NASCAR: Which Sprint Cup Drivers Have Had the Most Disappointing Seasons in 2012
Sure, there have been some drivers who have had outstanding seasons thus far in the Sprint Cup Series, including Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson.
Others have had fairly good campaigns, including the other nine Chase for the Sprint Cup competitors. You really can't say any of them—even 12th-ranked Matt Kenseth, fresh off a win Sunday at Talladega – have had bad years if they made the Chase.
And then there's others who had such high hopes and expectations coming into 2012, only to see many of those lofty goals fall short—in some cases, way short.
Granted, there are guys like Jamie McMurray, Jeff Burton, Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano, Casey Mears and others who have not had the greatest of seasons. They missed the Chase, may (or may not) have visited victory lane just once and, in totality, have been left to pretty much play out a string during the Chase since they're not part of it.
Perhaps more than in any of the eight previous editions of the Chase, listing the drivers who have had the most disappointing seasons in 2012 doesn't really require all that much thought. It's a virtual no-brainer: Their collective performance and lack of overall success speak volumes.
So without further ado, here's Bleacher Report's pick of the five drivers who had the most disappointing performances in 2012.
No. 1 Carl Edwards
Without question, Carl Edwards has been the most disappointing driver in Sprint Cup this season. After coming so close to winning the championship last season—he actually tied Tony Stewart in points, only to lose on the first tiebreaker (wins per driver)—Edwards has been a shadow/shell of himself in 2012.
Not only has Edwards failed to win a race in the first 30 events this year, his winless streak is now at 63 races and counting, dating back to last season.
Even worse, he has just three top-five finishes this season. Sad, very sad. This is not the Cousin Carl that so many have grown to love and cheer for.
There was also the unexpected departure of crew chief Bob Osborne several races prior to the start of the Chase due to health reasons.
Frankly, Edwards has looked lost much of this season. In fact, it's almost a case of déjà vu in a sense. Have you forgotten how he won nine races and finished second to Jimmie Johnson in 2008, only to go winless and miss the Chase in its entirety the following season?
Let's hope Edwards can get things back on track in 2013, because 2012 will go down in his record book as nothing short of being a lost cause.
No. 2 Kyle Busch
For someone who is one of the most talented and exciting drivers in the sport—having taken the checkered flag a combined 105 times in his NASCAR career (51 wins in the Nationwide Series, 30 in the Camping World Trucks Series and 24 in the Sprint Cup Series)—2012 has been nothing short of horrendous by the typical lofty standards Busch has set for himself over the years.
In 2011, he won 18 races combined across the three series, including four in Sprint Cup competition. In 2012, he has reached victory lane just once (Sprint Cup).
Sure, Busch has dramatically scaled back his extracurricular racing in the Nationwide and Trucks Series, but who knew that doing so would affect his overall performance in the Cup series as well?
Busch failed to qualify for the Chase this season for just the third time in his career. If things don't turn around for him in 2013, it may not be the last time such a dubious distinction befalls him.
There's been a great deal of talk that Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers may part ways at season's end, that their once near-magic working relationship has done a 180-degree turnaround. But where have we seen this before (hello, remember Steve Addington's tenure with KyBusch)?
There have even been rumbles, which were heightened after the younger Busch brother publicly criticized Toyota last Sunday at Dover—comments that he eventually retracted and apologized for – that he may not be part of Joe Gibbs Racing much longer.
After alienating primary sponsor Mars/M&M's last season, and now Toyota this season, Busch may have already seen his best days in the Cup series—and at the far too young age of 27.
No. 3 Kurt Busch
We've heard of sibling rivalry, but the Busch brothers have taken it to new levels in their NASCAR careers.
Kurt Busch went from having one of the premier rides in the sport with Penske Racing to essentially having to restart his career this season with James Finch's Phoenix Racing. Sunday at Talladega was Busch's last ride for Finch as he replaces Regan Smith at Furniture Row Racing next week at Charlotte, the start of what Busch hopes will be the next step in his climb back up the NASCAR success ladder.
The first driver to ever win the Chase back in 2004, Busch even gave us some old-style excitement at 'Dega, leading the race and looking like he had a legitimate shot at winning, only to wreck out—and then draw NASCAR's ire afterward when he drove away from series officials and headed for the garage, claiming he did not hear pleas to stop where he was at the time.
Whether he gets yet another penalty for disobeying the sanctioning body remains to be seen, but it sure would have been a storybook ending had he won at 'Dega rather than finish with yet another more-of-the-same outing.
Will Busch be any better at Furniture Row? We can only hope, because if he blows this opportunity as well, there may not be any more opportunities left for the elder Busch brother.
No. 4 Ryan Newman
Sooooo close, yet so far away. That was the story for Ryan Newman in 2012. He had a strong car in numerous races and had one win, but when all was said and done, just didn't have enough to make the Chase.
It's the fifth time Newman has failed to make NASCAR's marquee event in the last seven seasons.
And then, as if to add insult to injury, primary sponsor U.S. Army will pull its sponsorship at season's end.
One other thing of note: Newman used to be the most prolific qualifier in the sport, with 49 poles since 2001. But you want to guess how many races he's started from the front of the pack this season? Zero, the first time that has happened in his full-time Cup career (granted, he still has six races to get that elusive first pole for 2012).
Newman had such high hopes when he joined Stewart Haas Racing in 2009, but when you miss the Chase twice in your four years with the organization, your future is anything but secure. While he has renewed his deal with SHR for at least 2013, Newman needs to get back onto the winning side of the ledger next year, lest he find himself looking for a new team in 2014.
No. 5 Juan Pablo Montoya
If someone can come up with something, anything, positive to say about Montoya's season, speak now or forever hold your peace.
If things continue on the path they've gone thus far in 2012, the Colombian native is on track to have his worst season ever in Sprint Cup racing.
Because he's been so far off the radar of most observers, Montoya's performance—or rather, lack thereof—has been nothing short of abominable this season.
He continues a winless streak that has now reached 80 races. He's won just two Cup races in 211 career starts. He's led just 22 laps during the entire season thus far. His average start to date is the worst of his career (23.4), while his average finish (21.7) isn't that much better. He's made the Chase just once in his six-year Cup career, and finished a career-high eighth in the final standings that season. Even worse, in his six Cup seasons, Montoya has finished 20th or worst four times and 17th the other time.
Having turned 37 less than three weeks ago, Montoya is on the downhill slide of what has been a great racing career that includes winning the 2000 Indianapolis 500 and four top-five season finishes in Formula 1.
Except for his foray into NASCAR.
As loyal as Montoya has been over the years in both open-wheel and NASCAR to team owner Chip Ganassi and vice versa, unless things turn around dramatically in 2013, Montoya may be looking for a new sponsor and new ride the following season.
Can he make a dramatic reversal of bad fortune? Let's put it this way: We're not holding our collective breath.
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