2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
The 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was the 60th season of professional stock car racing in the United States and the 37th modern-era Cup series season. The season was contested over thirty-six races, and began on February 9 at Daytona International Speedway with the Budweiser Shootout exhibition race, followed by the 50th Daytona 500 on February 17. Coors Light also replaced Budweiser as the Official Beer of NASCAR, however, Budweiser was still the official sponsor for Bud Shootout at Daytona in February. All Sprint Cup races utilized the Car of Tomorrow template, the cars approved for the 2008 season were the Chevrolet Impala, the Dodge Charger, the Ford Fusion and the Toyota Camry. Dodge had used the Avenger in the 2007 CoT races, the Economic crisis of 2008, with high gas prices over US $4 a gallon caused NASCARs largely blue-collar fan base to feel the pinch. While Bristol was one of a few tracks that still sold out, Daytona International Speedway sold out the Daytona 500, but not the Coke Zero 400. Some track ticket packages now included all-you-can-eat deals, and tracks also offered nearby campgrounds to entice those who come for several days to see Nationwide, for their fall race, Lowes Motor Speedway offered discounts on local hotel rooms, novelties and food and drink. The economy also affected the teams themselves with high fuel prices, with that fuel needed to power the semi-trailer trucks which transport the race cars to. Sponsorships also grew increasingly harder to come by, further increasing the gap between teams, the Yates team made do in piecemeal fashion, finding companies to sponsor a few races at a time, a practice that paid the bills but stretched the marketing department. As a result of the cutbacks, half of the one hundred employees at Yates were laid off, ganassi Racing lost 70 jobs as a result of the closure. Other companies also switched teams for 2009, caterpillar Inc. despite its decade long relationship with Bill Davis Racing and its flagship No. 22, moved to Richard Childress Racings No.31 car driven by Jeff Burton, while General Mills, associating itself with Petty Enterprises since 2000, also left to head for RCRs fourth team. To counter many of these problems, teams took on financial partners, much like Fenway Sports Group joining Jack Roush. In June 2008, Petty Enterprises sold a majority share to Boston Ventures as another example of the economic struggles, see 2008 Chase for the Sprint Cup for the final standings. Teams that were required to qualify on speed each week are listed with their owners points standing in bold, List of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams in 2008. The 2008 season marked the year of television contracts with Fox, TNT. The biggest changes involved ESPN and ABC, as Dale Jarrett became the networks lead race color commentator and Rusty Wallace became the pre-race analyst. Dale, who completed his career with the Sprint All-Star Race XXIV, followed in the footsteps of his father, Ned
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway is a race track in Daytona Beach, Florida, United States. Since opening in 1959, it has been the home of the Daytona 500, in addition to NASCAR, the track also hosts races of ARCA, AMA Superbike, USCC, SCCA, and Motocross. The tracks 180-acre infield includes the 29-acre Lake Lloyd, which has hosted powerboat racing, the speedway is owned and operated by International Speedway Corporation. The track was built in 1959 by NASCAR founder William Bill France and his banked design permitted higher speeds and gave fans a better view of the cars. Lights were installed around the track in 1998, and today it is the third-largest single lit outdoor sports facility, the speedway has been renovated three times, with the infield renovated in 2004 and the track repaved in 1978 and 2010. On January 22,2013, the track unveiled artist depictions of a renovated speedway, on July 5,2013, ground was broken on the project that removed backstretch seating and completely redevelop the frontstretch seating. The renovation to the speedway was constructed by Design-Builder Barton Malow Company in partnership with Rossetti Architects, after the renovations were completed, the tracks grandstands include 101,000 permanent seats with the ability to increase permanent seating to 125,000. The project was finished before the start of Speedweeks in 2016, NASCAR founder William France Sr. began planning for the track in 1953 as a way to promote the series, which at the time was racing on the Daytona Beach Road Course. France met with Daytona Beach engineer Charles Moneypenny to discuss his plans for the speedway and he wanted the track to have the highest banking possible to allow the cars to reach high speeds and to give fans a better view of the cars on track. Moneypenny traveled to Detroit, Michigan to visit the Ford Proving Grounds which had a high-speed test track with banked corners, Ford shared their engineering reports of the track with Moneypenny, providing the needed details of how to transition the pavement from a flat straightaway to a banked corner. France took the plans to the Daytona Beach city commission, who supported his idea, the city commission agreed to lease the 447-acre parcel of land adjacent to Daytona Beach Municipal Airport to Frances corporation for $10,000 a year over a 50-year period. France then began working on building funding for the project and found support from a Texas oil millionaire, Murchison loaned France $600,000 along with the construction equipment necessary to build the track. France was also able to secure funding from Pepsi-Cola, General Motors designer Harley Earl, ground broke on construction of the 2. 