NASCAR Sprint Cup: Who Have Been the Most and Least Lucky Drivers This Season?
This NASCAR season has been filled with some lucky and unlucky drivers. Some of the luckiest drivers would find themselves moving to new places after this season ends. Others would find themselves sitting in a good place in the chase after having a dominant season.
And others would get a chance to prove themselves.
Some drivers, however, haven't been so lucky. Some of the least lucky drivers would find themselves the victims of crashes in several races, and winless throughout the season. Others would have to deal with car problems which would put a damper on their chances throughout the year.
While some drivers were able to overcome their bad luck and turn it around, others weren't so lucky.
As the season starts to come to a close, there is always the possibility of drivers improving, or losing, their luck.
Will Keselowski continue to lead in points and win the chase? Or will his luck run out? Could Carl Edwards finally win a race? Or will he finish the season winless?
Here are several of the most and least lucky drivers so far this season.
Least Lucky: Kyle Busch
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Kyle Busch is another driver who has had a pretty rough season.
He's been up front in more than one race, but has found himself the victim of engine failure several times this season. In fact, Busch has had engine trouble in three consecutive races.
That's some pretty bad luck.
Kyle would at least win at Richmond earlier in the year. Still, Kyle has had some pretty rotten luck this year, enough to keep him out of the chase.
His temper would finally get the better of him when his bad luck, and a mix of bad pit decisions, would cost him a win a Dover; a race where Busch was dominating.
Kyle would go on a rant about Toyota racing development which would hit a nerve with the TRD president.
Busch would eventually apologize for his comments, but his attitude toward TRD was a reflection on the poor luck he's had all season.
We all know Kyle has a bit of a temper and can let it get the best of him, like it did last year in the Camping World Series.
With consecutive losses due to engine trouble this year, missing the chase and having a dominant car at Dover but yielding no results, Kyle Busch has been one of the least lucky drivers this NASCAR season.
Most Lucky: Kasey Kahne
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Kasey Kahne may have had a rough start to his season, but this year he has been one of NASCAR's luckiest drivers.
From moving to a big race team like Hendrick Motorsports, to holding on to a solid place in the chase standings, Kahne has been lucky throughout the year.
Kahne making the move to Hendrick Motorsports has paid off, as he would go on to win two races this season and manage to hold on to a wild card spot in the chase.
He bounced back from being knocked out of the Daytona 500 and several other poor finishes to establish himself as a serious competitor this season. Now he sits 5th place in points, moving up two spots after surviving the wreck at Talladega, but dropping one spot after the Saturday night Charlotte race.
Kahne clearly is having a better season than last year, and while he may have lost a spot in the chase, he shouldn't consider himself out of it just yet.
With teammates like Gordon and Johnson, Kahne has been one of the luckier drivers this season, and now this far into the chase, it's starting to show. Sure, Kahne is a solid driver on his own, but being able to bounce back from poor finishes takes both skill and luck.
Kahne has had both throughout the season.
Least Lucky: Juan Pablo Montoya
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Juan Pablo Montoya has been lackluster for a couple of seasons now.
What makes him one of the least lucky drivers, though, is something he will probably always be associated with throughout his career.
Juan Pablo crashing into a jet dryer during an already delayed Daytona 500 race is something Montoya will never forget.
Something went wrong with his car as he was passing a jet dryer and caused him to crash right into it.
How unlucky can you get?
Montoya is lucky nothing happened to him after the crash, but he would cause a further delay of the Daytona 500 as the jet fuel spilled on to the track and began to burn the concrete.
Ever since his accident at Daytona, Juan Pablo has been relatively quiet throughout the entire season. Could there be other reasons for a quiet Juan Pablo this season? Of course, but starting out the year crashing into a jet dryer is a pretty bad way to begin the season.
And something which makes Juan Pablo one of the least lucky drivers this year.
Most Lucky: Brad Keselowski
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After Kurt Busch and Penske decided to part ways earlier this season, Keselowski took over as the main man, and he has delivered.
To come from where he used to be a few seasons back, to now being a dominant driver who has won six races this season, Keselowski has had a mix of skill and luck to help him get to the top of the chase standings.
Keselowski has had some lucky pit strategies, and a car setup that has been dominating with fuel mileage this year.
Now, leading both Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin in points, Keselowski has emerged as the driver to beat this year.
