In a sport where there's one winner and 42 losers after each race, it's all about finding positives. While it's obvious that everyone wants to be the person who does the burnout on the front stretch before pulling into Victory Lane, top-10s or strong runs add up over the course of a season.
But what about when that doesn't happen? What happens when teams—good, usually consistent, talented teams—aren't finishing the way they should? While that happens every year, the 2013 season has some surprisingly big names attached to this category.
It's not every year that champions are in the "need to improve" category.
Luckily for these drivers, their crew chiefs and the rest of their race teams, it's still early enough in the season that they could qualify for the Chase if they can get whipped into shape.
When you think of consistent drivers, Ryan Newman's name is one that definitely pops up. While he's not the kind of driver who's going to go on Jimmie Johnson-esque win streaks, he's good for one victory a season (his total from the last three years) and a top-10-finish total in the teens.
And that usually stems from the fact that he's so good at qualifying. He is the "Rocket Man," after all.
This year, though, not so much. His best starting position for 2013 is 10th, and he's been worse than 30 on two separate occasions. In all, that puts him in 17th in the standings.
On Saturday, he did bring home a 10th-place finish at Texas. So his ascent up the leaderboard could be just around the corner.
Jeff Burton's demeanor has always seemed to be demure. He's not a back-flipper (Carl Edwards) or a brat (Busch brothers) or a hothead (Tony Stewart). He's just the kind of driver who goes about his business and can string in strong runs accordingly.
This season, though, sees him 23rd in points. He's got one top-10 finish to his name, and came home in 21st place at Texas. For someone in Richard Childress equipment, that's not good enough to make the No. 31 fans happy.
While many drivers would be happy to be in 12th place in the standings (just two places away from the Chase cutoff) at this point of the season, Harvick and his fans have to want more. Harvick and his team have always had lofty, championship-contending standards, and having only one top-10 finish for 2013 isn't up to the level that everyone knows he can perform.
But unlike some of the other drivers on this list, he's just missing the mark. Take away the bad start at Daytona (42nd place) and his worst finish this year is 14th. He's also come in 13th place four times. A few tweaks here and there and he's back in the form that makes him a constant presence near the top of the standings.
Any race fan knows to never completely count Tony Stewart out of anything. Like a smart NBA player who can turn on the intensity when needed over the course of a long season, Stewart has an uncanny ability to come into his own and torch the field over the summer.
That being said, the results right now definitely don't have anyone thinking that Smoke is in championship form. He finished 21st at Texas on Saturday and is 22nd in the points. He has only one top-10 finish this year with no top-fives.
In all, his biggest moment so far this year was his dust-up with Joey Logano. Not a good look for the owner-driver.
Ever since he burst onto the NASCAR scene, Montoya has been a source of debate. Of all the Formula One racers who tried NASCAR in the mid-2000s, he is the only one who's had even a modicum of success.
But "success" and "Montoya" haven't been linked as much in recent years, with 2013 being no exception. Right now, Montoya is in 27th place in the standings and hasn't logged a single top-10 finish yet.
Now, is he running with equipment and resources as good as Burton (RCR) or Stewart and Newman (Stewart-Hass Racing)? No, and it's not close. But he is running with enough horsepower that he shouldn't be 27th in the standings.
It's early enough that he can turn it around, but right now, 2013 hasn't been pretty for JPM.
Say you've been away from the sport for a while or just don't really watch all that much NASCAR. If that were the case and I asked you to name some of the drivers at the top of the standings, Jeff Gordon's name would come up.
He's one of the best-known drivers in the sport, he drives for NASCAR's best team (Hendrick) and he has enough victories to make us all lose count (it's 87). Butthe years (41) are piling on for this veteran driver, and maybe now it's finally starting to show.
For 2013, Gordon has no wins and he tumbled three spots to 15th in the standings after a 38th-place finish at Texas. There's a lot of season left, but Gordon's hole is getting deeper and deeper.