5 Sprint Cup Series Drivers Who Will Win by Season's End
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Through the first 19 races of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, there have been 11 different race-winners. Some usual faces like Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth have visited victory lane multiple times, while other annual winners such as Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer have been shut out so far.
There have also been a couple of races where you would have to consider the winner to be a bit of a surprise, most notably David Ragan at Talladega, and just this past weekend with Brian Vickers winning in New Hampshire.
With 17 races left to be run, you can't help but wonder how many more drivers will notch at least one victory this season.
I am going to take a look at five drivers who have yet to win in 2013 but will do just that before the season comes to a close.
1. Marcos Ambrose
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Winning Track: Watkins Glen
Marcos Ambrose is the two-time defending champion at Watkins Glen, and there is no reason to think that he won't make it three in a row.
Ambrose is always a favorite when it comes to the road courses. Of his 15 career top-five finishes, seven of them have come at the two road courses that are on the schedule.
In his first career start in the Sprint Cup Series, Ambrose finished 42nd at Sonoma. Since then, there have been 10 road course races run, and Ambrose has been in the top 10 at the finish of all of them.
There are a couple of other tracks that Ambrose typically runs well at upcoming on the schedule, most notably Bristol and Richmond. But it would stand to reason that if Ambrose were to make another trip to victory lane, Watkins Glen is the most likely place to do it.
2. Jamie McMurray
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Winning Track: Charlotte
2010 was the year that belonged to Jamie McMurray. He won the two most prestigious races, the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. And he capped off the season by adding a third victory, this time at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte.
Unfortunately for the Joplin, Mo., native, he hasn't won since.
As a whole, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing has come a long way in 2013. After really struggling a season ago, the team has turned a corner and is clearly heading in the right direction.
McMurray's five top-10 finishes this season are already more than he had in either of the previous two seasons, and he has turned in plenty of strong performances in the last few weeks.
He qualified on the pole for the road race in Sonoma and was well on his way to a good finish, when he had a tire issue which caused him to finish in 25th place.
The following week in Kentucky, McMurray was the fastest car on the track for the last 10 laps, but he just ran out of time in his efforts to catch eventual race-winner, Matt Kenseth. McMurray settled for a second-place finish.
He was strong all night long at Daytona, ultimately finishing in seventh, and then was solid all day while posting a 12th-place finish at Loudon.
When the series goes back to Charlotte in October, don't be surprised to see McMurray in victory lane. He is a two-time winner at the track and has already collected a checkered flag there this season. He was the winner of the Sprint All-Star qualifying race, as he led every lap in the non-points counting race.
3. Juan Pablo Montoya
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Winning Track: Richmond
If you could come up with one word to describe the 2013 season for Juan Pablo Montoya, "heartbreak" would be a good choice.
Montoya is a two-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series. Both of his wins have come on road courses. In 2007 he was victorious in Sonoma, and in 2010 he took the checkered flag at Watkins Glen. For years, the major question surrounding Montoya has been whether he is capable of winning on an oval or not.
Twice this year Montoya has come within a handful of laps of silencing any of his doubters. At Richmond, Montoya hung around the top five all night long, then with approximately 70 laps to go he took the lead.
Montoya had pulled away from the field and had victory well in his sights, when a caution with less than 10 laps to go changed everything. He, along with most other lead-lap cars, hit pit road for fresh tires. Upon exiting pit road, Montoya was forced to restart the race in sixth place.
Stuck in the outside line, and behind multiple cars that did not pit and were on old tires, Montoya wasn't able to get back to the front of the field. He ultimately finished fourth, but he had a car more than capable of winning.
A few weeks later at Dover, Montoya again found himself leading in the final 20 laps of the race. After Jimmie Johnson was black-flagged for jumping the restart, Montoya once again had victory in his sights.
With three laps to go, Tony Stewart chased him down and was able to get by and score the victory, once again leaving Montoya to ponder what could have been.
After years of trying, look for Montoya to finally get his first oval-track win and a little bit of redemption when the series heads back to Richmond in September.
4. Kurt Busch
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Winning Track: Bristol
The 2013 season's Cinderella story has to belong to Kurt Busch and his Furniture Row Racing team. Prior to this weekend's race in New Hampshire, Busch and his single-car team found themselves inside the top 10 in points and contending for a spot in the Chase.
Busch's 2013 season has been nothing short of spectacular. He has helped transform this team from a solid top-20 team into a weekly race-winning contender.
In 19 races, Busch has amassed eight top-10 finishes and has led a total of 262 laps. By comparison, prior to this season, Furniture Row Racing had only scored 11 top-10s and led a combined total of 48 laps in its previous eight seasons of existence.
While I would not be surprised to see Busch score multiple victories before the season is over, Bristol seems like the best track for him to score a win. He is a five-time winner at the half-mile track and has already posted a top-five finish there this season.
5. Mark Martin
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Winning Track: Phoenix
How great would it be to see Mark Martin in victory lane one more time? The 54-year-old Martin is in his final part-time season with Michael Waltrip Racing, and at this point his future plans are up in the air.
Based on Brian Vickers' win this past weekend in New Hampshire, we know that this car and this team are more than capable of winning. Martin is a 40-time race-winner at the Sprint Cup Series level, so if the stars align just right, there is no reason to think he can't score one more win before his storied career comes to a close.
The most logical track for Martin to win a race at would be Phoenix. He has enjoyed plenty of success there in his career.
Martin is a three-time pole-winner at Phoenix, including earlier this season. He has won twice at the one-mile oval, and only two times in 34 races at the track has he finished outside the top 20.
Maybe it is just wishful thinking that Martin will once again be a race-winner, but with everything he has accomplished as he continues to get older, it really wouldn't be all that surprising to see him score one more win.