Seasons don't always go the way drivers or car owners would like them to in the NASCAR Premier Series. Here are five drivers who underachieved in 2016:
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Yes, he was in a lame-duck situation as a one-year driver for HScott Motorsports, which failed to put him in a competitive ride most weeks. But Bowyer could have done more, too, and by the end of the season his attitude wasn't helping matters.
Then again, shortly after the season he sued HScott for failing to pay him what he said was at least $2.3 million owed in salary and a bonus for bringing sponsors to the team (they settled out of court shortly thereafter). That might affect anyone's attitude, and no doubt didn't help in a season in which Bowyer finished a career-worst 27th in the points and had zero top-five finishes for the first time since he began driving full-time in the series in 2006.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesJeff Zelevansky
One year after making the Chase playoffs for the first time in his career, providing optimism heading into 2016, Menard instead took a huge step backward.
He finished 25th in the points, his worst showing since 2009, and his average finish ended up being five spots worse than in 2015. He also failed to register a single top-five finish in his No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet for the first time since '09, and has not won a race since going to Victory Lane for the first and so far only time in his career at Indianapolis in 2011. That was 196 races ago.
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Two years removed from a season in which he nearly won the Premier Series championship -- finishing second in 2014, despite failing to win a race -- Newman struggled mightily.
Driving the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, Newman recorded only two top-five finishes and ended up 18th in the points, out of the Chase playoffs. Like Menard, his RCR teammate, he last won a long time ago at Indianapolis -- 124 races ago in 2013, his final year of driving for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Getty ImagesNick Laham
Maybe expecting her to run better is unfair, because she has no track record in NASCAR indicating that she has the ability to be more than a mid-pack driver who is a marketing machine -- and truthfully, she (and others) can make a good living being that combination alone.
But she's in the same Stewart-Haas Racing equipment that fellow SHR drivers Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart drove to berths in the Chase. And she ended up 24th in the points, same as the previous season -- with no top-five or top-10 finshes for the first time since she began driving full-time in the series in 2013.
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Kahne drives the No. 5 Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports, which means he's in same type of top-notch equipment that Jimmie Johnson just rode to his record-tying seventh Premier Series championship.
But Kahne hasn't gone to Victory Lane since late 2014, 83 races ago. Even more startling was the fact that for the first time in his 13-year career, Kahne failed to lead a single lap all season. He finished 17th in points and out of the Chase for the second year in a row.