10 NASCAR Drivers Jeff Gordon's Bad Luck Really Hurts

Ben Montedonico@@NASCARBRBenContributor IIIApril 6, 2012

10 NASCAR Drivers Jeff Gordon's Bad Luck Really Hurts

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    Jeff Gordon has had a rotten start to the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

    Through six races, Gordon has mustered only one Top 10 finish and has compiled three finishes outside the Top 25.

    Gordon's finishes have, for the most part, been a direct result of terrible luck.

    Yet despite Gordon's 21st-place standing in the points, the general consensus is that the four-time Cup champ is still a lock to make the Chase, either by garnering enough points over the next 20 races to make the Top 10, or by means of a Wild Card berth.

    But, should Gordon indeed make the Chase after his rough start, that puts several other drivers in a tough predicament—especially since Gordon has company outside the Top 15 in points, namely Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne.

    Should Gordon and friends make the Chase, as many believe, others will be forced out of contention to make room for them. It is they, not Gordon, who will be most negatively affected by Gordon and others bad luck should they rebound.

    Who exactly are these mystery drivers who may be more affected by Gordon's bad luck through six races than Gordon himself?

    Here are 10 of them.

1. Martin Truex Jr.

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    Martin Truex Jr. has a solid start to the 2012 Sprint Cup season.

    Through six races, the two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion has two Top 5s along with four Top 10s and sits sixth in the Sprint Cup standings.

    Unfortunately, with guys like Gordon on their way up through the standings, that may not last.

    Truex has been consistent, but not dominant. Though he has been strong on short tracks, his team's intermediate program lacks the strength to keep up with the Gordons, Johnsons and Stewarts.

    Truex's early-season performance indicates that he and his team are capable of competing for a Chase spot. But, because his team does not seem to be quite good enough to compete for wins on a regular basis, Truex will likely have to do it by making the Top 10.

    A task that will be much tougher with guys like Gordon and Kyle Busch lurking.

2. Ryan Newman

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    Ryan Newman has one win in 2012.

    Good thing, too, because he'll probably need it.

    Rocketman is a consistent driver—He's made the Chase two of the last three years and has now won a race in each of his past three seasons.

    The problem for Newman is, like Truex, he isn't dominant.

    Newman has been a bottom-of-the-Top 10 driver (he was eighth in '12, and 10th in '09), which has been good enough to make the Chase.

    But knowing that, and seeing where he is now (eighth)—knowing guys like Gordon, Busch and Carl Edwards still lurk outside the Top 10—has to make one worry a little bit about whether Newman can hold on, especially if he should stumble in the dog days of summer.

    Or if the Martinsville win is his only one.

3. Clint Bowyer

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    What worries me about Clint Bowyer is that the guy just doesn't win.

    He hasn't in the first 26 races.

    In his six years leading up to 2012, Bowyer has just five wins for his career. Of those wins, just one (Richmond, May '08) came in the first 26 races.

    Bowyer is a consistent driver, but not a dominant driver.

    The problem with Bowyer's consistency, however, is where he constantly ends up after 26 races. Of the three Chases Bowyer has made, twice he sat outside the Top 10 after 26 races, with both of those coming before the Wild Card format.

    Should Bowyer continue to be "consistent" and not manage to improve upon his win total, he could struggle to make the Chase with Gordon and Busch likely to be hot on his heels.

    A possibility that looms even larger thanks to being with a new team.

4. Carl Edwards

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    Like so many others, Carl Edwards' reputation is consistency.

    In 2011, that consistency came out to be 26 Top 10s, and a runner-up finish in the standings. But when that consistency drops off just a bit, things like Edwards' current 11th-place standing is often the result.

    Edwards' average finish through six races is 14.2; five spots off his mark from this time a year ago.

    That 14.2 average finish screams just that: average. Much like a Clint Bowyer or a Ryan Newman, not a Tony Stewart or a Jimmie Johnson.

    That, coupled with the fact he hasn't won in 39 races, says Edwards needs to pick up his performance or risk being cast out of contention by guys like Gordon and Busch.

5. Joey Logano

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    A year ago, all it took was one race win to make the Chase as a Wild Card.

    If you earned two wins, you were a lock.

    Fast-forward to 2012, where the competition is stiffer than ever, and you'll find that the going gets tough for guys like Logano—who's hoping to luck into a Wild Card slot with a win.

    Logano finds himself in what may be his last year driving the No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing; equipment that's good enough to win on any given weekend.

