Cory Mccartney
Thursday July 22nd, 2010

1. The Racing Fan should have known this was coming. After breaking down the most underrated Cup drivers last week, I was inundated ... all right, I was hit with exactly two e-mails asking my take on the series' most overrated wheelmen -- and who am I to disappoint my loyal constituency?

So here's to you, Sheppard from California and Mike from Charlotte. Something tells me I'm going to get more than a few reactions as I unveil the top qualifiers for the Over-Hyped 600. Why 600 miles, you ask? Because the race is overblown, just like the drivers' profiles.

But before we begin, I'd like to offer both a disclaimer, and an explanation. Here it goes: you won't see be seeing Dale Earnhardt Jr. on this list. I know, I know how could I exclude a man who most would deem the very definition of overhyped, and who drove a fan to create the site over88ted.com? The fans and the marketing machine have certainly oversaturated the market with all things Junior -- he has four different merchandise trailers at the track -- but overrated? It all depends how he's measured. Is it against guys like Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, who will go down as all-time greats? Or is it against his more logical contemporaries, Matt Kenseth? Through 382 career starts, Earnhardt has 18 wins, which ties Kenseth, who has made one more start. Kenseth has 99 top 5s to Juniors 90, but Little E has led 881 more laps. Junior stacks up pretty favorably against a guy I called the pole sitter of the underappreciated.

It's true, Junior may not be the title threat you'd expect from his standing as the most popular driver seven years running, but he's far from overrated; he just faced a completely different set of expectations than everyone else.

Now back to the matter at hand. Leading the pack is ...

Kasey Kahne. Yes, he's got those blue eyes that drive the cougars wild, but Kahne hasn't won in 30 races and he's finished higher than 10th in the final points standings just once (eighth in 2006). The potential of seeing what he can do in top-flight equipment -- and let's face it, his marketability -- got Rick Hendrick's attention as he signed Kahne to drive in his Heat-like legion of stars beginning in 2012. The one-time phenom could become a title threat under Hendrick's tutelage, but at this point he's failed to build off his breakthrough season of 2006, when he won six races.

Joey Logano. Don't get me wrong, Sliced Bread could wind up being the series' next great driver, and at 20 years old he's got plenty of time to develop into a force. But when you consider that at his age he's been given the keys to the castle on one of the sport's top teams and one of its most visible sponsors, you'd expect more than one win, two top 5s in 58 career races and a 19th-place standing in the points.

Martin Truex Jr. The debate was always if he had the right equipment, Truex could content. The problem is, that he's gone from Dale Earnhardt Inc., to the merged Earnhardt Ganassi monster and now to Michael Waltrip Racing and the potential still hasn't been fully realized. In his fifth full season, Truex has just one win and five top 5s in the last 93 races.

Juan Pablo Montoya. The Colombian has certainly flashed his temper this season, mixing it up with teammate Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin, but he's taken a step back after making the Chase last season, prompting the question: was it a breakthrough or a fluke? He appeared on the verge of superstardom after last season, but the fact is JPM still hasn't won in more than three years and his aggressive ways have made him feast or famine the last two seasons, posting 11 finishes of fifth or better and 12 of 30th or worse.

2. A quick thought on the Carl Edwards-Brad Keselowski feud, which has become a soap opera of such extremes that it should be played out on Telemundo. In pushing Brad K. out of the way for a Nationwide win in front of his hometown fans at Gateway, Edwards has seemingly put his Chase chances in harm's way.

With just six races to go before the playoff, Edwards is 10th in the standings, all of 74 points ahead of Junior in 13th. Now he has to worry about Keselowski, who in 26th has little to drive for, trying to pay him back for their early-season incident at Atlanta along with last weekend's run-in. The margin for error was already razor thin considering, but if Brad K. is thinking payback, Edwards may have no one but himself to blame for missing the Chase.

Pit Stops

4 -- Drivers on the Indianapolis entry list who have competed in all 16 previous Cup races at the Brickyard (Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin).

2 -- Of that group, Burton and Martin have yet to reach Victory Lane at IMS. Burton's career-best finish was fifth in 1995, while Martin was second in '98 and 2005.

Indianapolis Pick

Jeff Gordon. With five straight top 5s, I'm beginning to wonder if Gordon will ever catch that late break he needs to end his career-worst 48-race winless drought. But if it is going to happen, Indy would seem to be the perfect spot. Gordon has four wins and 13 top 10s at IMS and he's led a staggering 440 laps, 223 more than anyone else. The opportunities to gain those crucial bonus points for the Chase are dwindling, so expect Gordon to press the issue if he's in the running late.

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