By admin | February 7, 2012
By Richard Allen
On Monday night I posed the question â€œWhat NASCAR driver has the most to prove going into 2012?â€ on my Facebook and Twitter pages and the response was somewhat overwhelming. The replies fell into both the predictable and unpredictable categories with drivers ranging from Chase contenders to non winners being mentioned as potentially finding themselves on the hot seat in the near future.
The question was not necessarily meant to refer only to those drivers who might be in danger of losing a job, but also, those who have underachieved over the past year or two and just need to get things headed in the right direction.
To start the conversation, I listed four drivers who I think need to improve their performance in the coming campaign. Here is my list and the reasons why I selected each driver:
Joey Logano- It would seem hard to argue that Logano is on the hot seat. There is somewhat of a perfect storm of conditions gathering to place him there. In his time with Joe Gibbs Racing this driver has put up less than impressive numbers after having been hurried to the Sprint Cup level following the departure of Tony Stewart.
Loganoâ€™s contract runs out at the end of 2012 and primary sponsor Home Depot has been rumored to be less than pleased of late.
Martin Truex, Jr.- This driver finds himself in much the same situation as Logano. His Sprint Cup numbers have been far from impressive since entering NASCARâ€™s top division after achieving two Nationwide Series titles. And like Logano, Truexâ€™s contract with Michael Waltrip Racing expires at the end of the coming season as does primary sponsor NAPA.
Greg Biffle- With he and his sponsor signed through the 2013 season, I do not believe Biffleâ€™s job is in jeopardy. However, he is now 42 years old and time is running out if he is going to win more races or a Sprint Cup title. After a somewhat mediocre 2011 season, he needs a turnaround effort for the simple reason that there may only be a few more chances to achieve his goals.
Juan Pablo Montoya- The time has come for Montoya to prove that he is an all around driver and not just a threat to win on road courses. Last season, the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team seemed to fall behind in terms of their engineering as both Montoya and teammate Jamie McMurray had their performance fall off. If the EGR cars are improved in the coming season the former Formula 1 and IndyCar star needs to rise to the status of solid contender on oval tracks and contend for the Chase for the Championship.
Aside from my opinions, my followers had many of their own.
Those drivers I mentioned were all listed by those who participated in the discussion. As a matter of fact, Logano and Montoya were the runaway leaders in terms of most mentions. Fans seem to think both are underachieving and in need of immediate improvement.
Some mentioned that Kyle Busch has much to prove in 2012. The thought being that he has to show a higher degree of maturity after a near disastrous end to the previous campaign. No doubt, sponsors, car owners and even NASCAR will be watching this very talented and very volatile driver in the coming season.
And as is always the case in a discussion such as this, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had his name come up often as well. A number of contributors stated that this driver is in top equipment from Hendrick Motorsports yet fails to win despite the fact that his teammates do win races and contend for championships.
Surprisingly few participants in this very informal and unofficial polling mentioned Danica Patrick as a driver who has much to prove in the coming season. I assumed several would name the driver stepping into first class Stewart-Haas Racing(Hendrick) equipment with a guaranteed spot in the Daytona 500, but that was not really the case as only a few called her name.
Of course, this discussion has no bearing on what drivers actually need to perform better going into 2012. But it is an interesting topic to discuss while we wait on cars to take to the track.
I currently have 1910 followers on Twitter. If I reach 2000 by theÂ day of the Daytona 500 I will host a â€˜Pick the Winnerâ€™ contest for that race which will pay $50 to the winner. So, if you are already on Twitter follow @RacingWithRich for a chance to win. If youâ€™re not on Twitter come on board and join the discussion.
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