Prior to the start of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the prognosticators of the sport predicted a successful season for the likes of Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, and Tony Stewart.
After all, this group, a triple threat if you will, are usually among the best of the lot. Save for Jimmie Johnson, who's been the man to beat for the past four years, these drivers generally contend for victories and mix it up in the points race with the No. 48 team.
However, in the case of Gordon, Martin, and Stewart, their seasons could be best described by a famed Rolling Stones song: "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."
Sure, Gordon sits second in points with 10 top-five finishes along with his 13 top-10's, while Stewart's in fourth with six top-fives and ten top-10's. Martin's just within striking distance of the Chase, just 35 points behind Clint Bowyer for the final playoff spot.
All statistics accounted for, the common bond that these three star drivers and teams have are the big goose egg in the win column. In NASCAR racing, not much gets accomplished without at least a victory in a season. It'd be like having a t-bone steak without the seasoning or fried chicken without the touch of lemon to enhance its taste.
It's quite ironic that Gordon and Martin have yet to find the Victory Lane this year, especially given that these were the same two drivers from 1998 that combined to win 20 out of the 33 races run that year.
Of course, this was during the Hendrick vs. Roush era, but to grasp the fact that this powerful duo are somewhat struggling in terms of victories shows how competitive this sport has become in just over a decade.
So what's happened to the Nos. 24, 14, and 5 teams? Have they simply forgotten how to win? Are they just getting beat at their game?
Well, technically, yes on both accords, because when they've been in position to win, they've somehow managed to lose due to some failure or misfire towards crunch time of a race.
It's been well documented how the DuPont team's not exactly the best in the business at closing out a race, as Gordon's failed to capture multiple victories with poor restarts. While the pit crew's been a shining spot for this group, you know that the scrutiny's on crew chief Steve Letarte until he can lead his driver back to the comforts of the winner's circle.
Stewart's team hasn't exactly been as tenacious and as strong as it was off the bat in 2009, but they're definitely showing signs of life as of late. Still, the Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet has taken some time to show its true competitive form, with teams like Richard Childress Racing and Penske Championship Racing having a solid 2010 thus far.
And then there's Mark Martin, whose No. 5 team has been marred by distractions about their future in 2011 and '12. With Kasey Kahne taking over that ride in a couple of years, his place in the Cup Series was in limbo for next year until Rick Hendrick helped his future driver find a temporary home with Red Bull Racing.
What's that meant for Martin and crew chief Alan Gustafson? A shipload of unwanted gossip and attention that's definitely hindered their efforts. Couple that and how the organization, as a whole, has tried fixing up the mess known as the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevy team and it's made for a mini headache for anyone that's been a part of NASCAR's current dynasty.
Least not forgotten, this triple threat has some ties to Hendrick Motorsports, with the Nos. 24 and 5 groups serving as mothership teams. Translation: if you're not Jimmie Johnson, it's been an enigma of a year.
Outside of the Lowe's collective, Hendrick's not had much to celebrate about, with Martin looking less like the ageless wonder from last season and Earnhardt Jr.'s confusing struggles persisting more than a year later.
Meanwhile, Gordon's sponsorship concerns have to be a bit of a dark cloud for both driver and team, facing uncertainty on that front for the first time since 1992.
Of course, 90 percent of the circuit wouldn't mind the years they're having, especially the drivers who realistically have zip chance to make the Chase. Sure, Jamie McMurray has those prestigious wins at Daytona and Indy, but you know that he and the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops group can only dream about what it'd be like to be among the 12 driver field in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Ryan Newman may be somewhat content with his win at Phoenix back in April, but you know that he and the No. 39 team would love to sacrifice that sole "W" for a spot in the top 12.
The list goes on and on, and even an aggressive and universally talented man like Juan Pablo Montoya would probably tell you that it's an empty year by missing the cut for the postseason field.
However, when it comes to Gordon, Martin, and Stewart, don't count them out from winning a race in 2010, as there's still enough time left in the season for them to hoist a trophy at least once this year.
That said, in a sport that's performance based and with sponsorship dollars at a premium in terms of securing a backer for the upcoming years, the only way these teams stand a chance to win in the future is to do so now.