For some, 2014 was a damn good year. Kevin Harvick won five and the title. Brad Keselowski led the way with six victories, with Joey Logano also a five-time victor. The Hendrick power trio of Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson all had four apiece, as all six listed here with 20 or more Top Tens while winning 28 of the 36 events. Unfortunately, this is not about those who did well.
There were those who put on the fire suits, got to be among the big boys, but when it came time to go they might have been best suited to go down the road instead of the track. Instead of being competitors, they were lucky to be participants, saddled in entries that had no hope of being anywhere near the front. However, this is all about misery, no bright spots allowed. To be eligible as our least successful driver one would have had to have attempted to qualify in at least 15 races and average a finish of 30th or worst.
That means no Danica Patrick to be found here. Even failing to qualify twice and finishing outside the Top 40 four times could not get Landon Cassill included, thanks to a fourth place finish at Talladega in the fall. In fact, even a single Top Ten excludes one from inclusion, and so we take Travis Kvapil and Michael McDowell out of the mix.
Ryan Truex was a contender to be the top pretender. It went sour fast in B.K. Racing’s No. 83 Toyota when he failed to qualify at Daytona. In fact, in attempting to make 26 of the first 27 races of the season, they missed three, finished 20th at the second Pocono race, with 30th in a Martinsville race the next best. After seven times outside the Top 40, they parted company after Chicago. Still, not bad enough for us.
The car was not parked, as J.J. Yeley was blessed to take it over. He already had some adventures driving the No. 44 Chevy of Johnathan Cohen. They withdrew four times, failed to qualify for four more, and were in the bottom 10 the other six. Three with Frank Stoddard left him outside the Top 30 every time, and in nine outings driving the illustrious No. 83 Yeley did manage to finish 29th once. Still, bad but not bad enough.
Joe Nemechek attempted the first dozen Cup races of 2014. Driving mostly for Jay Robinson in the No. 66 Toyota, but also for himself, he missed four of them, was 40th or worse in three, with a 31st in Kansas the best of the bunch. Later in the year, he came up empty at both Daytona and Talladega, with a 30th at Watkins Glen by far his best outcome in his final nine attempts. Still, not futile enough.
I am not sure what motivates a professional driver to take a ride that most likely will not be successful, despite his best efforts. A love for the sport, a willingness to help an outfit get started, an opportunity to pick up a few bucks with minimal effort, or all of the above. Randy Humphrey, a former partner of Phil Parsons and then Mark Smith, formed his own operation a year ago, hiring veteran crew chief Peter Sospenzo on the box and Dave Blaney behind the wheel.
They went to the track in hopes of getting their No. 77 Ford into Daytona, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Bristol to open the season. Each time the car was back in the trailer when the green flag waved. In fact, they withdrew before qualifying at Daytona, did the same at Fontana and Martinsville, though they made the race at Texas, finishing 41st, before winding up dead last at Darlington.
That proved to be better than the results at Richmond, Talladega, Kansas, and Charlotte, when they were left heading down the road a day or two early. Thirty-third at Dover was the high water mark for the car, as they followed up that effort coming in dead last at Pocono. I am not sure what they paid to sponsor the entry at Daytona but Plinker Arms, a firearm production company, might have better advertised their product by using it to put this entry out of its misery. Such are the trails and tribulations of starting up a new team.
After all that excitement, Blaney moved over to Tommy Baldwin’s No. 37 Chevy, where he was 26th at the second run at Pocono, 33rd at Michigan, then concluded his Cup campaign last at Bristol. When the season was over, he had four withdrawals prior to qualifying and seven failed qualifying attempts, to go with three finishes of dead last in seven attempts. Combined with results of 26th, 33rd (twice), and 41st in the other four, Dave Blaney is our least successful Cup driver of 2014.
While the 52-year-old Blaney has no plans to run Cup in 2015, he will be keeping busy racing dirt this season and working with his 21-year-old son Ryan. The kid will race some Cup this year with the Wood Brothers and hopes to add to his two victory total in the Xfinity Series with Team Penske. Maybe the least successful Cup driver of 2014, but arguably its most successful father. I think Dave Blaney might be more than content with that distinction.