Ranking the 10 Biggest Underachievers in the 2013 Sprint Cup Series

Michael GuadalupeFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2013

Ranking the 10 Biggest Underachievers in the 2013 Sprint Cup Series

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    NASCAR has always been filled with drivers who never live up to their potential.

    Not everyone can be Jimmie Johnson and constantly deliver, but these 10 drivers haven’t lived up to their expectations.

    In order to define what makes an underachiever in NASCAR, it’s important to look at the hype behind drivers, or how well they have performed in the past.

    Some drivers have been hyped up as potential top drivers for years but have continued to stumble this season.

    Other drivers are former champions who don’t look anything like they did when they won the Sprint Cup Title.

    All of the drivers on this list are from the top teams in NASCAR yet still struggle with living up to their hyped, or past, expectations.

    There’s still time left for several of these drivers to turn their seasons around, but if things keep going the way they have, these 10 drivers will continue to be underachievers.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

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    Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is still a rookie in the Sprint Cup Series, but the driver who won back-to-back
    Nationwide titles, and replaced Matt Kenseth in the 17 car, hasn't done much of anything this season.

    He sits 21st in the point standings, and after having impressive Nationwide runs, Stenhouse should at least be running a little better in the Sprint Cup Series.

    It's not like he's making a major adjustment like his girlfriend, Danica, who is still making the adjustment from Indy to stock car.

    Roush Fenway Racing clearly sees something in Stenhouse since they were willing to bring him on to fill Matt Kenseth's spot. But until the rookie wins a race, he will remain an underachiever.

9. Kasey Kahne

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    Kahne recently moved up in the standings, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been an underachiever this season.

    He has the potential to be one of the top drivers in NASCAR, but because he never fully reaches this potential, he will always stay an underachiever.

    He made the switch to a top NASCAR team last season, and while he has won this year, he's also taken big steps back.

    He could still fail to make it into the Chase, which is hard to imagine given the equipment he's riding in and his driving ability.

    If he can steadily continue to improve over the next couple of weeks, expect him in the postseason. If not, expect him to stay an underachiever.

8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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    Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of the most consistent drivers in NASCAR.

    Using his consistency to cover up his inability to win, though, is what makes Earnhardt Jr. an underachiever.

    It's great that he can basically go a season with no DNFs and log several top-five and top-10 finishes. But when it comes to the championship, his consistency won't be enough.

    If Dale could win races, he would have a shot at the Sprint Cup title. But because of his inconsistency when it comes to winning, he will continue to be one of the bigger underachievers in the sport.

    How can a driver manage to finish so well, yet struggle to win races? Until he can manage to win more than one race every couple of years, Dale Jr. will stay an underachiever.

7. Jeff Gordon

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    Jeff Gordon is a four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.

    With the way he's been struggling over the last few years, though, it's hard to believe Gordon was once the man to beat in the sport.

    Every time NASCAR goes to a track, it seems like Jeff Gordon has won there before, but last season, and
    even this year, Gordon has constantly run into struggles.

    He's had a decent number of good finishes, but for every good finish he gets, Gordon doesn't run as good as he used to on other tracks.

    For a driver who is a four-time champ, Gordon is struggling to make it into the Chase and has been underachieving this year.

6. Brad Keselowski

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    The defending Sprint Cup Champion has had plenty of struggles this season.

    For someone who managed to hold back Jimmie Johnson to win the championship, you would expect him to at least have one win so far this year.

    The reality, however, is that Keselowski is barely clinging on to the 10th-place position in the standings and has struggled for a majority of the 2013 year.

    Last season was a big breakout year for Brad and the two team, as they set themselves up to look like a championship team.

    This season, though, they've been underachievers.

    They will continue to keep fighting for a spot in the Chase. But after winning the championship last year, if Keselowski doesn't start performing on a championship level soon, he may miss the postseason completely.

5. Joey Logano

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    Joey Logano is one driver who seems to take one step forward and two steps back.

    After being hyped as a future top driver in NASCAR before entering the Sprint Cup Series full-time, Logano has consistently struggled.

    A fresh start at Penske Racing seemed like the perfect solution.

    And while Logano has had great finishes this season, he sits winless and 18th in points.

    For someone predicted to be a fantastic driver, he continues to struggle, even after it seems like he might have a turnaround season.

    He found himself out of a New Hampshire race early on Sunday after blowing a tire and hitting the wall, and he almost ran over one of his pit crew members as he drove toward the garage in anger.

    Logano is still young, but until he starts to win consistently, he will continue to be an underachiever in NASCAR.

4. Ryan Newman

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    "Rocket Man" Ryan Newman has been anything but a rocket over the last several years in the Sprint Cup Series.

    He may not exactly be the ogre Kyle Busch recently referred to him as, but he is one of NASCAR’s top underachievers.

    What makes Newman even worse is how he seems to not even care at this point in the season, especially since he knows his time at Stewart-Haas Racing is up.

    The problem Newman will face eventually is finding a competitive team who will offer him a ride.

    It’s hard to decide if Newman will even land a ride at this point, because he hasn’t put on a solid performance in the Sprint Cup Series, and no team wants to sign an underachiever.

3. Paul Menard

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    Paul Menard was in the top 10 at one point in the season.

    He is now 20th in the standings.

    So what happened to the Richard Childress Racing driver? Well after having a solid start, which was backed by good finishes, Menard began to fall apart.

    He was the victim of both wrecks and car problems, and eventually he would fall down the standings.

    Menard continues to fail and stand out as a driver, and his most notable achievement was winning at Indy back in 2011.

    You have to wonder if Menard would even be in the Sprint Cup Series if not for the major sponsorship he receives from his father’s home improvement company.

    He’s a mediocre driver who has a huge opportunity in the Sprint Cup Series, and constantly under-performs for a driver at his level.

2. Tony Stewart

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    Just when it looked like Stewart was ready to make a big push into the Chase, the 14 team decided to roll the dice at New Hampshire and Stewart ran out of gas during the green-white-checkered flag at the end of the race.

    He finished 26th and slid from 10th to 13th in the standings.

    New Hampshire wasn't the only bad race for Stewart this season, though. He hasn't been a standout, and besides for being at the right place for his Dover win, Smoke has been lackluster all season.

    Smoke won the championship two years ago, and he had several wins heading into the 2012 Chase.

    Tony is one of the top drivers in NASCAR, but because of all his struggles this season, and the possibility that he may not even make the Chase this year, Smoke has been a serious underachiever.

1. Denny Hamlin

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    After sitting out for several weeks due to a back injury, Denny Hamlin was going to have a tough time if he wanted to make the Chase.

    Rest assured, from fans to NASCAR analysts, everyone believed that if someone could make a huge comeback after being sidelined for several weeks, it would be Hamlin.

    Now, as we inch closer to the Chase, Denny sits 25th in the standings and is winless. He hasn't done much of anything since coming back, and even at the tracks where he usually runs well he seems to struggle.

    This could be the first season Hamlin fails to make it into the Chase as a full-time Sprint Cup Series driver.

    Whether it's because of his back injury or failing to adjust to the new Gen-6 (which he complained about earlier in the season), Hamlin has been lackluster throughout the season.

    Don't be surprised to see Hamlin watching from the sidelines as his two teammates both make the Chase this season.