Some NASCAR drivers get all of the media attention. Whether running for the win or trying to maintain a top 30, they always seem to be the focus of the coverage.
Then there are the guys, who week in and week out, put in good quality runs but for some reason, nobody ever really takes notice. Now is a good time to change that.
I am going to look at the 10 NASCAR drivers I feel don't get the credit that they deserve.
The only reason Ambrose doesn't rank higher on this list is the fact that he has only been racing full time at the Cup level for a season and a half. And when he runs near the front, people take notice. It is just a matter of time before he reaches victory lane.
He made a terrible mental mistake at Infineon earlier in the year, which undoubtedly cost him that elusive first win. However his time will come. Ambrose has shown that he is always one of the favorites on the road courses, but he has also gotten to be very solid on the oval tracks as well.
It is not uncommon to see Ambrose's name in the top 10 on a consistent basis.
While some people contend that the only reason Menard has a Cup ride, is the fact that he brings his own sponsorship, but he has constantly been improving since racing in the big times.
There probably aren't as many top fives and top 10s as there should be at this point in his career, but he has become a solid driver who brings his car home in one piece—not something that could have always been said about Menard.
Through 20 races in the 2010 season, Menard has 10 top 20 finishes and currently sits in the 23rd position in the standings, which if it holds up would be a career high points finish.
On top of that, he is one of the few drivers competing full time in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, where he currently sits in a solid sixth place in the points.
Regan Smith came within a yellow line of getting his first career victory at Talladega in 2008. The pass was deemed illegal, thus resulting in an 18th place finish. That leaves a 14th place run at Martinsville as his career best run.
But now, a three year veteran of the Cup Series, Smith has shown amazing potential while driving a seriously underfunded car for the last two seasons.
In an attempt to run the entire 2010 season, Regan Smith has managed to keep the Furniture Row Chevrolet inside the coveted top 35 in owners points all year long. He has six top 20 finishes, and in a time when single car teams are doomed to fail, has shown that he has the ability to bring home solid finishes.
If given a chance to show what he can do in a properly funded car, now with a little experience under his belt, who's to say that Regan Smith couldn't be a winner in NASCAR's top division?
Talk about a man who seems to always find some bad luck. It seems that anytime Martin Truex is going to bring home a top five, something out of his control happens, and those plans literally go up in smoke.
The two time Nationwide Series champion only has one career Cup win, but has a knack for running near the front of the pack.
After taking over for Michael Waltrip in the NAPA machine for 2010, Truex has earned one pole position, and posted four top 10s, and narrowly missed on winning the season opening Daytona 500.
Though he has only made the Chase for the Sprint Cup once in what is now his fifth full-time season, he has also only once finished outside the top 20 in points, and looks to keep that streak alive this season, if some good fortune finally shines on him.
Steady improvement is the best way to describe AJ Allmendinger's Cup career. From struggling to qualify for events to tearing up equipment when he did qualify, to now being a solid top 20 performer on a week to week basis.
Currently sitting in the 21st position in the points, Allmendinger is poised to make this a career best season. He currently has a pole as well as three top 10 finishes on the year driving the famed number 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports.
Through the first 20 races, Allmendinger has an impressive 14 top 20 finishes and has already lead more laps this year, than he had in his first three seasons combined.
It is not a far cry to think that Allmendinger could be the next driver who earns their first career victory at the Sprint Cup level.
Much like Allmendinger, David Reutimann's career can best be described as continual progression. In each of his first three full seasons, Reutimann has improved his season ending points position by at least six spots from the previous year.
Through 20 races this year, Reutimann has turned 15 of them into top 20 efforts. Only four of those resulted in top 10s, but all four of those were top fives including his win in Chicago.
David Reutimann earned his first career victory in the rain shortened 2009 edition of the Coca Cola 600. Many critics and fans said that it was a cheap win and that he didn't deserve it.
