Cami Starr · Tuesday April 18, 2006
In part two of our look at Who’s Hot and Who’s Not this decade, we are starting out at the bottom of the list, with drivers who have found themselves in a cold spell the last six years. A few of these drivers have the potential to turn things around and warm up, while others seem to be perpetually stuck in the freezer.
Need to be teased all over again? Take a look at Part One before you read today’s version of the Starr Report.
Kyle Petty: With his charming personality and great charity work, Petty is someone all fans can pull for. And given his recent race history, he needs all the encouragement he can get. In 190 races, he has only 5 Top 10 finishes this decade, leaving a lot of room for improvement. Perhaps the recent overhaul at Petty Enterprises will do that.
Ken Schrader: Like Kyle Petty, Schrader is a guy most people could find themselves pulling for. Stuck with low budget, struggling teams the past few years, it shows on the stat sheets. No wins and only 14 Top 10 finishes have Kenny as cold as a Budweiser, his former sponsor, on a hot day.
Sterling Marlin: Speaking of beer sponsors, the one time Coors Light driver has had a pretty frosty decade. In 2001 and 2002 he had strong seasons, contending for the championship in ‘02, but he has dropped off fast since an injury ended his title bid that year. His season ending rankings have dropped off steadily, with only one Top 10 points finish in six years, and this year he doesn’t look to be making any progress in reversing that trend, barely hanging onto the Top 35 in points.
Kenny Wallace: Herman was the driver with the famous last name mentioned in Part One yesterday. He’s only running part time these days, but he hasn’t been able to capitalize on the few opportunities he’s had. With an average finish of 26.4, it’s hard to say if he’s a victim of poor equipment or just not nearly as talented as his older brother Rusty.
Jeff Green: The former Busch Series champ hasn’t found nearly the same amount of success in Nextel Cup. He’s raced for some good teams, but unfortunately landed on their doorstep right while they were struggling. He had his best year in 2002 with RCR driving what is now the 07 car, but with no wins and just 4 Top 5 finishes in 154 races this decade, he hasn’t produced enough to get out of the cellar.
Dave Blaney: Like Green, Blaney has donned plenty of different colored firesuits in the past six years. He’s run in 200 races…but has cracked the Top 5 only once, leading a mere 195 laps. With a best finish in the standings of 19th, it doesn’t look like he’ll come close to matching that number this year in his second go around at BDR.
Jeremy Mayfield: Other than the two years that he squeaked into the Chase, this decade hasn’t been much to crow about for Mayfield fans. He started off slow, with no finishes in the Top 20 in the standings until landing with Evernham, then started to heat up once he made the switch. But DNF’S in nearly 16% of the races he’s run this decade keep Mayfield from ever becoming a serious contender, and his rocky start this year makes him look more and more like the Mayfield of old.
Elliott Sadler: Like Mayfield, Sadler has upped his stock in recent years with a switch from the Wood Brothers to Robert Yates Racing, but he hasn’t been able to warm up enough to overlook his past problems. He started the decade with four finishes of 20th or worse in the standings, and has earned only three wins in 220 starts. However, he’s still young and talented enough to turn things around in the next few years.
Joe Nemechek: Nemechek has had flashes of brilliance so far this decade, but nothing he has been able to sustain. After starting off with Andy Petree, he moved to Hendrick Motorsports, and then to MB2, where he has found some decent results. He’s made it to Victory Lane on three occasions, but an average finish of 22nd and no Top 10 points finishes has Nemechek cooling his heels on our list.
Robby Gordon: If NASCAR ran four or five road course races a year, we’d probably have to knock Gordon up a notch or two. But since that isn’t the case, Gordon lands in the cool zone. With a DNF rate of almost 18% and an average finish of 23.5, Robby is still struggling in the Cup series despite three wins when he drove for RCR the early part of this decade. He’s got help from the DEI engine program now, but as a single car effort, he has a long road ahead of him.
Michael Waltrip: The late Dale Earnhardt saw plenty of potential in Waltrip, and early on in his DEI tenure, he looked to be living up to it. However, Waltrip’s Achilles’ Heel has become DNFs. With an astonishing 42 DNFs, a rate of 19%, only his 4 wins and 41 Top 10 finishes keep him out of the deep freeze on our list, despite 2 of those wins being Daytona 500s.
Casey Mears: If this list is redone in a couple years, we may just have to kick Mears up a notch. For right now, though, he hasn’t put together a season complete enough to qualify him for anything higher. He’s currently 10th in the standings, his best effort of his career. But he still has a lot of poor finishes to overcome, including 35th in the standings his rookie year. A win or two will help boost his 23.5 average finish and perhaps move him up to the next level.
Terry Labonte and Bill Elliott: These two past champions have had a tough go of it in the twilight of their careers. Now running just part time, both are several years past their glory days despite both finishing in the Top 10 in points in 2003. Simply put, both drivers aren’t finding much success running in select events.
So now that we’ve covered the bottom half, things will heat up in part three of our series tomorrow. Think you have an idea of how the list will shake out and who will top our list? You’ll just have to check back for Part Three of Drivers of the Decade to find out!
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