Predicting NASCAR Sprint Cup's Next First-Time Winner
Can you name the last first-time winner in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series? You'll have to dive into the memory banks for this one.
Think all the way back to the 2011 season when the Aussie Marcos Ambrose nabbed the win in the closing laps at Watkins Glen. It has been a while since we've seen a new winner.
2011 was the year of the first-time winner, as an unknown kid named Trevor Bayne captured the season's first race, the Daytona 500, in just his second career start. Regan Smith held off Carl Edwards at Darlington to win his first trophy, Paul Menard took the Brickyard 400 by beating Jeff Gordon and David Ragan won at Daytona.
While examining the current potential first-time winners, the list is rather short. Only two drivers in the top 20 in points are winless for their careers.
In a few years, a new wave of young drivers will emerge, but today, the pickings are rather slim. Nonetheless, here are a few.
Aric Almirola is the highest-ranked driver in the standings without a win. His speed so far this season indicates he may see victory lane before the checkers fall in Homestead.
Almirola has one finish outside the top 20 and currently sits 14th overall in points. He's coming off a season-high seventh last week at Texas and is best on small short tracks and intermediate speedways like Texas or this week's location, Kansas, where he led 69 laps in the Fall race last season before smacking the wall.
Some other tracks where Almirola could break through are Martinsville, Charlotte and Bristol.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. showed us he has the talent. Now he has the supreme ride. It's only a matter of time before he finds Victory Lane.
Judging by his Nationwide Series success, Stenhouse performs the best on short tracks, such as Richmond and the Iowa Speedway, where he won three races in a row in 2011-12.
Stenhouse is still learning the tricks of the trade but has the most potential of all the rookies currently on the Sprint Cup circuit. When referring to Stenhouse's first win, it's not a matter of if but when.
A.J. Allmendinger is the protagonist in a redemption story.
Allmendinger's past troubles with drug abuse cannot be ignored, but he seems to have owned up to his mistakes and participated in NASCAR's Road to Recovery program. He has a DUI (charged in 2009) and a positive banned substance test (charged in 2012) on his record. What he doesn't have is a Sprint Cup victory. Yet.
The Dinger, as he is sometimes called, is a very talented driver who, among other things, made this amazing save at Dover in 2011.
He drives for Phoenix racing, which is not known as a perennial contender. But with three more restrictor plate tracks and two road courses (both of which Allmendinger is good at), this part-time driver might, with a little luck on his side, find victory lane.