Just over a year later, Reutimann backed it up with his victory in Chicago, in a race that was run its scheduled distance. This proved to both critics and fans alike that he doesn't always need Mother Nature's help to put trophies on his mantle.
However, for whatever reason, Reutimann is always overlooked as a contender, and a threat for the wins. But maybe that is alright with David. After all, it's more impressive to win when no one actually expects you to do it.
In 165 career starts, Clint Bowyer has only managed to grab two checkered flags. However, he does have 72 career top 10s to credit, which translates to a very respectable .436 top 10 percentage.
In his first four full seasons on the circuit, Bowyer has landed in the Chase twice, both times ending the season in the top five in points.
The great thing about Bowyer is that he knows how to bring his equipment home in one piece. He holds the modern era record for consecutive races run without a DNF at 83. That is a streak of over two straight seasons where he was running at the finish.
The lack of wins is what keeps Bowyer from really becoming a major star in the sport. While top 10s and top fives are great, and will keep you in the fight to win a championship, at the end of the day it is the guys who pull into victory lane on a consistent basis that get the bulk of the media attention.
With as many strong runs as the 33 team has, it is just a matter of time before they are back in the win column, but until then Bowyer will probably never be given the full credit he deserves.
By now, everyone that follows NASCAR knows the story of Jamie McMurray. In 2002, in a substitute role for the injured Sterling Marlin, Jamie earned his first career victory in only his second ever start in the Sprint Cup Series.
From there the expectations were enormous. Over the course of the next seven seasons, McMurray would only secure two more victories, and many people said his career had become somewhat of a disappointment.
Then 2010 hit. Reunited with his original car owner, Chip Ganassi, Jamie McMurray has reignited his career and the entire organization. The dream started in race number one, as car No. 1 became the Daytona 500 winner. Five months later McMurray won the other biggest race on the Sprint Cup schedule, the Brickyard 400.
So, why does Jamie crack this list? Unfortunately there are still some doubters out there. Not everyone is willing to believe that the guy who was such a disappointment for the better part of seven years can just instantly turn it around and become a contender.
From this day forward, McMurray should never have to defend himself or his career again. All he needs to do is show any of his doubters his two newest trophies.
While Matt Kenseth has the championship for Jack Roush, and Carl Edwards grabs all of the headlines for his running feuds, Greg Biffle quietly goes about his business, at times it would seem almost unnoticed.
Biffle has put together a very impressive career of 14 wins, 60 top fivess, and 105 top 10s in only 278 starts. Not to mention that he has two finishes in the top three in season ending points. So why isn't he mentioned more?
A lot of the problems facing Biffle, are the same problems facing anyone who drives a Ford these days. And that is, that they haven't won yet this year.
Instead of McMurray, it very easily could be Greg Biffle who was the winner at both Daytona and at Indianapolis. He was in a position to win both of those events, but in the end had to settle for third at both tracks.
Through the first 20 races, Biffle has scored a top 20 in 14 of those events, but it just feels like it has been very quietly and with minimal fanfare. Greg Biffle has never really been in the spotlight, and he continues to just sneak up on people and have good runs.
For No. 1 on the list, let's go with an old veteran. Jeff Burton is the most underrated driver in the NASCAR garage today. Rarely is Burton the dominant car at a race. Instead, it is always a work in progress, where Burton lets the race come to him, and he always seems to be there in contention at the end.
Although he hasn't won in two seasons, he has been dangerously close a countless number of times over that stretch. He always seems to run into some bad luck, whether a bad pit stop late in the race, or an untimely caution that ends up costing him a win.
Through 20 races he has 16 top 20 finishes, and currently sits seventh in the standings. And all of this with only half the attention of the Hendrick drivers or his point leading teammate Kevin Harvick.
Jeff Burton has been around a long time, and always seems to quietly go about his business and find a way to the front of the field at the end of the race. It's just a shame that we don't hear about it very often.