What Five Have Disappointed so Far This NASCAR Sprint Cup Season? – Fan’s Analysis

Coming up to Easter weekend break and six races into the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, some stories are beginning to unfold - as in who will be contenders and who will be pretenders. We looked at those drivers who have achieved more than expected so far (see related articles) but now let's take a look at five drivers who have underperformed (listed alphabetically).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. of Hendrick Motorsports has done surprisingly well.

Kyle Busch - This year he was to be the new Kyle Busch - more in control, better with the public and press plus keeping his demeanor in check … on and off the track. He's been a solid qualifier and occasionally leads laps but something always sets him back - whether it's bad luck or not. So far, the new Kyle isn't as good as the old Kyle as he sits in 16th in points with only two Top 10s.

Carl Edwards - Isn't Cousin Carl supposed to be leading the points right now and establishing himself as the car to beat? He has a pole and five top 20s but a very bad finish in Bristol has him out of the Top 10 currently (11th). I'm sure he'll rebound and be solidly in the Chase but right now, there doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency in the #99 camp.

Jeff Gordon - I was surprised when a reporter mentioned that Gordon was 21st after Martinsville. Oddly, his worst qualifying performance (30th) at Phoenix ended up being his best day (8th) this year. He has only that one Top 10 to date this season. Gordon was the car to beat at Martinsville but an end of the race mishap brought a fourteenth rather than a possible first.

Jimmie Johnson - 2011 was an anomaly - and yet he finished a disappointing season in sixth. The bar is very high with the #48 team. Yes, he's 10th and therefore would qualify for the Chase but this is 'five-time' and championships and wins are what he's about. He started the year at Daytona with a poor outing and has done fairly well since but with a 10th and 12th in his last two contests, currently the team isn't showing that championship level … at least not yet.

Kasey Kahne - He finally has the team and equipment it takes to win it all. So much promise this year and then … thud. He sits an astonishing 31st in points and has four finishes outside the top 20. Peculiarly, he has two poles which means he has a fast car but he's not finishing well for a variety of reasons. And the most embarrassing part of this is that he replaced Mark Martin in the #5 Hendrick Chevrolet, yet Martin is six spots ahead of Kahne - but unlike Kahne, Martin has driven in only four races, not six!

Obviously, there's a theme here and it's that the super team of Rick Hendrick isn't executing to the high standards they are usually expected to do. The last three listed above are Hendrick teammates and the only car in the stable of four doing well is Dale Earnhardt Jr. who's currently second.

In addition, there are a couple others who many thought might do better and they are Marcos Ambrose who is 23rd and Jamie McMurray who stands right behind him in 24th.

The schedule still has 20 more races before the Chase so there's still time but teams such as Kahne's need to put the bad luck, et all behind them and start getting to the front and staying there. Otherwise, the pressure just builds.

Source - NASCAR, Racing Reference, Hendrick Motorsports

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Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus blogged about every type of racing for several years.

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Updated Tuesday, Apr 3, 2012