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Motorsports 101 Debate: Which Sprint Cup Series Driver is Having the Most Disappointing Year?

June 26th, 2013 at 10:00 AM
By Mark Eddinger
With 16 races complete in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season there are only 10 races left until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set. Then just 10 more races to decide a champion. Many drivers are in the mix to earn a shot at a title but some have had disappointing seasons and do not look like contenders at all. Motorsports 101 debates which driver has had the most disappointing season so far.
 
A Season From Down Under – By Clayton Caldwell
 
In all honesty this was a question that took a while to come to a decision on. Danica Patrick’s season has been bad and her expectations to start the season were very high and she currently sits 27th in the points. However, she is not the most disappointing. 
 
That distinction belongs to Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 team at Richard Petty Motorsports. Ambrose and his team have really struggled so far in the 2013, as new crew chief Drew Blickensderfer and Ambrose have failed to click. Ambrose has just three top 10 finishes so far in the first 16 races, is 22nd in points, and hasn’t led more than one lap aside from the road course race last weekend at Sonoma.
 
'' photo (c) 2013, Parker Anderson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
 
Ambrose is one of the best road racers in the sport and he finished a disappointing seventh, with his car falling off at the end of the day. Other than Sonoma his other two top 10 finishes have come at Charlotte and Martinsville. Mile and a half tracks have been extremely disappointing for Ambrose. He only has one top 10 in the six races at cookie cutter tracks this season. 

Ambrose’s teammate Aric Almirola currently sits 16th in the standings and has run a lot better than Ambrose has this season, although Almirola’s great season has come to a screeching halt. Ambrose has had some races that have been really bad. At Dover Ambrose fought from a lap down all race and came away 19th after a high attrition rate. 
 
It’s been a tough season for Ambrose and with RPM declining as a whole it is doubtful that there is an end in site. If that’s the case there could be more moves made on that race team.
 
Streak and Career Snapped? – By Mark Eddinger
 
This debate came down to two drivers, one at the very beginning of his Sprint Cup Series career and one that is most likely at the end of his competitive days. Ricky Stenhouse Jr, the two-time defending NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, has not had a very good 16 races to start his career in Roush-Fenway Racing's No. 17 Ford. He currently is 19th in points and has no top 10 finishes. Only seven other full-time drivers do not have a top 10 and those drivers are in far lesser equipment than Stenhouse is.
 
Stenhouse though gets a pass here and one of the other drivers without a top 10 is the most disappointing and probably the most disappointed. That is Bobby Labonte. In 16 races this season Labonte has an average finish of 28th and is being replaced in his normal ride with JTG/Daugherty Racing in the No. 47 Toyota for some races the remainder of the season by AJ Allmendinger.
 
'IMG_2791' photo (c) 2012, Parker Anderson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
 
Labonte was replaced for the first time two weeks ago at Michigan by Allmendinger. Labonte picked up a ride for that race with Phoenix Racing in the No. 51 Chevrolet which kept his consecutive starts streak alive. Labonte promptly got loose on lap 5 and spun out and then was slammed into by Jeff Gordon ending his ride in the No. 51 after just five laps with a 43rd place finish. Allmendinger went onto finish in 19th on the lead lap in that race.
 
Allmendinger has raced five times for Phoenix Racing this season and has been fairly impressive with finishes of 11th, 13th, 14th, 16th, and 33rd. He also just won last weekend at Road America in the Nationwide Series for Penske Racing in what was an emotional win and a great story after what happened with Allmendinger at the Cup level with Penske Racing almost around this time last season with his failed drug test.
 
But back to Labonte. He returned to the No. 47 Toyota at Sonoma only to not even complete a lap after the car experienced engine issues before the green flag. He only has three top 20 finishes this season and only one at a non-restrictor plate track. Those finishes are a 15th in the Daytona 500, 19th at Richmond, and 20th at Talladega. Clearly JTG/Daugherty is lacking some but Labonte hasn't risen to the occasion either. In the past two full-time seasons with the team Labonte had average finishes of 24.8 in 2011 and 22.4 in 2012 which was respectable for the single car team.
 
Labonte does not have a ride scheduled for Kentucky Speedway this Saturday which will break his streak at 704 starts in a row. Allmendinger will drive the car that night and also at Watkins Glen in August and at least two other races the rest of the way in 2013. It will be interesting to see if that number grows if he can perform well in the car.
 
There is no doubt 2013 has been disappointing for Labonte and the loss of this ride could mean the end of his Sprint Cup career after 21 full seasons, 21 wins, and one championship.
Tags: aric almirola, Bobby Labonte, Clayton Caldwell, Danica Patrick, Drew Blickensderfer, Kentucky Speedway, Marcos Ambrose, Mark Eddinger, Motorsports, NASCAR, phoenix racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, ricky stenhouse jr, Sprint Cup Series

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