5-mile speedway on November 25,1957. To build the high banking, crews had to excavate over a million yards of soil from the tracks infield. 22 tons of lime mortar had to be brought in to form the tracks binding base, because of the extreme degree of banking, Moneypenny had to come up with a way to pave the incline. He connected the paving equipment to bulldozers anchored at the top of the banking and this would allow the paving equipment to pave the banking without slipping or rolling down the incline. Moneypenny subsequently patented his method and later designed Talladega Superspeedway. By December 1958, France had begun to run out of money, the first practice run on the new track began on February 6,1959
Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach is a city in Volusia County, Florida, United States. It lies about 51 miles northeast of Orlando,86 miles southeast of Jacksonville, in the 2010 U. S. Census, it had a population of 61,005. It is a city of the Deltona–Daytona Beach–Ormond Beach, FL metropolitan statistical area. Daytona Beach is also a city of the Fun Coast region of Florida. The city is known for its beach where the hard-packed sand allows motorized vehicles to drive on the beach in restricted areas. This hard-packed sand made Daytona Beach a mecca for motorsports, and this was replaced in 1959 by Daytona International Speedway. The city is also the headquarters for NASCAR, other events include the NASCAR Coke Zero 400 race in July, Bike Week in early March, Biketoberfest in late October, and the 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race in January. The area where Daytona Beach is today was inhabited by the indigenous Timucuan Indians who lived in fortified villages. The Timucuas were nearly exterminated by contact with Europeans through war, enslavement and disease, the Seminole Indians, descendants of Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama, frequented the area prior to the Second Seminole War. During the era of British rule of Florida between 1763 and 1783, the Kings Road passed through present-day Daytona Beach, the road extended from St. Augustine, the capital of East Florida, to Andrew Turnbulls experimental colony in New Smyrna. In 1804 Samuel Williams received a grant of 3,000 acres from the Spanish Crown. This land grant encompassed the area that would become Daytona Beach, Williams built a slave-labor-based plantation to grow cotton, rice and sugar cane. His son Samuel Hill Williams would abandon the plantation during the Second Seminole War, the area now known as the Daytona Beach Historical District was once the Orange Grove Plantation, a citrus and sugar cane plantation granted to Samuel Williams in 1787. The plantation was situated on the west bank of the channel known as the Halifax River,12 miles north of Mosquito Inlet. Williams was a British loyalist from North Carolina who fled to the Bahamas with his family until the Spanish reopened Florida to non-Spanish immigration, after his death in 1810, the plantation was run by his family until it was burned down in 1835. In 1871, Mathias Day, Jr. of Mansfield, Ohio and he built a hotel around which the initial section of town arose. In 1872, due to troubles, Day lost title to his land, nonetheless, residents decided to name the city Daytona in his honor. In 1886, the St. Johns & Halifax River Railway arrived in Daytona, the line would be purchased in 1889 by Henry M. Flagler, who made it part of his Florida East Coast Railway
In motorsport the pole position is the position at the inside of the front row at the start of a racing event. This position is given to the vehicle and driver with the best qualifying time in the trials before the race. This number-one qualifying driver is referred to as the pole sitter, historically, the fastest qualifier was not necessarily the designated pole-sitter. Different sanctioning bodies in motor sport employ different qualifying formats in designating who starts from pole position, often, a starting grid is derived either by current rank in the championship, or based on finishing position of a previous race. In contrast to contemporary motorsport, where only a participant is designated pole-sitter, prior to World War II. The term has its origins in horse racing, in which the fastest qualifying horse would be placed on the part of the course. Originally in Grand Prix racing, grid positions, including pole, were determined by lottery among the drivers, prior to the inception of the Formula 1 World