As the regular season of NASCAR comes to a close, certain drivers seem to be getting attention for their success more than others.
Jimmie Johnson, for example, has had major success this year and has been a spotlight for many NASCAR discussions. But just because other drivers haven’t won four races doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be recognized for their success this season.
Not everyone is going to be on a major team, but certain drivers made major strides this year and had a better season than they've had over the past couple of years.
Even certain drivers in the Chase aren’t getting the attention they deserve, or haven’t gotten any attention until recently.
This season has been a lot about Jimmie Johnson, his early success, and now his late-season bad luck. Other drivers, like Danica Patrick, have received a fair amount of attention for doing very little.
The defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski has even received a good amount of attention, even though he’s having a worse season than he did last year.
These 10 drivers, though, have had a successful season so far, especially when compared to what they've done in past seasons. They might not be dominant or on a major team, but they still deserve attention.
We start this list with a driver who has shown glimpses of success this season.
Jeff Burton sits in the 20th position in the standings, and he needs to win these last two races to even have a shot at making the Chase. However, he’s done better in the regular season this year than he did last season.
Burton might not be on the same level as he once was, and that could be due to a myriad of different things, but he’s shown glimpses of being able to race with the current top drivers in NASCAR. This is something that should get NASCAR focusing a little more on Burton.
He will be a great driver for Austin Dillon to learn from when he moves up to the Sprint Cup Series, and should still be able to remain competitive through his time in the Sprint Cup Series.
When David Ragan slayed the Goliaths at Talladega by winning the race after a late caution, NASCAR was all abuzz about an underdog being able to beat guys like Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth.
Now no one is talking about David Ragan and his win at Talladega.
The problem, though, is that Ragan is a good driver on an under-funded team. His one win is huge for a team that barely gets a top five or top 10 finish. NASCAR needs to try and even the playing field a little more by supporting the underdogs and trying to get them sponsorship to run full-time races and compete for wins.
And while we haven’t seen too much out of David Ragan after his win at Talladega, it was a good reminder that the underdog can still be alive and well in NASCAR. His one win was huge and a major success for Front Row Motorsports, something NASCAR needs to pay more attention to.
Clint Bowyer was last year’s runner-up, and is second in the standings this season. Bowyer has yet to win a race, but unless it’s a short track NASCAR is racing on, Bowyer doesn't seem to be a large focus of the race weekend.
For a driver to sit second in points without winning a race is a big accomplishment and shows how he has finished well on almost every track NASCAR has been to.
While he won’t have an advantage in the Chase if he doesn't win one of the few races left in the regular season, Bowyer has seemingly broke the curse of bad luck for drivers who are runner-up to the championship the year before.
He’s easily emerged as the top driver at Michael Waltrip Racing, yet even with his overall excellent performance this year, Bowyer isn't receiving enough attention as a possible 2013 champion.
Another driver who has had a monstrous turnaround this year is Kyle Busch. Whether you love him or hate him, Kyle is one of the best drivers in the Sprint Cup Series. With three wins this season, he is basically locked into the Chase, and already in a better position than he was last year.
Missing the Chase in 2012 could have been the wake-up call Busch needed, as he’s come back stronger than ever in 2013.
Yet the attention at Joe Gibbs Racing remains focused around Matt Kenseth right now, because of his win at Bristol, and Denny Hamlin, because of how poor he’s done this season.
Not much discussion has been brought up about Busch, and why not?
Kyle has a very good chance to win the championship, and with how good of a driver he is, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see him running so well this season.
NASCAR has its attention focused around Jimmie Johnson and the 48 team winning the championship, but with the success Kyle and the 18 group has had this year, everyone should be looking at them, too.
One of the biggest turnaround seasons this year goes to Carl Edwards. To put it lightly, Carl had a horrible 2012 season: his only solid stat was 13 top 10 finishes.
This season, he has a win, seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10 finishes, all while Ford continues to struggle when compared to Chevy and Toyota manufacturers. He sits third in the point standings, and while he might not have the wins Jimmie Johnson or Matt Kenseth have this season, his turnaround from last year is enough for NASCAR to talk about his success.
Yet we don’t hear too much about the year Edwards has had. He’s proven that he can have a bad year, shake it off and come back even stronger—something not every driver can do.
Could he win the championship? Unless Ford can get its act together, probably not. But the success he’s had this year has been a huge change from last season, and he should be receiving more attention.
Jamie McMurray is another driver who has run well this year and should be receiving more attention for his success. He’s had solid finishes through several races this season, and has really stepped up this year at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
While he hasn't had the same success he had earlier in his career, McMurray has been able to be more competitive this season with the help of the Gen-6 car.
Drivers like Montoya and McMurray might not win races, but top-five finishes and even top 10s can be a big deal to their teams.
McMurray has made improvements over last year, and even though he is still searching for a win this season, he has had a successful season so far.
Juan Pablo Montoya has had a better season this year than he has had over the last two years racing for Earnhardt Ganassi. With four top-five finishes and six top 10s, Montoya has already blown away last year’s stats before the current season is even over.
And after making a solid improvement, how is Montoya rewarded?
By losing his ride with Earnhardt Ganassi.
While Juan Pablo has clearly improved from last season, he still struggles to win races, which is probably the main reason he lost his ride.
Still, he has run well this year, but unfortunately NASCAR finally gave him attention once it was announced that he would be team-less in 2014.
Can Montoya turn around from this and come back next season with a new team and win races? We will need to wait until next season to find out, but this year Montoya has run well, and deserves a little more attention for his success.
Kevin Harvick is leaving Richard Childress Racing next year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing in the 2014 season.
His performance as a driver this year, though, has been great.
Harvick has two wins at this point in the season, more than he had before entering the Chase last year.
It could be argued that he might not be giving it his all since he is switching teams, but after what we saw this past weekend at Bristol, Harvick is still as fiery as ever.
He started off the season hot, running well during the pre-races leading up to the Daytona 500, but Harvick hasn’t been given as much attention as he deserves, especially for a driver who is getting ready to leave his organization.
He has been a factor for a majority of the races this season, and has also adjusted to the Gen-6 car nicely, something not all drivers have done.
Joey Logano has had a much better season driving for Penske Racing than he ever did while riding for Joe Gibbs.
Logano has one win so far this season and is still in the hunt for a wild-card spot in the Chase.
More importantly, he’s coming into his own as a driver.
He’s had to stick up for himself this year, and while he made enemies with Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin, Logano has proven a lot on the track.
With seven top-five finishes and 13 top 10s, Logano is already doing better than he did during the last two years of his time at Joe Gibbs.
He might not be the next great thing for NASCAR as predicted early in his career, but Logano continues to improve as a driver.
It took a hard-fought win at Bristol, and the fifth win overall for Matt Kenseth and the 20 team, for people to start paying attention to them.
Before his Bristol win, Kenseth started off the season strong and became one of the top drivers on the typical oval tracks.
He was talked about when he first started winning, especially since the 20 team was put together this season, but even after four wins the season seemed focused around the 48 team. Announcers and analysts seemed more concerned with how well Johnson would continue running, and had forgotten how good Kenseth as run this year as well.
It was as if NASCAR had forgotten that Johnson wasn’t the only driver with four wins.
Now that he has five wins, all of a sudden NASCAR remembers how good he is this year. More than likely we will hear talk of how the 20 team is now a title contender, when in actuality they looked like a title-contending team for the past couple of months.
It’s a huge accomplishment to win a race, and Kenseth has done it five times this season with a brand new team.
It shouldn’t have taken an impressive win at Bristol for NASCAR to finally start giving Kenseth some of the attention he deserves.