In racing, second place has long been known as being the first loser. That phrase is even truer when it comes to a season long championship run. Since the inception of NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup in 2004, finishing second place in the point’s standings has seemed to be a curse for drivers in the following season. For whatever reason, the drivers and teams who have finished second in the past nine seasons have been unable to replicate their success in regards to the point’s standings which is unusual considering the talent that has accomplished that feat.
Jimmie Johnson finished second to Kurt Busch in the 2004 Chase by only eight points. Johnson’s 2004 consisted of eight wins, 20 top 5s and 23 top 10s. In 2005, Johnson finished fifth in the standings with four wins, 13 top 5s and 22 top 10s. The 2005 runner-up to champion, Tony Stewart was Greg Biffle. Biffle scored six wins, 15 top 5s and 21 top 10s. In 2006, Biffle failed to make the Chase, finishing 13th in the standings with two wins, 8 top 5s and 15 top 10s.
The trend continued with Matt Kenseth who had four wins, 15 top 5s and 21 top 10s in his runner-up effort in 2006. Even though Kenseth managed a fourth place in standings in 2007, he only had two wins, 13 top 5s and 22 top 10s. Jeff Gordon had a phenomenal 2007 but lost the title to his teammate, Jimmie Johnson. Gordon notched six victories, 21 top 5s and 30 top 10s. In 2009, Gordon went did not score a victory while garnering 13 top 5s and 19 top 10s in a seventh place points run.
Carl Edwards continued the futility. In 2009 he won nine races, finished in the top 5 19 times and in the top 10 27 times. In 2010, Edwards finished 11th in points with no wins, seven top 5s and 14 top 10s. Mark Martin was unable to avoid the trend as well. His 2009 second place points run saw him earn five wins, 14 top 5s and 21 top 10s. 2010 was different as Martin failed to make the Chase, finished 13th in the points, did not win on the year and only had seven top 5s and 11 top 10s.
Denny Hamlin was the next victim. Hamlin had 8 victories, 14 top 5s and 18 top 10s in his runner up finish to Johnson in 2010. In 2011, Hamlin finished ninth in the standings with a win, five top 5 finishes and 14 top 10 finishes. Edwards was victim to the second place curse again. His 2011 season consisted of one win, 19 top 5s and 26 top 10s. In 2012, Edwards failed to make The Chase finishing 15th in standings. Edwards had no wins, only three top 5s and 13 top 10s.
In total, the second place finishers in points from 2004 through 2011 had a combined 47 wins, 137 top 5s and 187 top 10s, an average of 5.9 wins, 17.1 top 5s and 23.4 top 10s. The following season for the same drivers between 2005 and 2012 totaled to a combined 9 wins, 69 top 5s and 130 top 10s. The averages show the point’s position finish at 9.6 with 1.1 wins, 8.3 top 5s and 16.3 top 10s. All of these numbers equate to bad news for the 2012 points runner up, Clint Bowyer.
Whether or not the trend will continue remains to be seen. The new Gen 6 car will be a big change for every team and nobody knows who will have the right combination for the duration of the 2013 season.