Championship, the first instance of grid positions being determined by qualifying times was at the 1933 Monaco Grand Prix. Since then, the FIA have introduced many different qualifying systems to F1, between 1996 and 2006, the FIA made 6 significant changes to the qualifying procedure, each with the intention of making the battle for pole more interesting to an F1 viewer at home. Traditionally, pole was always occupied by the fastest driver due to low-fuel qualifying, the race-fuel qualifying era between 2003 and 2009 briefly changed this. Despite the changing formats, drivers attempting pole were required between 2003 and 2009 to do qualifying laps with the fuel they would use to start the race the next day. An underfuelled slower car and driver would therefore be able to take pole ahead of a better, in this situation, pole was not always advantageous to have in the race as the under-fueled driver would have to pit for more fuel before their rivals. With the race refueling ban introduced, low-fuel qualifying returned and these decisions are no longer in play. Since the reintroduction of the rule in 2011, this applies to the quickest first session time. Since 2014, the FIA has awarded a trophy to the driver who wins the most pole positions in the season, indicates that the driver won the World Championship in the same season. IndyCar uses four formats for qualifying, one for most oval tracks, one for Iowa Speedway, one for the Indianapolis 500, and another for road and street circuits. Oval qualifying is almost like the Indianapolis 500, with two laps, instead of four, averaged together with one attempt, although with just one session. At Iowa, each car takes one qualifying lap, and the top six cars advance to the race for the pole position. The result of the race determines positions 1–10
Paul Menard is an American professional stock car racing driver. He currently drives the No.27 Chevrolet SS for Richard Childress Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and he also drives the No.2 Chevrolet Camaro in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for RCR on a part-time basis. He is the son of Midwestern home improvement tycoon John Menard Jr. founder of the Menards chain, Menards racing career began at the age of eight when he won the Briggs Junior Karting Class Championship in his native Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He later won the Briggs Medium Class Champion before working his way up to higher level racing and he began ice racing at the age of 15 and won 10 International Ice Racing Association events in his career. He continues to compete in IIRA events in and around Wisconsin, in the summers he raced legends cars on short tracks in Wisconsin. He borrowed Bryan Reffners Late Model for a week winning his heat race and he decided to build his own late model and raced the car three to four times per week. In an interview with Motorsports Minute, Menard said he chose stock cars over Indy Cars because there was no feeder series for Indy Car in his native Wisconsin, in 2000, he began racing a limited schedule in the NASCAR Re/Max Challenge Series, finishing 13th in points. During his rookie season in 2001, he earned a pole and victory at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, the 2002 season saw Menard compete in ReMax Challenge, SCCA Trans-Am, Grand Am Cup and the NASCAR Southwest Tour. He capped his season in the series with a last-lap pass of veteran Ken Schrader for the Phoenix victory. In 2003, Menard joined Andy Petree Racing to compete in NASCAR Winston Cup, Busch, in his first ARCA start at Salem Speedway, he qualified second and finished fourth. Later that year, he started on the pole at Winchester, Indiana and he also had top finishes of ninth in the Busch race at Indianapolis Raceway Park and eighth in the Truck race at the Kansas Speedway. In 2004, Menard began the NASCAR Busch Series season driving the No.33 Chevrolet, midway through the season, he moved to Dale Earnhardt, Inc. in the #11 Chevy. 10 races later, Menard won his first career position at Kansas Speedway and finished 23rd in points despite no top-tens. With Dan Stillman as crew chief beginning in 2005, they started out by leading 57 laps at Daytona, winning the Bud Pole Award at Talladega also had them running up front until getting caught up in a wreck. He got his first top-10 and top-five by placing fifth at the Kentucky Speedway, from there, the team went from 20th to the top-10 in points before finishing sixth on the season. In 2006, driving the #15 car part-time for DEI, Menard scored his first top-10 finish in the NASCAR Cup Series by coming in place at the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Menard also won his first Busch Series race on June 24 at his home track of the Milwaukee Mile by holding off a late race charge, Harvick eventually caused a multi-car wreck attempting to bump him out of the way. Menard finished off 2006 with a finish in the standings
Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
