Cup drivers with the worst ten rides of 2012
By Ron Thornton On Thu, Jan. 10, 2013
If you are a driver holding on to a dream of being the next Petty or Earnhardt or even the next Jamie McMurray, being on this list might not be a confidence builder. It means you are on the downside of a career, on the start of a ride bound for nowhere, or just maybe you are a guy with a plan. Of the 79 men and one woman who attempted to make one of last season’s 36 Cup events, these are the ten who ran the most for the least reward.
10. David Gilliland – Age: 37 (as of April 1)
Team: #38 (Bob Jenkins)
Races Made/Attempted: 36/36
Best Finish: 13th
40th or worse: Once
Average Finish: 26.0
On Track Earnings: $3,464,920
It might not have been the best ride last season, but it was not a bad one. In fact, as a three car operation, Bob Jenkins’ boys pulled in more than $8-million in on-track revenues, had a couple of entries finish the year in the Top 30, and Gilliland was in a car that got out there and tried every week. One other thing, they have improved their performance over the past couple of seasons. It will be interesting to see what 2013 might bring.
9. Landon Cassill – Age: 23
Team: #83 BK Racing
Races Made/Attempted: 36/36
Best Finish: 18th (three times)
40th or worse: Once
Average Finish: 27.5
On Track Earnings: $4,148,345
Red Bull ran out of energy, with the burger boys taking over to run their inaugural season. They attempted every race, made it into the lineup every time, and finished 31st in the standings. A second entry driven by Travis Kvapil was 27th overall. Season two looks promising, with a newly married young driver and a lot of positives to build upon.
8. David Blaney – Age: 50
Team: #36 (Tommy Baldwin Jr)
Races Made/Attempted: 34/34
Best Finish: 15th
40th or worse: Three
Average Finish: 31.8
On Track Earnings: $2,935,774
Blaney presently holds the longest winless streak among active drivers, but he is still 222 short of the late J.D. McDuffie’s record of 653. To say he is this team’s driver of the future is like saying I’m to be the next poster boy for Speedo. However, while I have not yet heard if Blaney will be back or not, probably another season in a veteran’s hands might be good decision. A young stud behind the wheel is not what they need right now. They need someone who can teach, who can pass along his experience to help a team grow. If they are looking for a driver for the future, though, there is another Blaney who could be only a couple of years away. It seems his daddy has already taught him a few things.
7. David Stremme – Age: 35
Team: #30 (McSweeney/Davis)
Races Made/Attempted: 28/34
Best Finish: 24th
40th or worse: Seven (including 6 DNQ)
Average Finish: 37.1
On Track Earnings: $2,428,301
Twenty times in 2012 this was a start and park entry due to a lack of sponsorship. Gone was owner Timothy McSweeney late in the season as Brandon Davis took over. The new boss promises the start and park days are over. He has Dale Earnhardt Jr’s cousin and former crew chief Tony Eury Jr on board. Davis’ company, Swan Energy, is a primary sponsor with more promised over the next few weeks. Stremme is to return back behind the wheel as a real racer this time. At least, that is the plan.
6. Michael McDowell – Age: 28
Team: #98 (Parsons/Curb)
Races Made/Attempted: 30/33
Best Finish: 23rd
40th or worse: 15 (including 3 DNQ)
Average Finish: 38.5
On Track Earnings: $2,465,274
What can I tell you about Mike Curb? He wrote the 1970 hit “All for the Love of Sunshine” for Hank Williams Jr. He was the owner of record when Richard Petty won his final two races back in 1984. In fact, they are Curb’s only wins in Cup. He and Phil Parsons are together in this effort, but history would seem to indicate that if this isn’t another start and park special it would come as a surprise. That is too bad, as I have always thought Michael McDowell was more talented than the rides he has had lately. Oh, well, I guess Phil was right when he said that at least they do provide a few jobs.
5. J.J. Yeley – Age: 36
Team: #49, #37, #10, #36 (Robinson-Blakeney, Gunselman, Baldwin)
Races Made/Attempted: 24/35
Best Finish: 26th
40th or worse: 21 (including 11 DNQ)
Average Finish: 39.7
On Track Earnings: $1,860,756
What a year. First, Yeley started with the #49, but they closed shop before the end of the season. There were a couple in the #10 for Tommy Baldwin Jr, another in his #36, then there was Larry Gunselman’s #37, with Baldwin providing some technical support. Yeley isn’t exactly old. I mean, he is a couple of years younger than Dale Earnhardt Jr. The big thing they need is the sponsorship to at least race. I mean, good fortune should be more than a quarter million dollar payout for running ten laps of the 2011 Daytona 500. Right?
