Welcome to From the Marbles' 2013 driver reviews. Here, we're going to critique, praise and bloviate about the top 30 drivers in the 2013 NASCAR season. It's the last one, so can we play this song? Because we are.
On the eve of preseason testing, your run through the Chase is even more remarkable now than it was as you were lifting the trophy. Maybe it's because those four finishes in the races before the Chase stick out more than they did.
At Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond you finished 40th, 36th, 28th and 40th. That's not a typo. For giggles, we counted up your finishing positions in the Chase to see how many races it would take us to get to 40 and we got to 39 through eight races. That's counting the 13th place finish you had at Talladega, which has simply become a survive and advance race for drivers in the Chase. Consider that mission accomplished.
You were crazy good. And so was Kenseth, until that Phoenix race, which you can relate to pretty strongly. You were in that position last year when dueling with Brad Keselowski, though you smacked the wall rather than fought an ill-handling car.
Plus, you could have gone to Homestead and coasted. Instead you were around the top 10 for most of the day -- though you did have a couple of close calls.
After last year and your astonishingly poor run of seasons without a championship stretched to two, it was easy to think your dominance had cracked. It's not so easy any longer. As Denny Hamlin said after he won at Homestead, this is the Jimmie Johnson era. And we're not sure if there's an end in sight.
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Previous Reviews: No. 2 Matt Kenseth, No. 3 Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Kyle Busch, No. 5 Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 6 Jeff Gordon, No. 7 Clint Bowyer, No. 8, Joey Logano, No. 9 Greg Biffle, No. 10 Kurt Busch, No. 11 Ryan Newman, No. 12 Kasey Kahne, No. 13 Carl Edwards, No. 14, Brad Keselowski, No. 15 Jamie McMurray, No. 16 Martin Truex Jr., No. 17 Paul Menard, No. 18 Aric Almirola, No. 19 Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 20, Jeff Burton, No. 21 Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 22 Marcos Ambrose, No. 23 Denny Hamlin, No. 24 Casey Mears, No. 25 Mark Martin, No. 26 David Gilliland, No. 27 Danica Patrick, No. 28 David Ragan, No. 29 Tony Stewart, No. 30 Dave Blaney