When I filed my ultra-long Weekend Racing Roundup late on Sunday night, one of the things I wrote about was the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen and I used these words:
Juan Pablo Montoya finished fifth (how does he keep his job?).
Much has been made of his less-than-stellar results in NASCAR after being king of the world in Formula One and CART. He started 239 races in his stock car career and he won only two – both on road courses – with nine poles and 56 top-ten finishes.
This was deemed – correctly – as not being good enough for the big league and Montoya is being cut loose (although his old pal, the Chipster, might find room for him on his new United SportsCar Racing team in 2014 if Juan Pablo still wants to race).
This decision to end Montoya’s Sprint Cup career, however, begs the question: what are all those other losers still doing in that series? This is supposed to be NASCAR Sprint Cup, where only the best of the best get to race – or so the PR bumph would have us believe.
Let’s take a look at a bunch of racers who are out there in Sprint Cup cars most of the time on Sunday afternoons (or Saturday nights) in the summertime. I have restricted this examination, by the way, to drivers who have started more than 100 races in their Cup careers, which means that people like Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Danica Patrick and Aric Almirola have escaped scrutiny. But if they don’t pick up their socks by the time they hit the century mark, I’ll have the knife out for them too.
Take Travis Kvapil, for instance. Kvapil, whose carelessness eliminated Ron Fellows from competition during last Sunday’s race at the Glen, has started 232 Sprint Cup races and won exactly none of them. He boasts a record of finishing in the top ten seven times. All I have to say about that record of accomplishment is, wow.
How about Casey Mears? Casey has been permanently employed in Cup competition for years and when he isn’t in a car he’s in demand as a substitute driver. Why? In 266 starts, he’s won once. He’s got 47 top tens but is that good enough? Of course not.
David Gilliland is a name we hear all the time. He’s always got a ride but it’s a mystery to me as to why. He’s started 244 races and under the win column there’s a big, fat, zero. Like Kvapil, he’s got seven top tens to his credit.
Here’s one that takes the cake. Dave Blaney has started 452 Cup features. Wins? Uh-uh; 452 goose eggs. Oh, he’s finished in the top ten 28 times but, frankly, I don’t think that’s all that hard if you have 452 kicks at the can. The law of averages is going to kick in at some point.
J.J. Yeley, another open-wheel star who should be in Indy cars (that is, if the people running the teams in that organization had any brains; they are the geniuses who let Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and countless others get away in favour of no-name marginal talents from the offshore who arrived with suitcases full of money), has raced 188 times in Cup and won nothing, nada, zero.
Hey, how about Marcos Ambrose? Everybody loves Marcos, particularly when he has a temper tantrum like he did last Sunday. He’s a star. But even that’s a bit of a mystery to me. He’s been in 177 Cup races and won two – like Montoya, both being on road courses. He’s only had 36 top tens the rest of the time, so he’s not exactly setting the world on fire, is he?
Here’s a guy with a perfect record. Landon Cassill has appeared in 103 races and has all zeroes under wins, top tens and poles. You look at his statistics and it looks like a slot machine – 0, 0, 0.
I could go on: David Reutimann, 218 starts, two wins. David Stremme, 186 starts, no wins and three top tens. Does he write home a lot? Michael McDowell, 134 starts, no wins, one top ten. Whoo-ee! Scott Speed (he raced in F1. Seriously.) has a record of 115 starts without a victory and only four top tens. David Ragan has 240 starts and two wins. I could go on (I said that before), but I won’t.
Can anybody tell me what Bobby Labonte is still doing racing in Cup? Once a great driver, he hasn’t won since 2003. That’s 10 years. You want to tell me there isn’t somebody, somewhere, who could get into his car and do better?
If Chip Ganassi and Theresa Earnhardt (let’s not forget Felix Sabates) have come to the conclusion that Montoya isn’t getting the job done and has got to go (and Kyle Larson will get that ride, by the way – another Indy car loss), all the other owners of cars employing the drivers listed above should be putting them on notice too.
The name of the game in racing is winning. Those guys aren't. They shouldn't be there.