4. Joe Nemechek – Age: 49
Team: #87 (Joe Nemechek)
Races Made/Attempted: 31/35
Best Finish: 28th
40th or worse: 23 (including 5 DNQ)
Average Finish: 39.9
On Track Earnings: $2,505,189
Joe owns a Nationwide team, was ranked 11th on the season, earning just under $900,000 in track earnings as he completed nearly 97% of the laps run. Joe owns a Sprint Cup team, does not run for points in that series, yet attempted to run in all 36. Joe ran in 31 of them, and earned $2.5-million for doing so. Joe was 28th in Daytona last February and 29th at the Glen in the only two events he completed. Joe might have had a chilly Cup ride, but he also had the best fundraiser of any Nationwide operation. $2.5 million for starting and parking, and all that before counting a single dime in sponsorship. Joe has a plan, and while he might be long in tooth for a driver, this owner doesn’t even turn 50 until September.
3. Josh Wise – Age: 30 (as of February 7)
Team: #26 (Bob Jenkins)
Races Made/Attempted: 30/35
Best Finish: 30th
40th or worse: 19 (including 5 DNQ)
Average Finish: 40.0
On Track Earnings: $2,306,930
Unless you are a real afficionado of Sprint Cup racing, you probably do not even know this man’s name. However, as a 29 year old rookie last season he attempted all but the Daytona 500 and took the green flag in 30 of them. I would say “raced” but he did not. He completed one event running two laps down at Sonoma where he finished 30th with Bob Jenkin’s #26 team, and led three of 47 laps run at Daytona last July. His next best finish was 37th, which he did seven times. He got to wear the suit, got to hang around the garage, got to go around the track with the big boys, got to be placed 39th in the official standings, and earned his owner $2.3 million for his on-track efforts. Sweet.
2. Mike Bliss – Age:48 (as of April 5)
Team:#19 (Mark Smith)
Races Made/Attempted: 19/26
Best Finish: 24th
40th or worse: 19 (includes 7 DNQ)
Average Finish: 41.0
On Track Earnings: $1,454,573
Another Cup entry to supplement the income of its Nationwide operations, which saw Eric McClure 16th in the standings. Mark Smith is a successful engine builder who has yet to realize his first victory in just over 450 races in NASCAR’s top two tiers. Last year marked a return to Cup after a 15 year hiatus to go along with a four team Nationwide stable just entering its fourth season. If you are going to dream, might as well dream big..
1. Scott Riggs – Age: 42
Team: #23 (Robert Richardson Sr.)
Races Made/Attempted: 20/27
Best Finish: 37th
40th or worse: 25 (including 7 DNQ)
Average Finish: 42.1
On Track Earnings: $1,496,515
I’m guessing a vast majority of folks reading this did not make over a million bucks last year nor did they enter or drive a car in a Cup race last season. Few reading this have the same level of commitment and love of the sport as those involved in this first year effort. Few will take the time to tear me a new one as the fellow who owns this team might well do. At least I won’t suffer from constipation…ever. That said, if one hopes to win a Cup championship in the foreseeable future, this team might not be for you. However, it would appear their prime focus is to use this team to help fund their Nationwide operations for the time being. Sure, Rick Hendrick may have won his first Cup race as an owner in his 8th attempt, but it took Richard Childress 242 attempts. So, early in 2020 then?
It should come as no secret that I rather detest the whole concept of field fillers, where a bucket of bolts is entered simply to make a quick buck before returning to the garage. There were very few races where entries were not above the 43 car field, so a free pass would have been hard to come by. These teams might not have much said about them over the course of the season, but what they were not were field fillers.
These ten drivers and the teams they drove for were not competitive. That is a fact. Some ran just a few laps then parked to save on expenses, not having the sponsorship revenue to do otherwise. Some sought only the big Cup payday to pad their Nationwide revenues. Some took their lumps in order to gain experience that might pay off in the future. What is also true is that they were all hoping to build on something, to progress and hopefully reach a point where they have a chance of moving from participant to challenger.
Were these the drivers with the worst ten regular rides of 2012? Their lack of media coverage and success on race day would seem to demonstrate that they are. However, these teams also demonstrated a love of the sport that, as much as we all might appreciate NASCAR, the rest of us just don’t come close to understanding. I’m guessing a few weeks at Robert Richardson’s garage just might give us an appreciation of just that.