From 1998 to 2009, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. operated as a NASCAR-related organization in Mooresville, North Carolina, United States. The company was founded by Dale Earnhardt and his wife, Teresa Earnhardt, Earnhardt was a seven-time Winston Cup champion. He died in a crash on the lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Despite his ownership of the DEI racing team, Earnhardt never drove for his team in the Winston Cup, instead, he raced for his long-time mentor, DEI maintains a showroom where fans can purchase memorabilia and other goods and pursues partnerships which bring tribute to Earnhardts memory. The DEI campus is open to visitors from Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 2pm, drivers for DEI included Dale Earnhardt Jr. Michael Waltrip, Steve Park, Martin Truex Jr. Mark Martin, Kenny Wallace, and Darrell Waltrip. The No.01 car began in 1997 as the No.36 MB2 Motorsports Pontiac with Skittles sponsorship, derrike Cope was the driver and he finished 27th in the final point standings. In 1998, Ernie Irvan, a driver, took over from Cope. The season was highlighted by Irvans pole win at the Brickyard 400, M&Ms replaced Skittles as the teams sponsor in 1999. Irvan retired from racing in September 1999, following a crash at the Michigan International Speedway, dick Trickle temporarily replaced Irvan before the journeyman, Jerry Nadeau coming over from Melling Racing became the driver of the 36 team. Nadeau left MB2 due to a commitment to drive for Hendrick Motorsports to drive the 25 in 2000. MB2 then signed four-time winner Ken Schrader, Schrader drove the No.36 for three seasons including 2 Top 20 seasons, before leaving for BAM Racing. In 2003, the United States Army replaced M&Ms as the teams sponsor, the car number switched from No.36 to No.01 to support the Armys slogan, An Army of One. Nadeau agreed to return to MB2 as the driver of the No.01 car, in May 2003, Nadeau was seriously injured in an accident while practicing at Richmond International Raceway. Nadeau has never returned to motorsports as a driver and is not expected to do so, the team employed several temporary substitutes before signing Joe Nemechek to drive the No.01 car. Nemechek won the Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway in 2004 and signed an agreement to remain with MB2. Nemechek finished 19th in points in 2004, then improved to 16th in points in 2005,2006 was a struggle for Nemechek and the 01 team, with the team not scoring a top 10 until finishing 9th at Charlotte in October, the 31st race of the season. Nemechek went winless again, with no starts, only two top 10s, and a dismal 27th-place points finish. In 2007, Nemechek moved over to the now-Ginn Racings new 13 Car, veteran Mark Martin, coming off his final year with Roush Racing, was signed drive the car for 23 races in 2007, with Joe Nemechek moving over to the teams new 13 team
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr. known professionally as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Jr. or just Junior, is an American professional stock car racing driver and champion team owner. He is the son of NASCAR Hall of Fame member Dale Earnhardt Sr. Earnhardts success at Daytona International Speedway throughout his career has earned him the nickname Pied Piper of Daytona. He is a two-time Daytona 500 winner, having won the races exactly 10 years apart and he has an estimated net worth of $300 million. He had previously driven the No.8 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt, Earnhardt was born and raised in Kannapolis, North Carolina, the son of Brenda Lorraine and Dale Earnhardt Sr. His maternal grandfather, Robert Gee Sr. was a NASCAR car builder and his first race car was a 1979 Monte Carlo that he co-owned with his older half-brother, Kerry Earnhardt. By age 19 after two seasons of driving Street Stock Division, Earnhardt had honed his abilities to the point of joining the Late Model Stock Car Division. He competed on the North and South Carolina short tracks driving a No.3 Chevrolet, there he developed an in-depth knowledge of chassis setup and car preparation, while racing against his older brother Kerry and his sister Kelley. He worked at his fathers dealership as a mechanic while he went to Mitchell Community College to earn a degree in automotive technology. Earnhardt ran nine Busch Series races between 1996 and 1997 for Dale Earnhardt, Inc, Earnhardt won consecutive NASCAR Busch Series Championships in 1998 and 1999 barely edging Matt Kenseth. In 1998, he made his first start in the Winston Cup Series, at the race held in Motegi. Also in 1999, he drove in 5 Winston Cup races in the No.8 Budweiser-sponsored Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and then in 2000,2000 was Earnhardts breakout year in the Cup Series. He competed for the Raybestos NASCAR Rookie of the Year Award in 2000 and his primary competitor for the award was Matt Kenseth. Kenseth outran Earnhardt in the season-opening Daytona 500 and he became the first rookie to win the All-Star exhibition race. Earnhardt played a part in recreating one Winston Cup milestone in 2000 when he competed with his father and half-brother Kerry in the Pepsi 400 at Michigan International Speedway. That occasion was only the time that a father had raced against two sons – Lee Petty and his two sons Richard and Maurice had previously accomplished the feat. Earnhardt ended the year with two wins, three top-5s, five top-10s, and two poles, in 2001, the major event of the season occurred on February 18, in the final corner of the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. As Earnhardt and his teammate Michael Waltrip raced to the finish line and his father had crashed in turn 4 after Sterling Marlin made contact with his left rear bumper. Earnhardt Sr. shot up the track into the wall behind Waltrip and his son
