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Danica Patrick Hype: Looking at NASCAR's All-Time Overrated Drivers

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IAugust 11, 2010

Danica Patrick Hype: Looking at NASCAR's All-Time Overrated Drivers

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    Hype can best be defined as a marketing strategy that excites people about a person or thing, making them want to know more.

    Being petite, attractive, and able to drive fast has served Danica Patrick well as a marketing dream come true.

    Expectations are often unfulfilled ideals we place upon people.

    Patrick is an example of someone thrust into the limelight with expectations heaped upon her.

    Many want her to succeed in whatever series she chooses to drive in, be it IndyCar or NASCAR.  Others want her to fail and wait for the next stumble, yet everyone watches to see what she will do.

    In NASCAR, Patrick is an anomaly because she drives for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at JR Motorsports and is an attractive female that is a media darling much like Earnhardt Jr.

    For others, heritage breeds expectations. If a family produced racing champions, then it is expected to follow on down from father to son.

    Often it doesn't work that way, leading to disappointment because tradition is not carried out as planned.

    For some, they find success at various levels in the sport and their name becomes recognized, yet as they move on to higher levels, accomplishments may falter.

    As the years pass by, we review careers more analytically and find success to be somewhat overrated.

    In no particular order, we will take a look at NASCAR drivers from whom expectations remained unfulfilled.

    You can decide for yourself if you feel these drivers were overrated.

Which Series Will Danica Pick?

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    Danica Patrick began racing in the IndyCar open-wheel series in 2005 and was named Rookie of the Year, while becoming the darling of media with her GoDaddy.com team.

    Her performance in that series shows one win and her best finish in the point standings was fifth in 2009.

    Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports contracted with Patrick to drive their NASCAR Nationwide No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevy for a partial schedule in 2010.

    With five Nationwide races down and seven to go, Patrick is still trying to learn how to handle the bulky stock car.  Her adventure will continue at Michigan International Speedway this coming weekend.

    Her best finish to date is 24th place at Chicagoland Speedway.

    Patrick continues to learn NASCAR-speak with her crew chief Tony Eury Jr.

    Expectations for her success or failure in NASCAR are dynamic.  At some point she will need to commit to either IndyCar or NASCAR.

    Danica has not had a stellar year in the IndyCar series, remaining out of the top 10 in points, and is becoming less of a focal point for media.

    The consensus is that she will move into the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, but has to prove some talent in the second tier of NASCAR first.

    Will expectations and hype lead to success for Patrick or will she go down in history as an overrated driver?

Kyle Petty Lost The Racing Gene

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    Kyle Petty is the third generation of two racing legends and the inherited racing gene may have stopped with his father.

    Petty ran 829 races over 30 years, but only won eight.

    Driving the Mello Yello No. 42, Petty had his best years in 1992 and 1993 when he finished fifth in the point standings both years.

    This Petty was well known for being the son of "King" Richard Petty, but fame as a NASCAR driver eluded him.

    Kyle and his wife Pattie operate Victory Junction Gang Camp, a respected charity for seriously ill children.  Kyle is also a color commentator for racing on television.

A.J. Foyt Was a Champion, But Not In NASCAR

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    A.J. Foyt garnered much attention when he came into NASCAR.

    He ran 128 races over 30 years, but had only seven wins.

    His fame as an IndyCar Champion preceded him, making his NASCAR appearances somewhat hyped and results overrated, despite his wins and finishes in the Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) series.

Jimmy Spencer, Bully At Large

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    Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    Jimmy Spencer created his image of relevance as a NASCAR Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) driver.  He was perhaps a legend in his own mind.

    His brash style and controversial actions on the track with other drivers gave him recognition in NASCAR.

    The former modified driver drove in NASCAR from 1989 to 1994.  Spencer only had two wins in the Cup series.

    Known currently as a commentator for racing, he refers to his career in retrospect, as though it was more significant than reality indicates.

Ned Jarrett Was a Champion

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    Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    Ned Jarrett was the Grand National Champion (Sprint Cup) in 1961 and 1965.

    His record shows 50 wins in 352 races over 13 years.

    The driver known as "Gentlemen Ned" might seem an odd choice to be overrated, given that he held two Championship titles.

    Many of his wins came at smaller tracks including Hickory Motor Speedway, which he owned at one time, and Bowman Gray Stadium.

    Jarrett was a clean racer and respected by fellow drivers.  He was a short track pro, but lacked the ability to run strong on Superspeedways, which is part of what makes a champion.

    He retired at the height of his career when he was 34 years of age.  We have to wonder what he might have accomplished had he continued to race.

