Who's Hot/Who's Not in NASCAR

Brian KennedyCorrespondent IJune 12, 2008

As NASCAR nears the halfway point of the season, it's time to look at the biggest achievers and biggest disappointments so far. Some might surprise you, while others will have you saying "I knew (insert driver name here) was going to be on that list." Not ever achiever/disappointment this season will be mentioned, only the ones that have stood out from the rest.

Top 5 achievers

1. Kyle Busch- To not have the most successful (and most hated) driver on this list would be absurd. The 23-year old has surpassed all expectations that was put on him at the beginning of the season. Busch is leading the points standings, has the most wins and top 5's among drivers, and has taken over as the Poster Boy of Joe Gibbs Racing. Fans are realizing why Tony Stewart is looking for another team to drive for.

2. Jeff Burton- The oldest of the Richard Childress drivers is also the most consistent driver on the circuit heading into Michigan. Now before fans of Junior nation start criticizing me, understand this, Jeff Burton's worst finish of the SEASON so far is 13th at the season opening Daytona 500. Junior's worst finish has been 40th at Fontana. The advantage goes narrowly to Burton.

3. Brian Vickers- From missing numerous races last year, to being in the running for a spot in the Chase this year, Brian Vickers has revitalized not only Red Bull Racing, but his racing career. Many were wondering if Vickers would ever get out of the rut he was put in last year. Vickers has proved critics (myself being one of them) wrong with solid runs and strong finishes. Do not be surprised if you see the red and blue #83 Toyota in victory lane before the year is finished.

4. David Ragan- No one saw this talented driver coming, and if you say you did, then you're lying. David Ragan has come out of nowhere to be one of the top 3 drivers at Roush FenwayRacing (Move over Matt Kenseth). Ragan is currently 13th in points and only 7 points from being in the Chase. If Ragan makes the chase, expect him to make some noise. The dreaded sophomore slump is definitely not affecting David Ragan this year.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.- Junior nation finally has something to cheer about. The move from DEI to Hendrick has proven instantaneous success for Earnhardt Jr. Junior has been ridiculously consistent, even he has not won a points paying race in 2 years. Had it not been for Kyle Busch's over eagerness (and loose car), Junior would have broken his winless streak at Richmond earlier this year. But never fear fans of the Blue and Green, Junior will win a couple races before the year is done.

Top 5 Disappointments

1. Kurt Busch- Maybe the pressure of being Kyle Busch's brother is getting to him. Maybe he is finally realizing he is Rusty Wallace's protege'. Heck maybe drinking all the sponsors beer is weighing his car down. Never the less, Kurt Busch has not put up the numbers that he should be putting up. Currently sitting 21st in points with only one top 5 and two top 10's, Busch is going to need a stellar summer season to get back into contention.  

2. J.J. Yeley- Oh where have you gone JJ Yeley, you had so much potential. After being released from Joe Gibbs last year for Kyle Busch, Yeley thought he would help his career by signing with Hall of Fame Motorsports. The move has proved disastrous as Yeley has missed two races, is out of the top 35 in points, and is probably being laughed at by former HOF driver Tony Raines. The only good thing is Yeley can watch the races he misses on DLP HDTV.

3. Casey Mears- If the term ugly redheaded stepchild were used in Nascar, Casey Mears would fit the mold. Mears is the main driver in the Hendrick camp who is struggling. Mears was looking for success this year after a winning his first race and finishing in the top 15 in points last year. So far this year, Mears is 26th in points, has only two 10's and is starting to wonder if his car and team are really that GRRRRREAT!

4. Jeff Gordon- The reason why the wonderboy is in my bottom 5 is simply this; he has not followed up on his amazing season last year. Entering Michigan last year, Gordon posted numbers Kyle Busch is currently eclipsing. Gordon had 4 wins, 10 top 5's and 12 top 10's heading into Brooklyn. This year however, Gordon has 0 wins, 6 top 5's and 7 top 10's. Sure, these stats are something any driver not named Johnson or Burton would want, but not Jeff Gordon. Maybe being a dad has taken its toll on Jeff.

5. Former Open Wheel Racers- This was probably the easiest one to think of. The performances the former Indycar/CART stars have been giving are atrocious. Patrick Carpentier is struggling to even get into races, Dario Franchitti has been sidelined with a broken ankle, and Sam Hornish can't decide whether to stay in or out of the top 35 in points. Furthermore, Juan Pablo Montoya has decided to take on the role of the Columbian Mr. Excitement, taking out who he pleases. Jimmy Spencer would be proud. The only two successful open wheel stars who came through NASCAR were AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti. By the looks of things, it looks like it will stay that way. Danica Patrick did the right thing by staying in the Indycar.