    Logano is not consistent, nor is he dominant. But after a decent start to the 2012 season, there is a chance he could earn a win or two at places like New Hampshire or Pocono and sneak into the Chase.

    However, with the struggles of Gordon, Busch and Kasey Kahne possibly having them to take the Wild Card slots, guys like Logano could be forced out.

    Even if he gets a win.

6. Jeff Burton

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    Burton is another driver who lives by consistency, yet is capable of winning a race or two.

    The start of 2012 looked to be a career revitalization of sorts for NASCAR's mayor, as he earned a pair of Top 5s in the season's first four races.

    But Burton's season has started to go downhill over the last two weeks with a pair of 22nd-place runs, relegating him to 15th in points.

    Burton's biggest problem, as it is for so many others, is that the competition is just too strong. Burton sits 15th in the standings, and that's with Gordon, Busch and Kahne still behind him, looking to make up ground.

    The climb to the top is hard enough without others trying to push you down, as will be the case for Burton once those others begin their climb.

7. Kyle Busch

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    Here's where things get interesting as we pin Busch head-to-head with Gordon.

    Busch should win enough races to make the 2012 Chase as a Wild Card if he doesn't make the Top 10. After all, Busch is usually a four-win driver in the regular season and has had no trouble getting to Victory Lane throughout his career.

    Busch sits outside the Top 10 in points for just the second time since his rookie year in 2005, and has looked far from the checkers-or-wreckers driver we're accustomed to seeing.

    Mostly, it's just been wreckers.

    Busch has been involved in four accidents through six races in 2012, and with him being under NASCAR's microscope after an incident at Texas late last year, Busch's winning attitude seems to be gone. But I digress.

    What if Busch doesn't win enough races to make it as a Wild Card?

    Guys like Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards may just be consistent enough to keep him out of the Chase.

8. AJ Allmendinger

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    How much better Dinger's Chase hopes would be had he knocked Newman out of the way to win at Martinsville.

    As it is, Allmendinger, considered by many to be the sleeper of 2012, will probably still earn his first NASCAR win of 2012 at a track like Charlotte or Dover.

    But will it be enough to make the Chase?

    A year ago, I would have said yes. After all, had he won a race a year ago, it would've been just about good enough to make the Chase—he would have been in with a win and a better finish elsewhere.

    But, like I stated with Logano, no driver is going to luck into the Chase by winning a race in 2012. It's going to take multiple wins, thanks to guys like Gordon and Busch who may struggle to make the Top 10 and therefore claim the Wild Card slots.

    Is Allmendinger capable of winning multiple races?

    It remains to be seen, especially since we're still waiting on win No. 1.

9. Marcos Ambrose

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    Earlier this season, I declared Marcos Ambrose to be my sleeper this season, based on one premise.

    He would win both road course events, and therefore make the Chase.

    Over a month later, I may ought to think about taking that back.

    Ambrose can win both road course races, and it would probably surprise nobody if he did. He's also very capable of finishing inside the Top 20 in points, the other prerequisite of making the Chase as a Wild Card.

    The problem for Ambrose, once again, is that two wins may not be enough to do it. Busch will more than likely earn three or four, with Gordon and Kahne possibly earning that many as well.

    Therefore, Ambrose would probably have to win both road course events, an oval race, and finish ahead of Gordon, Kahne and/or Busch in order to make the Chase.

    That's a tall order for any driver, and one that would not be in place if it weren't for those drivers' struggles.

10. Kasey Kahne

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    Kasey Kahne may just be the most Chase-capable 31st-place driver the sport has ever seen.

    The new kid at Hendrick Motorsports has shown to be more than capable of winning races, and capable of rebounding from his early deficit, despite not placing in the Top 10 through six races.

    Here's the problem that confronts Kahne.

    We have already documented that, with Gordon and Busch's struggles, there is a very good chance that they hog the two Wild Card slots this year unless somebody unseats them.

    Based on prior stats and current standings, that will take a lot.

    Gordon earned three regular season wins a year ago, while Busch earned four. With Kahne buried so far behind those two in the standings—should that duo match their win total from a year ago—he would have to pull off four wins in the next 20 races just to earn a Wild Card slot.

    It's not out of the question, as Kahne did earn five regular season victories in 2006 and now drives much better equipment.

    But one has to assume Kahne would like his chances much better if Gordon and Busch weren't in a position to take Wild Card slots.