His luck over the past several years has begun to change, and with his driving skills, Keselowski has begun to make a name for himself. Kurt Busch and Penske separating was not only a lucky turn of events for Keselowski, but something that would help him move up to the next level as a driver.
Is Brad Keselowski a great driver? Of course he is, but he has also had luck on his side this season.
Most Lucky: Brian Vickers
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Brian Vickers hasn't been much of a stand out this season. He's running on a limited schedule with Michael Waltrip Racing, and has been the driver of the 55 for several races this season.
Still, even with his limited starts, Vickers has had three top-five finishes out of his seven starts this season.
After the Red Bull Racing team folded last year, Vickers would find himself without a ride. No one was jumping up to sign him either. Whether it was from his lackluster 2011 season or for some of his actions on the track against drivers like Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth, things were looking grim for Vickers.
It's not like there are a lot of teams with room to pick up a full time driver for the 2012 season. Kurt Busch for example, dropped from Penske racing this season to Phoenix Racing, a much smaller team. More than likely Busch and his actions played a role into why he would end up on the small team, but there was almost no availability left for Busch as the season started up.
If a proven driver like Kurt Busch had a hard time finding a new ride, how would Vickers fare?
Vickers landing himself a part-time ride at Michael Waltrip Racing is an extremely lucky move for the young driver. Not only can he continue racing, but he was also given the chance to prove himself, and he has taken full advantage of it.
If anyone doubted Vickers from his poor 2011 performance, his 2012 improvement has made up for it. Luck has clearly been on Vickers side this season.
Least Lucky: Sam Hornish Jr.
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Sam Hornish Jr. had a great chance to capitalize on the empty spot of the Penske 22 car in the cup series.
Unfortunately, he wasn't impressive enough for Penske to justify starting him full time next season.
Hornish stepped up and helped Penske when he was in a bind after A.J. Allmendinger was suspended. He has had several top-10 finishes, and his best finish would be 5th at Watkins Glen.
He clearly wasn't ready for a full season in the eyes of the Penske organization, and will find himself back in the Nationwide Series next year, with limited Sprint Cup starts.
Penske Racing president, Tim Cindric, was quoted over at AOL sports as saying:
“We continue to see him grow in terms of his abilities as a Cup driver and his confidence level. …He’s going to continue to drive the 22 car for the remainder of the year."
“We’ve continued to work on putting a Cup program together for Sam. We just haven’t been able to close that process yet.”
Hornish Jr. seemed like the best choice for the Penske 22 after Allmendinger was released. Unfortunately for Sam Hornish Jr, his luck will run out at the end of the season.
Most Lucky: Joey Logano
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While Sam Hornish Jr. should consider himself one of NASCAR's least lucky drivers this season, Logano should consider himself one of the most lucky.
Hornish failed to make the 22 a full time ride because Logano would be the one who Penske would pick to race in the 22 next season.
After it was announced that Matt Kenseth would be racing for Joe Gibbs racing next season, Logano's future began to look a little unclear. Would he be forced back down to Nationwide? Did Gibbs have the sponsorship to field four cars?
It would be hard to see a driver like Logano, who was believed to have so much promise, be put back in Nationwide where he clearly still dominates, winning eight races in 18 starts this year.
Logano landing a ride at Penske is great for the young driver. Now he can step out of the shadows of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch and hopefully become a better driver next season.
Logano was quoted over at ESPN.com as saying:
"I am very excited to join Penske Racing and begin the next phase of my career. I am looking forward to the opportunity as it will be an honor to drive for Roger Penske and race for wins and championships. I am also proud to represent Shell-Pennzoil as they are a respected global brand that does a great job of activating in the sport on and off the track."
Getting the chance to drive for such a solid team and organization is no small feat. And while Logano will have a lot to prove next season, he should consider himself one of the luckiest drivers in NASCAR this year.
Most Lucky: A.J. Allmendinger
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A.J. Allmendinger should consider himself extremely lucky. After being suspended and dropped for failing a drug test earlier this season, it's hard to believe that A.J. would be able to make any type of comeback in the Sprint Cup Series.
Allmendinger must have lady luck on his side. Because of a coincidence of events, Allmendinger has managed to land himself a ride for Phoenix racing, at least for Charlotte.
