There are many drivers in the world of NASCAR today—drivers that we hear and talk about every single week because of their rank or popularity in the sport.
Well, here, we are going to talk about the underrated drivers who aren't in the news every week: drivers who get pushed to the back burner and deserve to be in the spotlight.
Martin Truex Jr. is a driver that tends to fall under the radar due to his poor finishes the past few seasons. I think some people have even forgotten the driver that dominated the Nationwide Series (then Busch Series) in 2004 and 2005. He won a total of 12 races combined and was the champion in 2004 and 2005. Truex had a whopping 17 top-10s in 2004 and 15 top-fives for 2005. He led a total of 1,658 laps in both seasons combined.
At the Cup level, Truex has one win at Dover International Speedway in 2007. Since then, his luck in the Cup series has dropped due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
2009 was Justin Allgaier’s first full-time season in the Nationwide Series. In that season, he had three top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. He finished out the season sixth in the points standings.
2010 was the season that put Allgaier’s name on the map. He started off the year at Daytona fourth in points and kept himself in the top 5 for the rest of the season—talk about consistency!
He accomplished his first NASCAR career win at Bristol Motor Speedway after a hard battle with Penske teammate Brad Keselowski. Justin had two pole starts, eight top-fives, and 20 top-10s that year.
So far for the 2011 season, Allgaier is fifth in the Nationwide standings with one win. I believe Allgaier will be a name we’ll see succeeding at the Cup level in the near future!
Regan Smith won his first NASCAR Cup race this season at Darlington, but not many people paid much attention to him before that.
Smith began his full-time Cup career in 2008 driving for DEI in the No. 01 Chevrolet. Some say Smith achieved his first win at the 2008 Amp Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, when he passed Tony Stewart on the last lap of the race coming to the checkered flag. According to NASCAR officials, Smith went below the yellow line while passing Stewart, revoking his win. He did, however, earn Rookie of the Year for 2008, becoming the first Rookie of the Year to finish every race entered in a single season.
Regan seems to improve with every race and is a driver you should keep your eye on.
Although AJ Allmendinger hasn’t scored his first NASCAR victory yet, his statistics keep improving with every season.
He started his NASCAR career with a rocky start, failing to qualify for the first five races of the 2007 season.
Jumping ahead to the 2011 season, Allmendinger has six top-10s and one top-five. He sits 14th in Sprint Cup Points and has finished 15th position or better in five out of the last six races. I think by the end of 2012, AJ will be able to call himself a Cup winner and, who knows, maybe even a Chase contender!
Leicht raced full-time in the 2007 Nationwide Series (then Busch Series), winning his first race at Kentucky Speedway. He finished seventh in points standings, but was released from his ride due to lack of sponsorship funding.
Leicht ran part-time in 2008 for Richard Childress in the No. 21 Nationwide Series car, with a best finish of seventh. In 2009, he ran nine races in the No. 29 car and had six top-10 finishes.
After being out of a race car for nearly two years, Leicht climbed behind the wheel of the No. 36 Tommy Baldwin-owned Chevrolet for the Wonderful Pistachios 400 this year. He ran in the top 10 most of the night and finished the race in 24th position. If anyone deserves a full-time Nationwide Series ride, it’s Stephen Leicht!