NASCAR: The Five Most Overhyped Drivers Heading Into 2017

Jul 2, 2016; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) and Martin Truex Jr. (78) race during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 2, 2016; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) and Martin Truex Jr. (78) race during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the 2017 NASCAR season there are a handful of drivers who are getting a lot of hype. Unfortunately, not all of the hype is deserved, in fact some of the drivers being hyped the most don’t exactly deserve it.

What makes a driver overhyped?

Well, generally speaking this is what happens when fans, media or NASCAR put a driver front and center for some reason in which they don’t deserve. Maybe a driver moved to a new team and expectations are higher than they should be. Maybe a driver had a solid 2016 season or a solid finish to the season, and now they are expected to rise to the top in 2017. Maybe a driver hasn’t really done much at all but for some reason this season is the season.

So with that in mind, here is a quick look at the five most overhyped drivers heading into the 2017 NASCAR season.

Nov 18, 2016; Homestead, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (78) looks on during qualifying for the Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr. had himself quite the season in 2016. The driver of the No. 78 machine won four times and in some of those wins he was by far the most dominant driver on the track. Coming into 2016 Truex is being predicted by some to lead the series in wins and come home with a championship when the season is over.

While all of this is great, some are forgetting the fact that Truex finished 2016 lower in the final standings than he did in 2015 when he only one a single race.

The other important thing to remember is that Truex has a new teammate in 2017. Adding a second car to Furniture Row Racing could have a negative impact on the No. 78 machine. If the addition of Erik Jones hinders the No. 78 machine it could end up being a down season for Truex.

 Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Kasey Kahne

Kasey Kahne had himself a strong finish to the 2016 season. That strong finish resulted in a handful of top-10 finishes during the playoffs and now fans of the driver of the No. 5 machine think that Kahne could be heading back to victory lane in 2017.

While a solid finish is a good sign for Kahne, it’s not necessarily a sure sign that he will rise from the bottom of HMS this season.

Kahne has not won a race since 2014 and even then it was a late-season win that just got him into the playoffs. Since that season Kahne has not returned to the playoffs or victory lane. Now, after a strong finish last season, Kahne is being hyped as one of the 16 drivers to make the playoffs this season. While optimism is great, Kahne fans might need to pump the brakes on their hopes this season.

Jul 16, 2016; Loudon, NH, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer (15) during practice for the New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Clint Bowyer

Clint Bowyer is now with Stewart-Haas Racing. Bowyer is coming off of the worst season of his NASCAR career in 2016 when he was with HScott Motorsports. During his last couple of seasons with Michael Waltrip Racing Bowyer was trending down. Bowyer last won in 2012, when he won an impressive three times.

Being with SHR in 2017 will be Bowyer’s best chance at winning since 2013.

Then again, it’s hard to imagine anything changing with Bowyer. Tony Stewart struggled mightily in the No. 14 machine over the last three seasons. Outside of a solid eight-race stretch in 2016 that included a win, the No. 14 team hasn’t done much as of late. Couple Bowyer’s struggles over the last few seasons with that of the No. 14 team and it’s hard to imagine wins and a spot in the playoffs in 2017.

Sometimes change doesn’t produce wins and that’s just the way that it is.

Oct 21, 2016; Talladega, AL, USA; Dale Earnhardt Jr. looks on from the Nationwide hauler during practice for the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is NASCAR’s 14-time Most Popular Driver, having won the award each of the last 14 seasons. Earnhardt Jr. is also coming back to NASCAR after missing the second half of the 2016 season. His popularity combined with his return to the track has his fans ready to push their favorite driver to the top of the mountain.

However, the issue here is that Earnhardt Jr. has never been to the top of the mountain.

Earnhardt Jr. is the face of NASCAR and easily one of the most recognizable drivers in the series. While his name and face might be known by many, his successes don’t exactly place him with the elite.

Those in Junior Nation need to temper their expectations this season as their driver has not won a race since 2015. The other issue facing Earnhardt is that in 2014 and 2015 when he did make it to the playoffs, he stumbled down the stretch. This season Earnhardt needs to focus on remaining healthy and getting back to victory lane and his fans need to understand that he isn’t a favorite to win a title.

Nov 20, 2016; Homestead, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick pits during the Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 20, 2016; Homestead, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick pits during the Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Danica Patrick

Will 2017 finally be the year for Danica Patrick? Patrick’s fans think that the move to SHR and Ford will be what the driver of the No. 10 machine needs to finally take her career to the next level.

While Patrick has slowly improved each season that she has been in NASCAR, asking her to make the playoffs in 2017 might be a bit of a stretch. Her first full-time season in NASCAR she had a average finishing position of 26th and after 2016 her average finishing position was 22nd. While that stat has gone up each season, finishing the majority of her races outside of the top-20 isn’t going to get her into the playoffs.

For Patrick, the move to Ford needs to be about consistency. I don’t know if she will ever win in NASCAR but I do know that she doesn’t need to win to make the playoffs. Ryan Newman is proof that consistency can get you into the playoffs and allow you to make some noise. In 2017 Patrick needs to find that consistency and her fans need to stop thinking that Ford is going to mean wins for the No. 10 team.

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