Even before Allmendinger and his suspension, he was extremely lucky. Being placed in the Penske 22 is no small feat, and clearly Penske saw something in this young driver.
After being suspended and eventually released from Penske, it would be easy to consider A.J. extremely unlucky. But who honestly believed that the 'Dinger would come back after being dropped?
It's hard to imagine any racing team would want to hire someone who failed a drug test, simply because of how sponsors might feel, regardless of how good of a driver the person is. Still, this is an extremely lucky break for the 'Dinger, and he needs to take full advantage of it.
Kurt Busch struggled this year for Phoenix Racing; if Allmendinger can do better than Busch, maybe he can re-do his NASCAR career. More than likely Phoenix Racing will stick with Regan Smith when Dale Earnhardt Jr. returns, but this is still a great break for A.J., one that makes him one of the luckiest drivers this season.
Least Lucky: Carl Edwards
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To say Carl Edwards has been one of NASCAR's least lucky drivers this season would be an understatement.
He went from barely losing the chase last year, to constantly finding himself the victim of crashes this season. Even his latest accident at Talladega is proof the NASCAR gods are not happy with Edwards. He would find himself caught up in a small crash only 17 laps into 'Dega.
Edwards has had some poor finishes all year, enough to keep him out of the chase. Not winning any races this season hasn't helped Carl Edwards either.
Yes, for some reason Carl has just had an extremely unlucky season. It's hard to imagine how Edwards came so close to winning the chase, and now can't seem to get out of his own way.
Edwards would also be the victim of a controversial black flag call during the April Richmond race.
Losing races, being the victim of crashes and even bad calls aren't the only things that have made Edward's season extremely unlucky.
Bob Osborne would also have to step down as crew chief for the 99 due to health issues.
Edwards has had a lot of bad luck this season. Losing Osborne as his crew chief made it even worse. Hopefully Edwards can survive the rest of the season, regroup and try again in 2013.
Least Lucky: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. was having a pretty good season so far this year.
Jr. would win a race and break his long winless streak, have several top-10 and top-5 finishes and make it into the chase.
Then Talladega happened.
A last lap wreck would knock Earnhardt Jr. down in the points standings and pretty much take Jr. out of the chase.
It would also give Dale Jr. a concussion that would take him out of the 88 car for two weeks. The real problem for Jr. started back in Kansas during a tire test, where Dale was involved in an incident. Talladega would only make it worse.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was quoted over at NASCAR.com as saying:
"It was not even half of the impact that I had at Kansas. But it was enough to cause me some concern. So I went a couple of days, wondering how my body would react, sort of waiting for it to process what was happening. By Wednesday, I was still having some headaches. Those were really the only symptoms that I was having, but I took it upon myself to contact my sister and we talked about seeing a neurosurgeon. We ended up getting steered toward Dr. Petty and met with him."
Earnhardt Jr. has to sit out the next two races, and his concussion also ended his streak of 461 consecutive races, which is the fifth longest streak in NASCAR history.
Talladega ruined a couple of drivers chase chances, but Dale Jr. would be the only driver who would end up getting sidelined for two weeks. That's pretty bad luck.
Most Lucky: Regan Smith
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With Dale Earnhardt Jr. out due to a concussion, Hendrick Motorsports needed a driver for the 88. Regan Smith would be the lucky driver to get the call on Thursday.
Smith’s luck has only come over the last several days, but getting to step in for NASCAR's most popular driver is extremely lucky.
He wasn't always this lucky though. Smith would lose his ride with Furniture Row Racing before the season was even up, and would get shuffled over to Phoenix Racing.
Now he has the chance of a lifetime, as he prepares to drive for one of the premiere racing teams in NASCAR.
Smith was quoted over at ESPN.com as saying:
"It is certainly a good opportunity, I am very fortunate that I am the guy they chose to call. I really appreciate that. It is going to be the best car I have sat in, yes, there is no denying that. I just want to go out and make the most of it. Run all 500 miles and see where we are at when it is all said and done."
This is a huge opportunity for Smith, especially after losing a ride this year. He's going to be racing in the best car he’s ever had, and if he can take full advantage of the situation, it will more than likely lead to good things.
Smith might have been one of the least lucky drivers a few weeks back, but now that he’s getting to race in the 88 for another week, he should be considered one of the luckiest.