Winners and losers in NASCAR's silly season

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AJ Allmendinger proved to be the big winner in NASCAR's offseason, landing at Penske Racing

Winners and losers in NASCAR's silly season

AJ Allmendinger proved to be the big winner in NASCAR's offseason, landing at Penske Racing

One by one the dominos fell as the 2011 Sprint Cup field molded itself into the one we'll see when the green flag drops on the 2012 Daytona 500. Some of those dominos were expected to be in play, such as Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer. Others, like Kurt Busch, were not.

Here is a look at the winners and losers in one of NASCAR's silliest seasons in a long time:

Edwards: He looked over the fence to see if the grass really is greener on the other side and found he had a good thing going right where he was. Staying with Roush Fenway looks like the right choice, as Edwards very nearly won his first Cup championship. Verdict: Winner

Roush Racing: Keeping Edwards in house was a major victory for Jack Roush and Ford. The manufacturer doesn't have a lot of star power, if only because its stable of drivers isn't very large to begin with. Losing Edwards would have left both Roush and Ford without a big-time sponsor magnet. They won't have to think about that for awhile now. Roush also landed Best Buy as a part-time primary sponsor, which is great news for an organization that doesn't have full funding for Matt Kenseth. Verdict: Winner

Bowyer: Bowyer's first choice likely would have been to stay with Richard Childress Racing. Alas, economics got in the way forcing Bowyer to take his skills and sponsorship to Michael Waltrip Racing, an organization that's still trying to prove itself. It's a step down for Bowyer, albeit a small one, but a step down nonetheless. Verdict: Loser

[Related: Allmendinger joins Penske Racing]

Michael Waltrip Racing: In Bowyer, MWR once again improved its lineup. Two years ago Michael Waltrip convinced Martin Truex Jr. to join his fledgling organization. Now he adds Bowyer, one of the hottest young drivers in the sport. Not bad for an organization that nearly shut its doors a few years ago. Verdict: Winner

AJ Allmendinger: No one benefitted more from Kurt Busch's stunning departure from Penske than Allmendinger. In five Cup seasons, the former open-wheel driver has driven for four different owners, none with much stability. Now he lands at Penske, where he'll have his best shot at winning. Verdict: Winner

Penske Racing: It's hard to be on the winning side when you replace a former champion with a driver who's never won a Cup race. But not having to deal with the headaches caused by Kurt Busch's antics should provide plenty of satisfaction for everyone inside the Penske Racing stable. Verdict: Winner

Kurt Busch: The 2004 champ is putting on a happy face, saying he's looking forward to putting the fun back in racing again. That's all fine and dandy, but will he still be saying that in June if he's not competing for wins? His move to the underfunded, single-car Phoenix Racing will either be the beginning of the end for Busch or the place where he proves he's worthy of a big-time ride again. Verdict: Loser

Phoenix Racing: Gene Haas was a fledgling owner in the Cup Series until Tony Stewart came on board and turned him into a championship owner. Can Kurt Busch do the same thing for James Finch? Verdict: Winner

Richard Petty Motorsports: Losing Allmendinger and sponsor Best Buy in the span of a few days is tough. Allmendinger very nearly made the Chase in 2011, finishing the regular season sitting 13th in the standings. Now, RPM is without a driver (though an announcement is expected soon) and a sponsor, leaving them to scramble to find funding for the No. 43. Verdict: Loser

Brian Vickers and David Reutimann: The pickings will be slim for the two biggest names remaining on the free-agent market. There still remains the possibility that someone will purchase the assets from the now defunct Red Bull Racing. That could be the best chance at a Cup ride for either Vickers or Reutimann. Verdict: Losers

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