Geoff Bodine Was Important to NASCAR

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    Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    Geoff Bodine was the best known of the Bodine brothers who raced in NASCAR, though brother Todd is doing quite well in the NASCAR Camping World Truck series.

    He was known as a modified driver with championships in the Northeast.

    Bodine had 18 wins out of 570 races in the NASCAR Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) series racing for Junior Johnson, Bud Moore, and Rick Hendrick.

    His name was well known in NASCAR, but his driving talent was secondary to his technical expertise and innovative ideas.

    Bodine is credited with bringing power steering and full-faced helmets to the Cup series.

    After leaving NASCAR as a driver, the New York native became known for his "Bo-Dyn" bobsleds used in the Winter Olympics.

Casey Mears, A Man on the Move

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    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    Casey Mears comes from a family of well recognized racers.  He is the son of off-road pro Roger Mears and nephew of Rick Mears, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner.

    Mears came into NASCAR from USAC and CART Indy Lights open-wheel cars.

    He raced in the NASCAR Nationwide series in 2001, moving to Cup in 2003.

    Despite quality rides with Hendrick Motorspors, Chip Ganassi Racing, and RCR, his performance was mediocre.

    Mears continues to bounce around having been in conflict with Scott Speed at Red Bull Racing and then off to Tommy Baldwin Racing with more new rides rumored.

    He has one Cup win, but despite his name and heritage, success eludes the driver.

Wally Dallenbach Jr. Should Maybe Have Stayed On the Winding Courses

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    photo courtesy google images

    Wally Dallenbach Jr. ran 226 NASCAR races in 11 years, yet failed to win a race.

    With a road-course background in SCCA Trans-Am cars he became a champion at age 22.  Dallenbach came to NASCAR in 1991 making 11 starts that year.

    The following year he was teammate to Mark Martin at Roush Racing.  The driver showed some promise with two top-five and five top-10 finishes.

    In 1994, he became the second driver other than Richard Petty to drive the famous No. 43 Dodge.  Things did not go well with Petty and Dallenbach was released to bounce around several teams before retiring from NASCAR as a driver.

    Dallenbach became a racing commentator on television in 2001.

    Dallenbach was one who was given opportunity, but he failed to perform despite expectations.  His talent in a NASCAR stock car was overrated.

Elliott Sadler Can Take a Lick and Keep On Ticking

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    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    Elliott Sadler began racing full time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series in 1999 for Wood Brothers Racing in the Citgo No. 21 Ford.

    Sadler drove for Robert Yates Racing and is currently with Richard Petty Motorsports.  Despite having quality rides and top-of-the-line sponsors, he has only three wins in the Cup series.

    The RPM driver has driven in the NASCAR Nationwide series and Camping World Truck series.  Recently, he had a popular win in a truck sponsored by GT Vodka.

    Sadler has been involved in many terrifying accidents in his racing career, with the latest at Pocono Raceway being the hardest hit recorded by NASCAR.

    He is a free agent at the end of this year and is rumored to be leaving Richard Petty Motorsports.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Is His Own Man

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. bears the name of a legend in NASCAR.  When Dale Earnhardt Sr. was killed at Daytona in 2001, the racing torch passed to Junior.

    Expectations of championship performance and wins like his father had were placed on the young man who was just getting established in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

    Earnhardt Jr. has 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup wins, but has struggled to find success since his move from family-owned DEI to Hendrick Motorsports.

    He remains the most popular driver in NASCAR, with a tremendous fan base.

    Junior is a much different personality than his dad and will never be the multi-championship title holder his fans long for.

Michael Waltrip Better As an Owner, Than Driver

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    Tom Whitmore/Getty Images

    Being the younger brother of a three-time Winston-Cup (Sprint Cup) champion, Darrell Waltrip, didn't seem to help Michael as a driver.

    Waltrip began racing in Cup during 1985.  He had four total wins during his career in that series, though he raced in other series as well.

    His career was lackluster until he was hired by Dale Earnhardt Inc. to drive the No. 15 NAPA Chevy.

    He won the 2001 Daytona 500, breaking a streak of 463 races without a win.  The victory was over-shadowed by the death of his boss on the final lap.

    In 2004, Waltrip left DEI and his career as a driver again deteriorated.

    Waltrip formed Michael Waltrip Racing, which struggled until a cash infusion by a business partner in 2008.  MWR began to gain strength and he has become a respected team owner with quality drivers.

    It appears, though, that he was a disappointment as a driver, his strength may be his position as the leader of MWR.

    Waltrip can also be seen on several television broadcasts as a NASCAR commentator.

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