Motorsports 2013 Review: The Top 10 Drivers
With that idle time comes time to reflect upon the season that just concluded. Over the new few weeks, I'll be looking back at the 2013 racing season, looking at things like Biggest Disappointments, Best Races, and Things to Look Forward to in 2014. To start though, we'll go right to the top and count down the Top 10 Drivers of 2013. Want to contribute? Message me with your thoughts. They would be much appreciated. With that, let's get to it.
10. Kurt Busch One wouldn't expect a driver with no wins to make this list, but Busch did something amazing this year: get the single car Furniture Row team into the Chase. That's like bringing a knife to a gun fight given NASCAR propensity towards multi-car super teams. Yes, Busch didn't win a race, but overall only two races (David Ragan and Jamie McMurray at the two Talladega races) were won by teams that aren't established powers (four if you don't consider Michael Waltrip Racing established). Busch had 7 top fives prior to the Chase, including a 2nd in the Richmond finale. He faded a bit during the Chase and only finished 10th, but that's still a helluva performance given what he and the team were up against. Busch was duly rewarded with a ride at Stewart-Haas. Furniture Row benefited as well, as they are now considered a decent ride that can attract talent, as shown by them picking up Martin Truex, Jr. for 2014.
9. Helio Castroneves Until the dual disaster at Houston, it looked like Helio Castroneves would finally win an IndyCar championship. He led the standings for most of the season despite winning just once, a dominant victory at Texas. He was leading thanks to maximizing potentially disastrous days and turning them into something, while his rivals ran into misfortune. Going into Houston, Helio had finished in the top 10 every race but one. Unfortunately, mechanical failures in both Houston races, coupled with Scott Dixon finishing 1st and 2nd cause Helio to lose the points lead. He drove inspired in the finale at Fontana, but it wasn't enough. The three-time Indy 500 winner showed he's still a factor though, but the consensus right now is this was his last big chance at a championship.
8. Marc Marquez Who, you ask? Well, here's your introduction to the newest sensation on two wheels. Marquez won the MotoGP championship as a rookie, the first rookie to do so in 35 years. He is the youngest MotoGP champ ever, at 20. He doesn't turn 21 until this February. Marquez won six races this year, including four in a row at midseason and all three races in the United States. Every race he finished he ended up on the podium, which he needed to hold off a hard charging Jorge Lorenzo by 4 points to win the title. Marquez will have competition from Spanish compatriots Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, as well as the great Valentino Rossi, going forward, but given his age talent, we'll be hearing a lot from Marc Marquez in the future.
7. Simon Pagenaud Think success in IndyCar is solely the purview of Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti? Think again, because here comes this second year freshman driving for comparatively tiny Schmidt Peterson Racing. In 2012, Pagenaud finished 5th in the championship as a rookie (albeit one with Champ Car and a lot of sports car experience), and backed it up and then some. He won his first career IndyCar race in the second Detroit event, then added a second in a fantastic battle in Baltimore. His hot second half put him in championship contention for a while, although he would be eliminated after Houston. Still, a third place finish for the season is fantastic for a team whose budget doesn't compare to the top top teams in the sport. The 29 year old still has some room for improvement, particularly in qualifying, but this is yet another driver on the rise in an ever deepening IndyCar field.
6. Kevin Harvick Going into the season knowing he was a lame duck at Childress, Harvick to his credit didn't drive like it, even if there was controversy at times during the season. He started his year almost metronomically consistent, then caught fire starting at the first Richmond race, which he won. That started a streak of 9 top 10s in 10 races, including a late pass on dominant Kasey Kahne to win the Coca-Cola 600. He would win twice more during the Chase at Kansas and Phoenix to finish a very good 3rd in the championship, single-handedly keeping Childress Racing relevant this season. Harvick moves on in 2014 to Stewart-Haas.
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