NASCAR: The Most Impressive Drivers Who Failed to Win in 2013
The Most Impressive Drivers of 2013 Who Didn't Win
17 different drivers visited victory lane this past year in NASCAR and we had a lot of surprises near the front. Drivers such as Brian Vickers, Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray and David Ragan all won a race in 2013 and in doing so, snapped some fairly long winless streaks. There were a few drivers in 2013 who performed admirably, but were unable to capture a win. In fact, 14 of the 28 drivers that ran every single race on the schedule failed to dislodge that goose egg in their win column. To be honest, some of them never even came close, but there were a few that had career seasons despite not winning a single race. This list highlights five drivers who impressed me the most with their performances after looking at how it compares to their showings from past years. Before we get started, check out the stats below regarding some of the top drivers who failed to win in 2013.
Top Drivers That Came One Spot Short of Victory Lane in 2013
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Finished second FIVE Times
- Clint Bowyer - Finished second TWO Times
- Kurt Busch - Finished second TWO Times
- David Gilliland - Finished second ONE Time
- Juan Pablo Montoya - Finished second ONE Time
Top Drivers That Led The Most Laps Without Winning in 2013
- Kurt Busch - Led 448 Laps
- Clint Bowyer - Led 354 Laps
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Led 342 Laps
- Juan Pablo Montoya - led 138 Laps
- Mark Martin - Led 92 Laps
Best Average Finishes Among Drivers That Failed to Reach Victory Lane in 2013
- Clint Bowyer - Average Finish of 11.9
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Average Finish of 12.6
- Kurt Busch - Average Finish of 14.7
- Paul Menard - Average Finish of 17.8
- Aric Almirola - Average Finish of 18.8
No.5 David Gilliland
At first glance, you may not understand why I awarded David Gilliland a spot in this list. He finished 26th in points, only led eight laps all season and his average finish was outside the top 25. If you look at David's past history though, you'll quickly realize that this is the best season he's ever had. He drives for the underfunded Front Row Motorsports team and statistically speaking, he has never had a better year. That's really impressive considering that he spent a three-year tenure with the legendary Yates Racing team. Front Row is a small but capable team that keeps growing year after year and earlier this season, they won Talladega in a 1-2 finish with David Ragan and Gilliland.
David Gilliland 2013 Season Highlights
- Points Finish - 26th (Career Best)
- Best Finish - Second (Tied Career Best)
- Average Finish - 26.2 (Career Best)
- Top Fives - One (Tied Career Best)
- Top Tens - Two (Tied Career Best)
- Lead Lap Finishes - 10 (Career Best)
No.4 Casey Mears
Casey Mears is another driver that didn't make a lot of noise this year but still had a great season and the future looks bright for this single car operation. The picture shown above isn't a flattering one of Mears as you can see his No.13 GEICO Ford Fusion pinned against the wall by Kyle Busch's wrecked racecar. It may not look like it but in that photo, Casey is just a few feet away from securing Germain Racing's first ever top ten finish at the Cup level and his first since 2009. Just last year, this little team was start and parking for a handful of races and when they did actually race, they rarely ran inside the top 20. 2013 was a very different story, though.
With full-time sponsorship from GEICO, Casey Mears finished 18th or higher in nine race this past season en route to a very respectable 24th place finish in the standings. In fact, they were the second highest single car team in points next to Furniture Row Racing's Kurt Busch, who ended the year 10th. 2013 was easily Germain Racing's best showing ever and they're only going to be better in 2014. They have formed an alliance with the powerhouse that is Richard Childress Racing and will be making the switch to Chevrolet. With backing from RCR and Chevrolet, don't be too surprised if you see that No. 13 in victory lane sooner rather than later.
