NASCAR Sprint Cup: The Season's 15 Biggest Disappointments

David DeNennoContributor IIIMarch 19, 2012

NASCAR Sprint Cup: The Season's 15 Biggest Disappointments

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    With four races down and a visit to each type of track now complete (except for road courses), it's time to start speaking of the season as a whole.

    It already has had some ups and downs. This article will focus on the downs that should have been up, so to speak.

    It is not too late in the season for any drivers to reverse their performance or bad luck, but they need to right the ship quickly in order not to fall too far behind in points.

    Not all of the items on this list are about the drivers. Some are related to events off the race track.

    Here are 15 moments from the 2012 season that disappointed.

The Rain at Daytona

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    This was both disappointing and unprecedented. Never before had the Daytona 500 been put off to a Monday.

    Equally disappointing was how long NASCAR waited to cancel it that Sunday. The television broadcast had continued for about four hours before  we learned that it had all been for naught.

    This wouldn't be the last Daytona delay... 

Daytona Lap 2: Danica Patrick and Jimmie Johnson Make an Early Exit

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    One of the big draws for the Daytona 500 this year was Danica Patrick's first entrance into the race. Once it finally got underway on Monday evening, the field had barely completed a lap before a multi-car wreck swallowed up Patrick and Jimmie Johnson.

    Whether or not you are a Patrick fan, it seemed a major disappointment that she did not even get the chance to really compete in her first Sprint Cup race.

    After all the waiting for the race to start, her early exit only exacerbated that feeling.

The Jet Dryer

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    A race that already had been delayed for 24 hours went under the red flag for two hours to clean up this mess.

    What could be more frustrating? Matt Kenseth finally ended the drama early Tuesday morning by grabbing his second career Daytona 500.

    Thank God this grueling ordeal was finally over.

The National Anthem at the Subway Fresh Fit 500

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    Recording artist Brian McKnight (center) and his sons were tapped to sing the national anthem at NASCAR's second race of the season in Phoenix.

    I don't know what son is on the far right here in the gray shirt, but he started the song off singing solo. It did not sound very good at all, almost if he began it in the wrong key. Brian McKnight looked over at him like he was definitely doing something wrong.

    Either way, once the other son and Brian joined in in harmony, they saved it a little bit.

    Of course, it wasn't a huge deal, but it's always a little disheartening to hear the anthem butchered.

    This little incident prior to the singing didn't help matters. You can also hear him butcher the first couple notes.

Clint Bowyer's Tire Problems

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    In his second race with his new Michael Waltrip Racing team, Clint Bowyer had a tough time in Phoenix. Specifically, he kept cutting up his right front tires, which necessitated two extra pit stops.

    This resulted in a 30th-place finish for Bowyer and his team. While this kind of stuff happens in racing all of the time and is the nature of the beast, it's tough to see a basic piece of equipment like a tire essentially ruin a driver's day.

    This is even more the case when that driver is in only his second race on a new team.

Marcos Ambrose Blows Up

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    After running solid all day at Phoenix, Marcos Ambrose found himself in third place with only 20 or so laps to go. Having never won a race on an oval-shaped track, Ambrose was not accustomed to being in this position.

    Tragedy struck just a few laps later when his engine basically blew up and his good day went up in smoke, relegating him to a 32nd-place finish.

Tim Allen's Grand Marshalling

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    Tim Allen was needlessly ridiculous at the Kobalt Tools 400. He had a simple job: All he had to do was say four words into a microphone. "Gentleman, start your engines" are the most famous words in all of racing, not just NASCAR, and do not need to be altered, ever.

    Allen's altercation of "Gentlemen, light these bad boys up!" was simply unnecessary.

    The funny thing is, he admits in the video here that he is stepping on tradition. Disappointing.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. After Losing the Lead at Las Vegas

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    Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn't win the pole in Las Vegas, his teammate Kasey Kahne did, but Jr. looked like he should have. As soon as the green flag dropped, he took off and dusted Kahne, taking first place before the first lap was finished.

    Earnhardt Jr. would not relinquish that lead for another 70-odd laps. This was a good thing: He had not led that many laps all of last year.

