“If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?” - Vince Lombardi, legendary football coach
One line of thought holds that the winter will be long and cold for every driver in Sprint Cup racing except Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson was the ultimate winner, after all, rallying in the season’s last race to score his fifth straight Cup championship. Everyone else was no better than second and, as has been noted on numerous occasions and by numerous racing philosophers, second is the “first loser”.
If you count winning as the ultimate thing, however, there were a lot of losers in NASCAR in 2010. Seven of the top 20 drivers in points failed to win a race. Three of those – Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton – were Chasers.
Worse, there is a long list of drivers who haven’t won a race in an embarrassingly long time. Even in an age in which good point racers are praised, the idea of winning a race remains a good thing.
When race cars are cranked in anger once more in Daytona Beach in February, these guys will be fighting long winless streaks:
- Martin Truex Jr. 131 races. Truex last won in June 2007 at Dover. He’s had some strong runs at Michael Waltrip Racing but hasn’t been able to close the door.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 93 races. Junior perhaps would have celebrated with much more exuberance when he won at Michigan in June 2008 if he had known that would be his last win for so very, very long. His continuing futility is one of the sport’s grand mysteries.
- Jeff Burton. 77 races. Burton is perpetually steady-as-she-goes, but he has been alarmingly deficient in the closing portions of races.
“We have to be better in several areas,” Burton said. “We have to have better pit stops. We have to. I have to do a better job at making decisions on the race track. Todd’s [Berrier, crew chief] got to do a better job at making decisions on the pit box. We collectively have got to find a way to bring the speed to all the weekends that we have on some of the weekends.”
- Matt Kenseth. 70 races. Kenseth started the 2009 season with a bang, winning the first two races. Since then – zero. He showed some gains in the season’s final months.
“All of our cars seem to be faster here the last few months,” Kenseth said. “Lately, it seems like things have been going better. Our cars have been faster. … It feels like we’re gaining some momentum and the cars are quicker and we’re understanding each other probably a little better.”
- Jeff Gordon. 65 races. Gordon last won in Texas in April 2009. It’s a virtually unimaginable dry spell for the four-time champion.
- Joey Logano. 55 races. If the closing weeks of this season are an indication, Logano might be the first driver to remove his name from this list. He ended the year with some superlative runs and appears to officially have his balance.
- Kasey Kahne. 47 races. Kahne’s recent runs have been wrapped in the decline and turmoil of Richard Petty Motorsports.
- Mark Martin. 45 races. Martin scored five wins and finished second in points in 2009 but was mostly invisible this season.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.