Ranking the 10 Most Disappointing Chase Performances in NASCAR History

Michael GuadalupeFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2013

Ranking the 10 Most Disappointing Chase Performances in NASCAR History

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    The Chase gives drivers a chance to show that they are the best in NASCAR and lets them try to put on fantastic performances for the last 10 races of the season.

    It also crushes drivers as they try to compete but instead end up finishing the season with disappointment. Not every driver is going to be able to do what competitors like Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart have done during the Chase, and many drivers can succeed in the regular season, but struggle dramatically when the Chase starts.

    A driver could have a lot of momentum heading into the Chase because of a turnaround on a new team, or even previous success they saw in previous post-seasons, only to be derailed once the postseason starts.

    There have been seasons in the history of the Chase where a driver looked like a serious title contender but eventually fell apart and finished the year out with a whimper.

    The Chase can turn a driver into a NASCAR star, but it’s also created the worst performances seen in the sport.

    These 10 performances have been the most disappointing in the history of the Chase.

10. Kasey Kahne, 2013

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    If there's one word to describe Kasey Kahne's postseason, it has to be horrible.

    Kahne entered the Chase with so much potential. He had a great run in 2012 during his first season as a Hendrick Motorsports driver, and early in the regular season Kahne and the No. 5 team were standouts.

    They struggled a bit heading into the Chase, and Kahne ended up in a wild card spot with two wins, but after finishing fourth in the Chase last year, he looked like a solid competitor for the title in 2013.

    Instead he has struggled, and now sits 13th, 124 points behind Matt Kenseth.

    Kahne hasn't been able to reach the level he competed at during last year’s Chase.

    While he's had one of the most disappointing Chase performances this season, hopefully he can bounce back in 2014.

9. Jeremy Mayfield, 2004

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    Jeremy Mayfield pulled off a miracle to make the very first Chase. He needed to not only win at Richmond, but he had to dominate by leading the most laps as well. Mayfield did both and entered the Chase as the 10th seed.

    After pulling off such a big victory, Mayfield seemed to have a lot of momentum heading into the Chase.

    Unfortunately though, Mayfield couldn’t handle the pressure of the postseason.

    He finished 35th for the first race of the Chase.

    His highest finish in the 2004 postseason was fifth, but he also had finishes of 30th, 38th, and 26th.

    He was never able to recapture the magic he had at Richmond, and Mayfield went on to have one of the poorest displays of racing seen in the Chase.

8. Denny Hamlin, 2007

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    Denny Hamlin was sixth in points during the regular season in 2007. He entered the Chase and had as much of a chance as any other driver to win the championship.

    Unfortunately for Hamlin, he, like his Joe Gibbs teammate Kyle Busch, doesn't get along with the Chase.

    He had 15 top 10 finishes in 2007 during the regular season, but when he competed in the Chase he only managed to finish in the top 10 three times out of the 10 Chase races.

    Hamlin lacked patience in the Chase, which was clear when he got into a wreck with Kyle Petty, who had been lapped.

    When the Chase ended, the top 10 drivers would eventually be honored and given the chance to thank their sponsors. Hamlin though, finished the season in 12th and had to watch from the sidelines.

    He's made the Chase every season, besides 2013, since being a full time Sprint Cup driver. His 2007 Chase performance, though, was one of his most disappointing. 

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2012

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    Dale Jr. entered the Chase after winning a race in 2012 and consistently finishing well throughout the regular season.

    When the postseason started though, Dale faded.

    When it comes to the Chase and the championship, consistency is a big part of it. But almost just as important is the ability to win races. Jr. couldn't win a single race in the Chase that season, and to make matters worse, he missed several Chase races as well.

    After being caught up in the Big One at Talladega, Jr. would be sidelined with a concussion that ended any championship hopes he had.

    And while his concussion did bring up a major concern for driver safety, having to sit on the sidelines during the Chase is not something a driver wants to do and was a major disappointment for Jr. Nation.

6. Jeff Gordon, 2012

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     Jeff Gordon barely made the Chase in 2012.

    When the postseason started, Gordon didn't make any noise and didn't look like a real contender.

    In fact, the only thing Gordon did manage to do that was positive was win at Homestead. Gordon's 2012 Chase season won’t be remembered for his one win though, instead it will be remembered for his clash with Bowyer during the Phoenix race.

    Whether it was because of his frustration with his lackluster season, his anger toward Bowyer racing him hard that year, or a combination of both, fans saw a side of Gordon that he hadn't shown in a while. 