    The only problem with getting that early lead was he never got it back, and frankly wasn't ever all that close to doing so. His eventual 10th-place finish masked a dominating performance in the early part of the race.

    Anyone who thinks that Jr. was going to finally get over that winless hump during this early period of the Las Vegas race, please leave a comment.

Joey Logano at Las Vegas

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    After two races, Joey Logano never had been off to such a good start. He was in eighth place going into the first 1.5-mile track of the season in Las Vegas.

    This would be an important test for him, mainly because this is the type of track where a majority of NASCAR races are held.

    At the Kobalt Tools 400, he lost a spot in the standings after posting a 16th-place finish. This wasn't terrible, but it will be tough for Logano to make his first Chase if he can't do better at the 1.5-mile tracks.

    Any fans who look forward to seeing first-time Chase participants should have been disappointed. It just doesn't bode well for Logano.

Denny Hamlin at Las Vegas

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    Denny Hamlin looked truly dominant in the first couple contests of 2012. He followed up a fourth-place finish at the Daytona 500 with a win in Phoenix.

    It looked, at this point, like the addition of crew chief Darian Grubb was exactly what Hamlin needed to get back on track in 2012.

    Then he went to Vegas, basically struggled all day with his car and ended up a disappointing 20th. He equaled that finish at the Food City 500.

    Which Denny Hamlin will show up at the next race in Fontana? It's frustrating to try to choose.

Disappointing Drivers: Slides 11-15

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    Slides 11-15 will be devoted to specific drivers for their performances during the course of 2012. The drivers have had a shot at every track, and after four races, it is fair to relegate some into the category of disappointing.

    A.J. Allmendinger, in the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger, has to be considered a disappointment, even this early in the season. The biggest disappointment for 'Dinger is that with his new team that supposedly has better equipment, he has actually regressed from last year.

    After Bristol in 2011, Allmendinger was 16th in points and had one top-10 finish. In 2012, he is in 26th place after Bristol and has no top-10s. His best finish is 17th thus far; that came after qualifying second for the Food City 500.

    Team owner Roger Penske cannot be too pleased.

Kasey Kahne

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    Kahne's 2012 season mirrors Allmendinger's season almost exactly. Both have no real strong showings, though Kahne did win the pole at Las Vegas.

    Still, few would have thought that Kahne's move to Hendrick Motorsports from Red Bull racing would result in 32nd place in the standings after four races.

    Many expected both Kahne and 'Dinger to compete for the Chase. If they continue like this, they won't even be eligible for a wild-card berth.

Kurt Busch

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    It is not a surprise that Kurt Busch has regressed since joining a second-tier racing team such as Phoenix Motorsports.

    Still, 27th place is a position Busch has not been in for a while. At least, if he was, he did not stay there for long.

    He shows no real signs of climbing out of that position. It could happen, but I think we've seen what "par for the course" for Busch's 2012 campaign is going to look like.

Jeff Gordon

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    I am not sure if Gordon's current 23rd position in the standings is more surprising or disappointing. It's certainly not all his fault. He blew up not even halfway through the Daytona 500 and his own teammate (Earnhardt Jr.) cut his tire on the track at Bristol.

    Gordon managed a respectable eighth- and 12th-place finish at Phoenix and Las Vegas. Of all the drivers in this section, Gordon has certainly shown the most in terms of his ability to claw his way back into Chase contention.

    Is anyone else surprised to see him this low at this point in the season?

Jimmie Johnson's Issues

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    Jimmie Johnson has raced like a solid contender in the three races since his 42nd-place debacle at the Daytona 500. Even while incurring a 25-point penalty, he was still in 17th place after finishing ninth at the Food City 500 in Bristol.

    It's just a disappointment for the sport as a whole to see a five-time champion cast in such a negative light. It brings up questions about his legacy, and whether or not he cheated to win those prior championships. All in all, it is just a negative situation on all sides of the equation.

    Even though the No. 48 team's penalties have been rescinded in a final appeal, according to USA Today, it is an unfortunate situation no matter what is ultimately right.