Who Is Good At Bristol Motor Speedway? [Expert Review!]

The answer might surprise you. It’s not the big-name drivers or the wealthy team owners, but the little guys who drive the little cars that make all the difference. If you think you know what skill set is required to be a successful race car driver, think again. Take a look at our top 15 list of drivers who should have been there but weren’t and how they performed compared to the rest of the field. The list includes some drivers who started out of shape but found their footing, some who didn’t have what it takes and were never able to live up to their potential, and some who had everything but luck on their side.

15. Spencer Pigott

Spencer Pigott made his way to the front of this list thanks to his outstanding runs during the IndyCar season opener at Long Beach, as well as at Sonoma and Watkins Glen during the IndyCar championship season. The 25-year-old Englishman put in some solid drives during IndyCar’s “Triple Crown” season, highlighted by a top-five finish at Watkins Glen. IndyCar has changed a lot since the days of Pigott’s granddad driving around in circles in Monaco, and the sport is a whole different animal now. With different rules, less downforce, and more strategy than ever before, teams can control the race more and drivers have to figure out ways to make their car go faster. That’s what Pigott did, and in 2018 he had a breakout year.

14. Martin Truex Jr.

After years of struggling with bad luck and mediocre performances, Martin Truex Jr. finally broke through in the second half of the 2017 season. While he had some success early on, it wasn’t until after the halfway point that he started to turn things around. At the end of the year, he went from 14th in the standings to fifth and won the popular vote for the 2018 NASCAR championship. The story of Truex’s turnaround is one of perseverance and hard work. He missed the whole 2015 season after suffering a tragic death in a dirt-track incident, and when he returned he struggled to find his place in the garage. With help from his father, who is also his crew chief, he started from the bottom and worked his way up. It’s not just about racing, either – he’s an avid hiker who takes his dogs on walks around the Pocono Mountains. It was hard to imagine the 2019 season would be the year of Martin Truex Jr., but here we are.

13. Max Papis

When it comes to the first half of the 21st century, Max Papis was one of the most successful touring car drivers in Europe. The 46-year-old Georgian driver won the 2002 World Touring Car Championship with the Opel Meriva and drove for several years in the World Touring Car Cup before moving to America in 2015. Since his arrival in the States, he’s been very successful, getting off to a great start by winning the 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Prix and taking the 2017 STCC championship in the Dindo car. He also made his IndyCar debut that year with Team Penske and qualified 12th before finishing 10th. At IndyCar’s annual awards in December, he picked up the prestigious Bill France Award for Sprint Cup Driver of the Year.

12. AJ Allmendinger

AJ Allmendinger began his professional racing career in 2004 and was one of the most popular drivers during the first half of the decade. The Michigan native has been a professional driver since 2004, completing over 90 races in that time and regularly competing in the Sports Car Club of America. Most notably, the 46-year-old driver won the 2005 Rolex Sports Car Series Championship with co-driver Justin Bell. In 2007, Allmendinger was the runner-up in the IndyCar Series Championship, behind Scott Dixon. Things went sideways for him in 2008 as he was banned from driving for a year after testing positive for cocaine. Afterward, he entered rehab and returned to racing in 2012, winning the pole at the 2012 12 Hours of Sebring. Things didn’t go well after that and he was soon back in rehab again, only this time he didn’t want to stop cycling. Today, Allmendinger is a professional racing driver for Team Penske and regularly competes in the IndyCar and NASCAR series.

11. Ho-Pin Tung

Ho-Pin Tung made his way to the top of this list thanks to some outstanding runs during the 2007 24 Hours of Daytona, as well as some brilliant driving styles. The 42-year-old Taiwanese driver is a two-time winner of the prestigious 12 Hours of Sebring, having taken the checkered flag in both the 2006 and 2019 races. He also won the 2019 edition of the 12 Hours of Silverstone, leading a Toyota team to the top of the podium. At the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2007, he took the checkered flag in the Prototype class, leading the way for Michael Shank Racing to establish themselves as a premier team in the U.S. Once again, Tung showed his skill by winning the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2018, this time with a GT Le Mans class win as well. It’s been a great ride for the Taiwan-born driver, who started his career in the U.S. but now lives and breathes racing in Europe, where he currently drives for an Aston Martin team. He’s a real gem. We can’t wait to see what he does next.

10. James Rossiter

From a young age, James Rossiter showed a natural talent for driving and became a member of the Mini family from the very beginning. The Englishman made his way to America in 2015 and within a year he was competing in the highest levels of competition. The 23-year-old went from racing karts in the U.K. to winning a Sports Illustrated award for best rookie in the IndyCar Series. Since then, he’s been on a steep learning curve, but has become a valuable member of Andretti Autosport’s lineup. In November, he picked up his first win at the Long Beach race, bringing home the checkered flag with co-drivers Spencer Pigott and Roman Kemna. Rossiter also made his NASCAR debut in 2019, driving the No. 90 Chevy for a team owned by Roger Penske at the Daytona 500. He qualified 23rd and finished 23rd as well. Still getting used to the speed of the U.S., but definitely a great addition to the program. We’ll see more from this young talent in the future.

9. Sage Kotsenburg

Another year, another award for Sage Kotsenburg. The 22-year-old Californian competed last year as a part of Andretti Autosport’s effort in the IndyCar Series and took home the coveted Rookie of the Year award. While he didn’t earn many wins last season, he was consistently fast and finished every single one of the races he started. He also set the pace early on during the 2019 Indianapolis 500, leading 20 laps before a slow pace and a glitch in his steering wheel sent him into the wall. He’s already scored a NASCAR win in 2019, driving the No. 34 Chevrolet for a team owned by Roger Penske. He’s had some success in lower-level series in America, but is looking to take the next step in his career by competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. It is, without question, the best cup of coffee I have ever tasted. Thank you, Le Mans!

8. Noah Sowbeck

Noah Sowbeck is another up-and-coming contender on our list. The 22-year-old West German placed eighth in the 2018 IndyCar Series Championship, his first full season racing in the U.S. Since then he’s been fast and consistent, winning the 2019 24 Hours of Daytona and finishing second at the famed 12 Hours of Sebring. Last year, he took home the Rookie of the Year award in IndyCar, leading the championship for most of the season before a tough finish that cost him the title. Sowbeck also made his NASCAR debut in 2019, driving the No. 41 Ford for an AMG team. The BMW M6 GTLM he was driving was the same car that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year, establishing itself as one of the premiere cars in the world of motorsport. In March, he won the Rolex Daytona and picked up a second-place finish in the 12 Hours of Sebring. We expect to see a lot more from this young German racing driver in the future. He’s put in the hard work and has shown talent from the very beginning, putting him ahead of some of the biggest names in racing.

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