This weekend marks the much-hallowed tradition in sports wherein leagues celebrate their so-called best of the best by letting them play in an exhibition event, the spoils of which are anywhere from home-field advantage to a nice wad of cash.
So to honor the running of the Sprint All-Star Race, let’s talk about the worst of the best.
If one makes it into the Sprint All-Star Race, chances are they’re deemed one of theNASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ top drivers. That’s a fair assumption to make, of course; admission generally requires being pretty good at your job, if only for one race, as was the case with David Ragan and his 2013 win that earned him a slot in the event.
Even then, the next two spots after the initial 19 are going to be determined by the top two finishers in the Sprint Showdown — which, again, isn’t an easy feat and requires the competitors to at least be worth something talent-wise. It’s the final spot, reserved for the Showdown driver voted in by the fans, that tends to be a bit ambiguous — but popularity is popularity.
Still, even in a race that celebrates the sport’s best, someone has to finish last. Someone will finish last. It could be due to a mechanical failure or accident; the All-Star Race isn’t known for being light on action, after all. There’s also the possibility of finishing down there because, hey, everyone else just beat them. Always a fun distinction, right? “Hey, babe, I was in the NASCAR all-star race this year.” “Oh? Where’d you finish?” “Well, last, bu-WAIT, COME BACK….”
In that case, poor Steve Park.
In terms of drivers who have started multiple all-star races, Park has been the worst. Over three starts in the event, he has an average finish of 18th, actually finishing only one of those races. That’s paired with an average finish of 19th, which is also pretty horrible.
He’s nearly equaled in that regard by Derrike Cope. The 1990 Daytona 500 champion also has an average finish of 18th, but in just two races versus three. The fact that he finished both races however, makes things a bit worse; it means that he didn’t really beat a whole lot of drivers on his way to his overall finish.
Other struggling drivers in this race include one that’s racing Saturday night: Jamie McMurray.
The driver of Ganassi’s No. 1 Chevrolet will race in the Sprint All-Star Race for the eighth time this weekend, and in his previous seven tries, he’s only managed two top-10 finishes. Taking into account the rest, he’s looking at an average finish of 15.9, the worst average for a driver with more than three starts in the event.
Clint Bowyer hasn’t fared much better. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver, who isn’t even in the race at this moment, but is a favorite to win the Sprint Showdown by virtue of being one of the best drivers in the lineup, hasn’t finished inside the top 10 in any of his five starts, with an average finish of 15.6.
An additional shout-out should go to Greg Biffle, who’s hit the top 5 twice and has three top 10s but a plethora of bad finishes, too. In all, he brings an average finish of 13.5 into the race, which puts him a little below middle-of-the-road.
Conversely, Tim Richmond’s tops of all drivers. Despite never winning, he finished in the top 5 for both of his two all-star races, for an average of fourth. Joey Logano’s close behind at a 4.3, also as the top driver among those who are still active and starting on Saturday.
But including all drivers who’ve ever run the Sprint All-Star Race, including those who’ve only started it once, who’s been the worst of all time?
It’s your top vote-getter in the fan vote last year, Danica Patrick. In a performance that does not do the stigma surrounding said fan vote much justice, Patrick finished all the way back in 20th in 2013, putting her at the absolute bottom of the list.
But hey — when she inevitably gains admittance into the race via the fan vote again, maybe she can blow past Steve Park in the overall standings.
About the author
Rutherford is the managing editor of Frontstretch, a position he gained in 2015 after serving on the editing staff for two years. At his day job, he's a journalist covering music and rock charts at Billboard. He lives in New York City, but his heart is in Ohio -- you know, like that Hawthorne Heights song.
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