. They contended for a handful of top-5s and even won their first race at Michigan in 2009 with Vickers behind the wheel. Health issues that would go on to end Vickers’ career years down the road ultimately took him out of the car, and the team was never really the same after that. Vickers, for all his flaws, was their franchise driver, and losing him seemed to be the big death blow to the team.

Red Bull Racing did capture one other victory in the NASCAR Cup Series. The win came at Phoenix in 2011 with superstar driver Kasey Kahne behind the wheel. But Kahne was in a lame duck year as he had a contract to go over to Hendrick Motorsports starting in 2012. Without the talent with him and Vickers, the team closed shop following the end of the 2011 season.

The team lasted a total of 5 years in the NASCAR Cup Series. It’s kind of wild to think about, considering their monstrous success in F1.


What do you think, Daily Downforce readers? Do you remember any of these teams? If so, what are some of your favorite moments from them? Or did you forget completely that they even ever existed? Let us know what you think and continue to tune in to for all the latest news on NASCAR.

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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