Casey Mears 2013 Season Highlights
- Points Finish - 24th (Best Since 2009)
- Best Finish - Ninth (Best Since 2009)
- Average Finish - 24.2 (Best Since 2009)
- Top Tens - One (Best Since 2009)
- Lead Lap Finishes - 15 (Best Since 2009)
No.3 Juan Pablo Montoya
2013 marked the final time we may see Juan Pablo Montoya race full-time in NASCAR. He's made the move back to Indycar driving for Penske Racing. There's no denying that Montoya is among the greats and there seems to be nothing he can't drive, but NASCAR was a challenge for him. He's a champion in CART, a winner of the Indy 500, the Monaco GP and a three-time overall winner at the 24 Hours of Daytona. In NASCAR, he's won two races and made the Chase once in his seven year career. The first was Sonoma in 2007 and the second was Watkins Glen in 2010.
What made his 2013 campaign so intriguing to me was the fact that he was so strong in so many oval races. Juan was within arm's reach of victory lane at ovals on multiple occasions this year and although he had trouble being consistent, he proved he could still get the job done. We watched as he battled for wins against the likes of Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch--all Sprint Cup champions. Is he completely done with NASCAR? No, I highly doubt he is and I believe that's part of the reason why he joined Penske Racing, who has both a solid Indycar team and a championship winning program over in NASCAR. We will see him run Cup races here and there in the future; I can almost guarantee you that.
Juan Pablo Montoya 2013 Season Highlights
- Best Finish - Second (Best Since 2008)
- Top Fives - Four (Best Since 2010)
- Laps Led - 138 (Best Since 2010)
- Lead Lap Finishes - 22 (Best Since 2010)
No.2 Kurt Busch
Let me start with the incontrovertible fact that Kurt Busch is one of the best racers on the NASCAR circuit today. He's a champion that has faced adversity the past few years that would cause some to just throw up their hands and quit. Kurt persevered though. He was fired from Penske Racing at the end of 2011 due to his temper and in 2012, he drove for the underfunded Phoenix Racing team. The car was unsponsored and Kurt's passionate way of expressing his frustration got him into some trouble with NASCAR. After a verbal altercation with Sporting News reporter Bob Pockrass at Dover, he was handed a one week suspension by the powers that be.
In 2013, Kurt got his anger under control, sorted out his personal issues and returned to the track driving for a different one car operation--Furniture Row Racing. His performance shocked us all to say the least. FRR was once known as a 20th place team that would occasionally snag a top 10 here and there. Not anymore. Kurt Busch drove his heart out and gave FRR the best season they've ever had. Along with nine front row starts, Kurt racked up 11 top fives, 16 top tens and led nearly 500 laps. With Kurt Busch at the helm, FRR became the first single car operation to ever make the Chase and ended the season 10th. It was an incredible performance and one that earned the 2004 Sprint Cup champion a seat with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 driving the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet.
Kurt Busch 2013 Season Highlights
- Points Finish - 10th (Best Since 2009)
- Top Fives - 11 (Best Since 2002)
- Top Tens - 16 (Best Since 2011)
- Laps Led - 448 (Best Since 2011)
- Front Row Starts - Nine (Career Best)
No.1 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a fantastic year and it's amazing that with how well he ran, we never saw that No.88 in victory lane. Dale Jr. finished second on five different occasions this year. Had he not suffered an engine failure in the Chase opener at Chicagoland, he would have ended the year third in points. 2013 was one of the best seasons in Dale Jr.'s 15-year career and at the very least, his strongest showing since 2006.
Despite his very impressive year though, victory lane still eluded him. One thing I really liked with Earnhardt this year was how much more aggressive he became. A perfect example was the season finale at Homestead when he rode inches away from the wall and passed both the second and first place cars in a single corner. The despondent Dale Jr. who struggled for every top 10 not too long ago is a thing of the past. I've never said this before in my professional motorsports career, but I see Dale Earnhardt Jr. as a serious contender for the championship in 2014 and he will win multiple races, something he hasn't accomplished since 2004.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2013 Season Highlights
- Points Finish - Fifth (Best Since 2004)
- Top Fives - 10 (Ties Best Since Since 2004)
- Top Tens - 22 (Career Best)
- Poles - Two (Best Since 2002)