The Most Wreck-Prone Drivers in NASCAR
NASCAR and wrecked cars go together like peanut butter and jelly. Any driver, on any given day, can have their car battered, mutilated or even flipped.
It happens to the best drivers in the world just as it does the lesser-known participants in the sport.
It should be remembered that all drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup are outstanding drivers. They all had to win and win often just to get a shot at starting a Sprint Cup race.
As a caveat, the key word for this list is "prone." This is not a statistical study of drivers' wrecks compared to races run.
Rather, this list takes into account other factors, such as personality and quality of equipment, to conclude which 10 are most likely to collide with other drivers or the wall during the course of a Sunday afternoon.
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Michael McDowell participated in almost every Sprint Cup race in 2011, yet only finished two. One of those two races was in Kyle Busch's No.18 M&Ms Toyota after being called up to replace Busch after he was parked by NASCAR.
He seems to suffer from being placed in inferior equipment. Most notably, many of his races were cut short due to problems with his brakes.
Some of the nastiest, hardest wrecks in NASCAR find their genesis in failed brakes. What can a driver do when he is cruising, gets into a turn where he needs to let up and cannot stop at all?
The usual answer is to hit the wall, hit another car or limp back to the garage if he is able to get on the apron.
Aside from this, McDowell will always be dubiously remembered for his horrific crash during qualifying in Texas in 2008. Check it out here. Rather embarrassing!
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Pictured here is Landon Cassill in the No. 51 car spinning out and eventually crashing to end the 2011 season at Homestead Miami.
Although he only actually crashed out of two races in 32 attempts during the course of 2011, 2010 was plagued with various mechanical problems that made him a danger to other drivers on the track. Thankfully, he bowed out early of most of the 2010 events.
In 2011, he seemed to be a little more conservative and regularly finished in 30th or worse place. One wonders what would have happened if he ran more laps and had more chances for disaster to strike.
Phoenix Racing, his team, seemed unwilling to gamble on those odds and replaced him with Kurt Busch for the 2012 season after Busch was released by his team owner, Roger Penske.
Juan Pablo Montoya
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Juan Pablo Montoya does not suffer from a lack of ability or inferior equipment.
His inclusion on this list is simply related to his personality and the resulting collisions that ensue because of it.
In describing Montoya's driving style, one word comes to mind: aggressive.
This aggression leads him not only to the receiving end of other drivers' retribution, but also occasionally causes him to spin out when he refuses to give any room to another driver in his vicinity.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
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The crash pictured here between Stenhouse Jr. (No.6) and Carl Edwards (No. 60) was probably the best of his career. He won the race and the crash itself was not, in any way, his own fault.
Still, despite coming back to win the NASCAR Nationwide series in 2011, Stenhouse Jr. was crash-happy in 2010 and very nearly drove himself out of his own ride with his poor performances.
As Stenhouse Jr. notches more Sprint Cup experience, it will be interesting to see if he can avoid the debacle that was 2010. Until then, he should still be considered crash-prone at the Sprint Cup level.
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Joey Logano is still a young driver, well below the average age of Sprint Cup drivers. Sometimes it shows.
Although he has proven himself a willing and skilled "pusher" in restrictor plate racing, he sometimes seems to get bullied a bit by his fellow colleagues when racing alone.
This lack of respect, or whatever you may choose to call it, renders him liable to getting pushed around and, unfortunately, saying "hello" to more walls than he would care to remember.
The picture represents one such incident, wherein Dale Earnhardt Jr. felt that Logano needed to be moved to make more space for himself going into turn four at Martinsville.
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After a one-year hiatus due to a medical condition, Brian Vickers returned in 2011 to a rather wreck-filled season that was both forgettable and frustrating.
The No. 83 Red Bull Toyota suffered a few wrecks in the beginning of the year, then was rather quiet all the way until the final few races of the year.
For whatever reason, Vickers seemed to take out his frustrations on whomever was in his way during the Martinsville Chase race. After multiple bumps and bruises in the same race, Matt Kenseth finally had enough and ended his day.
Unperturbed, Vickers returned the favor by wrecking Kenseth and damaging his own car in the season's penultimate race in Phoenix.
Perhaps it should not come as a surprise that Vickers has had little luck in finding a full-time Cup ride after Red Bull decided to close shop after the 2011 season.
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This may seem like a strange choice. Kyle Busch is actually one of the cleanest and smoothest stock car drivers in the world today.
Consequently, certain days, depending on his car and his mood, seem to beckon him towards a wreck.
In most cases, it has to do with some sort of mechanical failure. Other times, his temper flares and the results can be harmful to both him and the victim of his cantankerous mood.
(I admit a small bias in including him here: In the two NASCAR races I have attended, he has wrecked in both).
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It seems disrespectful to dub former champion Bobby Labonte as a "has-been," but his racing ability seems to be dwindling as his age keeps growing.
He is not necessarily a threat to wreck or to other drivers, but as his reflexes continue to slow, he becomes more and more prone to wrecking with each and every season.
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This is the type of image that comes to mind when I think of Michale Waltrip in a race car.
Although he is a former Daytona 500 winner, he usually seems to end up in the sort of predicament pictured, more often than not.
Even his newly signed driver Clint Bowyer remarked, at one point, that Waltrip is, "the worst driver in NASCAR, period." That may be a bit of a hyperbole, but Waltrip is most definitely prone to trading paint with other cars or the wall during the course of any race.
David Gilliland and David Reutimann
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Statistically, David Gilliland is NASCAR's unofficial king of wrecking within the context of full-time Sprint Cup drivers. Since 2007, he has averaged about three wrecks per year. 2011 was a bit worse, as he managed to wreck in four out of 36 races.
In other words, he averaged a wreck once out of every nine times he started up his engine. That can happen to any driver once in a career. Unfortunately, that is just a bit above average for Gilliland.
To put it within the context of baseball, David Gilliland's 2011 season was akin to a career .215 hitter flirting with the Mendoza line.
On the other hand, David Reutimann's statistics are not nearly as paltry, but it has not been an unfamiliar sight to see his No. 00 Toyota limping to pit row or the garage due to his unfortunate excursions on the track.
It is not fair to point to this tendency as a prime reason as to why Reutimann lost his job at Michael Waltrip Racing after the conclusion of the 2011 season.
However, it had to be a factor, if but a small one.