Hendrick Motorsports, originally named All Star Racing, is an American professional stock car racing team that currently competes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The team, created in 1984 by Rick Hendrick, is one of stock car racings premier organizations. As of the 2016 season, the team has won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on track on the current circuit – except for Kentucky Speedway. The team formerly fielded teams in the now-Xfinity Series before merging its efforts with JR Motorsports, the team also fielded several trucks in the Camping World Truck Series, most recently for development driver Chase Elliott in 2013. All Hendrick race cars are constructed start-to-finish at the 100-plus acre Hendrick Motorsports complex in Concord, more than 550 engines are built or re-built on-site each year, with the team leasing some of those to other NASCAR outfits. Hendrick Motorsports employs over 500 people that perform many day-to-day activities, in 2009, Hendrick Motorsports made history by having three out of the four full-time drivers finish in the top three places in the point standings. The team was formed along with crew chief and car builder Harry Hyde, NHRA and NASCAR team owner Raymond Beadle. The team, called Hendrick Motorsports by 1985, expanded to two cars in 1986, three in 1987, and four in 2002. HMS was one of the first teams in NASCAR to be successful operating multiple entries, the team has also been credited for innovations in engine construction and pit crew training. Hendrick Motorsports debuted in 1984 under the banner All Star Racing with five employees, rented equipment, initially, the team had planned to field a car for seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty with funding from country music business mogul C. K. Spurlock, but the failed to materialize. Afterwards, Hendrick attempted to hire Tim Richmond, then Dale Earnhardt, as a result, the team signed former Rookie of the Year Geoff Bodine to drive the unsponsored No.5 Chevy Monte Carlo for 1984. After a slow start seven races into the season, Hendrick informed Bodine, if we hadnt won that race, then literally the next Monday we were going to shut it down. The team won two times and finished ninth in points. Levi Garrett came on to sponsor the No.5 Chevy in 1985 as part of a multi-year deal, despite not winning a race that year, Bodine earned three poles and improved to fifth in points. The team briefly became an operation when Dick Brooks drove the No.1 Exxon Chevy at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Hendrick expanded into a multi-car team full-time in 1986, with Bodine, Bodine won twice in the No.5 and posted an eighth-place finish in points. His younger brother, Brett, raced as a teammate in the World 600 that year, Bodine went winless again in 1987, finishing thirteenth in points
Kyle Thomas Busch is an American professional stock car racing driver, team owner. He currently drives the No.18 Toyota Camry in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and he also owns Kyle Busch Motorsports, which runs multiple trucks in the Camping World Truck Series. Busch is the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Busch is the younger brother of 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion Kurt Busch. He also currently holds records in NASCAR competition, including the most race wins in a season across the top three NASCAR series, with 24 wins, which he accomplished in 2010. He has the second most all time wins in all three of NASCARs national touring series with 171,29 behind the 200 of Richard Petty. Furthermore, he holds the record for the most Xfinity Series wins in a season with 13 in 2010, at age 19 years and 317 days, Busch became NASCARs youngest ever pole winner in a Cup Series race at California Speedway in 2005. He holds the record for the most wins in a Xfinity Series rookie season, as well as being the youngest driver to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, in 2006. Additionally, he is the driver to win four straight spring races at Richmond International Raceway. When Busch won the 2009 Crown Royal Presents the Russell Friedman 400 at Richmond International Raceway as he turned 24, he was the second of just three people to ever win on their birthday. His team, Kyle Busch Motorsports, became the first Camping World Truck Series team to win the championship in its first year after recording 8 wins,16 top 5. Busch was born in Las Vegas, Nevada and his first