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.
Hey there, Brad. Sorry we can't call you "Champ" any longer. If we did, it'd feel like we're patronizing you like a little child. And no, we're not going to go all Chad Knaus on you.
Calling 2013 a struggle is probably a bit of a stretch, but this is not the encore that we all had envisioned after your awesome Miller Lite fueled celebration in 2012. The transition to Ford is a tad overrated. It's not like we have a Dodge standard to judge your team on. Plus, there was the whole new car thing that complicated matters ever so slightly.
And anyway, you started the year off strong. You were third going into Richmond, and then you deviated from the blue with the Red's Apple Ale car and hit the wall. Was it the color change? Don't underestimate color karma.
That keyed a poor four race run that included another accident at Darlington, a 15th place finish at Talladega and the third-wheel accident with Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse at Charlotte. Suddenly you were 10th in the standings.
But hey, we all thought you were going to get a win. In the 10 races after that stretch, you had four finishes in the top six... and four finishes outside the top 20. That imbalance prevented a big summer run.
And yes, we still do wonder how life would be different if you had chosen to use the bumper at Watkins Glen. Would you have made the Chase? Possibly. Would your season been much more dramatic, and maybe not for the best? Probably. But hey, we still did get some Kyle Busch related drama. Thanks for that. Can we now mention how much we loved the headgames too? While many may think you erred in not following through on your threat of retaliation, for us, simply planting the seed was enough.
That win arrived, but it wasn't until the Chase. And you were on the outside looking in after the knockout blow of an engine gone sour at Atlanta. It was a precursor to Denny Hamlin's Homestead statement. Yes, you were still around, and yes, you were still formidable.
Consider that statement made for 2013. Now you need to do it for 2014 and the earlier the better. You don't want to keep waiting on a win to change things again.
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Previous Reviews: 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