This day and age in NASCAR, races are more competitive than they ever have been. Drivers have to run nearly mistake-free races and pit crews have to make flawless pit stops for the team to even have a chance at winning.
There are many drivers on the track every weekend that have the talent to win, but rarely have all the pieces put together to win a Sprint Cup race.
Even Nationwide Series races are harder to win these days because sponsors of Nationwide Series teams want Sprint Cup Series drivers to drive for the teams that they sponsor. In these tough economic times, sponsors want a famous face to put on their product and get more exposure for their money.
There are some drivers that have been noticeably absent from victory lane. Some of these drivers rarely went a season without multiple wins; now it seems that they may be pleased to reach victory lane once in a season.
Here are some notable drivers on lengthy winless streaks: Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Let's group the Roush-Fenway drivers together: Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, and Matt Kenseth. At this point in the 2010 Sprint Cup Series season (post-Indianapolis), it has been at least 54 races since anyone currently employed at Roush-Fenway Racing has gone to victory lane.
Which of the following drivers will win first?
It seems as though the entire Ford Racing camp has had trouble since winning the first two races of last season (with the exception of Jamie McMurray's win at Talladega last fall). The struggles of the Roush-Fenway drivers this season have nothing to do with their ability to drive a race car or their equipment. All three of these drivers are sitting in the top 12 in points and have run fairly consistently in the top 10. It's not that they're running poorly, it's that they haven't put the pieces together and won yet.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. hasn't won since the first Michigan race in 2008, his only win with Hendrick Motorsports.
It has often been said that the chemistry wasn't good between Earnhardt and the crew chiefs he has worked with since moving to Hendrick from Dale Earnhardt Inc in 2008. Dale has had three different crew chiefs since moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008: Tony Eury Jr., Brian Whitesell (crew chief for one race after Eury was released) and his current crew chief, Lance McGrew. Kyle Busch was quoted saying "...if Junior doesn't run well, then he [Lance McGrew] is going to be the 'problem' again".
This season has shown a slight turnaround for the Kannapolis, North Carolina native. He currently sits 14th in points, 93 points outside the Chase cutoff. Hendrick Motorsports has some of (if not) the best equipment in NASCAR and the chemistry seems to be growing between Dale and Lance McGrew.
If the chemistry is there and if Dale can prove that he has the same winning qualities as his Hendrick teammates, then he may be visiting victory lane sooner rather than later.
After a winless 2009 season, Richard Childress Racing made a lot of changes in the off-season to ensure that another winless season wouldn't happen again in 2010. Evidenced by Kevin Harvick's wins at Talladega in April and Daytona in July, it appears that RCR is back on track. Harvick appears poised to clinch his first Chase berth since 2008 and also to win the “regular-season championship.”
Richard Childress Racing has shown vast improvements over the course of the current season. All three drivers are currently in the top 12 in points. Jeff Burton seems to be on the verge of winning. He has been in contention to win many races this year. Clint Bowyer has had a decent season to date; he is currently in the last Chase transfer spot.
The changes team owner Richard Childress has made seem to be paying off. If all three Childress teams can make the Chase, it will be quite an accomplishment considering the inconsistency they showed last year.
After qualifying for the Chase in 2009, Juan Pablo showed promise in the last ten races of the season. He had strong points runs at New Hampshire, Dover, Kansas, Auto Club, and Martinsville. Even with these strong runs, he still finished eighth in points. His points finish was due in large part to his lack of race wins, which is vital in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The difference between Montoya’s points position compared to this time last year is night and day. He currently sits 22nd in points, compared to 10th place after Indianapolis last year. The lack of consistency will almost surely keep Juan Pablo out of the Chase this season.
Putting the pieces together to win races involves talent, good equipment, good chemistry, and even luck. A few drivers put the pieces together and won more races than anyone expected in 2009. One of those drivers is Denny Hamlin and his winning performance has carried over to 2010.
When drivers, such as Denny Hamlin and Mark Martin seemingly come out of nowhere to win races, it means other drivers who are accustomed to winning may not be able to win as much as they are used to. The Roush-Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing drivers know this fact better than anyone.
Both Roush-Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing are beginning to turn things around for their organizations, but there is still work to be done.