driving lessons came at the age of six when he drove around the cul-de-sac of his familys Las Vegas neighborhood in a makeshift go-kart. Although he could not reach the throttle, Busch still was able to pick up the basics from his father Tom, Busch worked in the family garage with his father and older brother Kurt as he grew, becoming crew chief for his brothers dwarf car team at age ten. At the age of 16, Busch began competing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, driving the No.99 Ford for Roush Racing as a replacement for Nathan Haseleu, who was released midway in the 2001 season. He made his debut at Indianapolis Raceway Park, posting a 9th-place finish in his first race in the series, in his second race at Chicago Motor Speedway, he was leading until his truck ran out of fuel with 12 laps to go. Busch competed in a total of six races in the Truck Series in 2001, finishing ninth twice, at IRP, when the age requirements were put in place, Busch switched from NASCAR to the American Speed Association National Tour, finishing 8th in points. In 2002, Busch graduated a year early with honors from Durango High School in Las Vegas and that same year, he made his debut in the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Lowes Motor Speedway, finishing twelfth in the No.22 Chevrolet for WP Motorsports. Having turned 18 in early May, he resumed his NASCAR career and he posted two-second-place finishes in the seven races, including in his debut at Lowes Motor Speedway, and again at Darlington Raceway. Busch began his 2004 season by competing in the ARCA Re/MAX Series 200-mile race at Daytona International Speedway, he won the event and he began his first full-time Busch Series season in 2004, replacing Brian Vickers in the No.5 Chevrolet
Joe Gibbs Racing
Headquartered in Huntersville, North Carolina, roughly 10 miles northwest of Charlotte Motor Speedway, the team has amassed four Cup Series championships since the year 2000. For the teams first sixteen seasons, JGR ran cars from General Motors, during that period, the team won their three championships, two in Pontiac Grand Prixs and one in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Despite this, Joe Gibbs Racing announced during the 2007 season that they would be ending their arrangement with GM at the end of the year and this partnership would eventually bring Toyota their first Sprint Cup when Kyle Busch won the championship in 2015. The team was founded by Gibbs in 1991 after exploring opportunities with Don Meredith, in 1997, Gibbs son J. D. Gibbs was named team president. In 1998, the team began construction on its current facility in Huntersville, the team expanded to four cars for the 2015 season with Carl Edwards driving the No.19 car, following former Roush Racing teammate Matt Kenseth to JGR. According to Joe Gibbs, Toyota offered the team resources and options they were not going to be able to afford to do if they remained at GM. In 2012, JGR shuttered its in-house Sprint Cup Series engine program, the team further has a technical alliance with Furniture Row Racing, a two car team based in Denver, Colorado. Previously JGRs research and development car, what is now the No.11 car debuted at the 2003 Pepsi 400 as No,80, driven by JGR Busch Series driver Mike Bliss with sponsorship from GlaxoSmithKline brand Advair, finishing 26th. The car remained idle until the 2004 Tropicana 400, when Bliss finished 31st in the ConAgra/Slim Jim machine, after a fourth-place finish in the fall race at Richmond International Raceway, the team switched to No.11. The No.11 car went full-time in 2005, with new sponsor FedEx coming on to fund the full season in a multi-year deal. Jason Leffler, who had driven for JGR in the Busch series, was signed to drive the No.11 for the full season, the new team struggled early on in the season. Leffler missed the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, with FedEx Freight moving over to the 18 car that Bobby Labonte would drive to a second-place finish, after 19 starts with a best finish of 12th and sitting 36th in points, Leffler was released from the ride. Terry Labonte ran the three races, then ran the Fall Richmond race finishing 9th. Yeley ran 4 races with a best finish of 25th, in November, it was announced that Denny Hamlin would drive the car for the remainder of the season, then run for Rookie of the Year in 2006. Hamlin ran seven races, finished in the top 10 three times, and earned a pole at Phoenix International Raceway, Hamlin was awarded the No.11 FedEx Express full-time ride in 2006 in addition to his full-time Busch schedule in the No.20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet. Hamlin was part of a large and strong rookie class, including teammate J. J, Yeley, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex, Jr. David Stremme, Brent Sherman, and Reed Sorenson. Hamlin opened the season by winning the Budweiser Shootout non-points race, holding off Dale Earnhardt, in June, Hamlin scored his first Cup Series victory at the difficult Pocono Raceway. Hamlin started on the pole, then battled back from a cut tire to take the victory