    He wrecked Bowyer at Phoenix and called it an act of retaliation.

    Gordon had a poor season in 2012 and a poor Chase to follow it. To watch a champion like Gordon take out a fellow driver's chances to win a championship was a huge disappointment.

5. Jimmie Johnson, 2011

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    Jimmie Johnson entered the 2011 Chase looking to win his sixth consecutive title and looking like the man to beat.

    Unfortunately, his 2011 run was the worst postseason of his career. Not only did it end his consecutive title run, it was also the first time he didn’t finish in the top five at the end of the season.

    Johnson was eliminated by the time the Phoenix race was over, but he was a big contender earlier in the Chase.

    He ran into several problems during the postseason, which derailed his progress toward his sixth title. He didn’t seem to intimidate anyone like he had in the past, and he also seemed to be on a different page than his crew chief Chad Knaus.

    Johnson and the 48 team fell apart in 2011, and it resulted in the most disappointing Chase of his career.

4. Denny Hamlin, 2012

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    Denny Hamlin went into the 2012 Chase with five wins. The 11 team was the group to beat heading into the postseason, but when the Chase ended they would have to settle for a sixth-place finish.

    Unlike several of the other disappointing Chase performances on this list, Hamlin’s 2012 finish isn’t entirely his fault.

    Winning wasn’t the issue for the Hamlin. Mechanical problems and other issues were.

    “It’s the other things—the teamwork, the luck, and things like that that make you champions. We know what our weak points are—it’s been documented a thousand times.” (H/T AOL)

    He ran out of gas at Chicagoland, then after using the wrong air pressures for qualifying at New Hampshire, Hamlin was forced to overcome a poor starting position, which he did, and managed to win the race.

    The final problem happened at Martinsville when a master ignition switch disassembled and knocked him out of the race on one of his best tracks.

    Hamlin’s 2012 season was a major disappointment not because of his driving ability but because the 11 team couldn’t get in sync. It arguably cost him the title that season.

3. Kurt Busch, 2011

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    2011 was the last year Kurt Busch would race for Penske Racing.

    It’s also a year when he would have a disappointing Chase. Busch finished the year in 11th place, one spot above his younger brother Kyle, but how Kurt finished the season was more than likely part of the reason Penske Racing let him go.

    After feuding with Jimmie Johnson, Kurt would do nothing in the Chase and finally let his aggravation out during the final race of the season when he was caught on camera verbally abusing a ESPN reporter.

    He would also give the same reporter the middle finger.

    Busch would eventually find himself removed from Penske Racing, and while the organization didn't come out and say they dumped Busch because of his actions at Homestead, it definitely made their decision to get rid of him a lot easier.

    Finishing the season in 11th and getting kicked out of your racing organization is a pretty bad way to end your Chase.

2. Kurt Busch, 2005

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    2011 wasn't the first time Kurt Busch did something to get released from his team at the end of a season.

    In 2005, Busch was driving for Roush Fenway Racing when he entered the Chase to defend his Sprint Cup (then the Nextel Cup) that he had won in 2004.

    Besides a poor performance, he found himself suspended for the last two races of the Chase. He ran into a little bit of trouble with the local police at Phoenix and was given a citation for reckless driving. The officer who stopped Busch believed he smelled alcohol on Kurt's breath, but he was only charged with reckless driving because a breathalyzer had malfunctioned.

    Busch found himself suspended and was released from his contract early from Roush Fenway Racing.

    He finished that season in 10th place, the bottom of the Chase standings.

    For a defending champion to not only struggle in the postseason but also to get suspended the last two races and dropped from his organization is a major Chase disappointment.

1. Kyle Busch, 2008

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    The most disappointing performance in the history of the Chase goes to Kyle Busch back in 2008.

    If you've been watching NASCAR since the Chase was implemented, then you know that Busch and the Chase don't get along.

    And out of all the bad postseasons he's had, 2008 was by far his worst.

    Kyle and the 18 team went into the Chase with eight wins.

    With a huge advantage over the rest of the field, 2008 seemed like the year Busch would prove that he is championship material.

    Instead he plummeted to the bottom of the standings. He finished 34th at New Hampshire and 43rd at Dover.

    He had a handful of top 10's to his credit, but he wasn't able to win a single race in the Chase after dominating in the regular season.

    When the dust of the Chase finally settled, Bush had dropped to 10th in the standings. He went into the Chase in 1st, with eight wins behind him, and in a matter of two weeks his Chase chances were over.

    Kyle Busch had the most disappointing performance seen in the history of the Chase.