Motorsports 2013 Review: The Biggest Disappointments
10. Tristan Vautier The only full time rookie in IndyCar this year, Vautier came into the season well regarded, as the reigning Indy Lights champion and as the 2011 Star Mazda champ. At the start of the year, Vautier showed his potential, qualifying in the Firestone Fast Six the first two races of the year, and finishing 10th at Barber. Unfortunately, that 10th would be his best finish of the year. Vautier was a non-factor the rest of the year, except for when he was making rookie mistakes and tearing up equipment. He finished 20th in the final points, not flattering when your teammate finishes 3rd. Vautier's ride at Schmidt has since been taken by Russian Mikhail Aleshin, and it's looking like Vautier's IndyCar career will be one year and done for now, and that the next move is sports cars.
9. Panther Racing This long-time IndyCar team started the year with JR Hildebrand, best known for crashing in the final turn of the 2011 Indy 500. Hildebrand started the season by running over the top of Will Power at St. Petersburg, then crashed on lap 4 at Indy and finished last. That was the last straw, and Hildebrand was released from his contract. Ryan Briscoe and Oriol Servia shared the car for most of the rest of the season, and the results of those veterans showed that the team's problems weren't all in the cockpit. Two 7th place finishes by Servia were the highest finishes for Panther after Indy, and were their only top 10s other than a 5th by Hildebrand at Long Beach. The offseason hasn't been any better. Briscoe was initially signed for next year, but he was released from his contract and signed with Ganassi this week. There is heavily speculation the team has lost the National Guard sponsorship contract. Either way, this is a team at a crossroads.
8. Danica Patrick You know she'd be on this list somewhere. She's not higher because expectations shouldn't have been that high to begin with, hype notwithstanding. Her rookie Sprint Cup season started well, with a pole and 8th place finish at the Daytona 500 (which led to her haters saying success in NASCAR's biggest race didn't matter because it was too easy, which makes one wonder why Daytona is the biggest race if it's so easy, but I digress). After that though, it was ugly. Occasionally there were some flashes, most notably a 12th at Martinsville, but otherwise Danica was a complete non-factor. She finished 27th in the points, ahead of only 3 drivers who competed in every race, none of which had anything close to the resources she had. The next few seasons will determine if Danica becomes a complete bust, but overall year one was not promising, and was in many ways even worse than the realistic pessimistic predictions.
7. Tony Stewart's broken leg Stewart's broken leg, suffered while competing in a sprint car in August, came right in the middle of Smoke's annual summer heat up. It took Stewart out of the rest of the season and robbed NASCAR of its most colorful character. It also started a debate on Stewart's extracurricular sprint car races and whether he was doing too much. Stewart is the boss and can thus do what he wants, but likely he will cut back on the sprint cars, but not stop completely. The hope is he'll stay healthy throughout 2014.
6. The Nationwide season finale The final race of the Nationwide Series was highlighted by the championship battle between Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish dominated the early part of the race, but a late caution went on and on and on for a total of 12 laps out of the final 17. It turned what should have been a late battle anti-climatic, and most were shocked that NASCAR let the caution go on that long without stopping the race. It give Hornish less of a chance to move up the spots he needed, and in the end his 8th place plus Dillon's 12th gave Dillon a three point championship victory. It looked to some like favoritism towards Dillion, Richard Childress's grandson, over Hornish, an ex-IndyCar champion. Either way, it was a sour note to end a season.
Turn to the next page for the top 5.