From year to year, things change all through NASCAR. Some drivers switch teams. Some lose sponsorship from a company that has sponsored them for years and must start the tedious task of hunting for new sponsorship before the next season begins. New rules are implemented by NASCAR that almost always create controversy. Perhaps, the biggest change from year to year is a driver’s performance, and last season definitely left room for improvement for the Roush Fenway Racing drivers. The organization is one of NASCAR’s top teams, and it was unusual to see that organization struggle so much in 2009.
Matt Kenseth seemed to be back in championship form at the start of last season, at least for the first two races. Winning the Daytona 500 then the Auto Club 500, Kenseth seemed poised to make the Chase once again and make a run for the championship. Yet, things didn’t go quite that way. With 2 wins, 7 top-fives, 12 top-tens, he still failed to make the Chase and ultimately ended up 14th in points. Drew Blickensderfer had a roller coaster of a first year working as Kenseth's crew chief, but he learned a lot and will put that information to use to make an improvement. This is a team that knows how to get things done effectively. The #17 pit crew, aka the Killer Bees, is one of the best pit crews in NASCAR—actually, they’re THE best pit crew to Kenseth fans. Look for this team to make a rebound and be back in contention in 2010. Of course, it could take some time for Kenseth fans to get used to not seeing the trademark yellow and black of DeWALT on that #17 Ford.
Greg Biffle came close to winning more than once in 2009, but wrecks, pit road miscues, and gambling on fuel mileage cost him those wins. He led a total of 551 laps last season, more than all the combined laps led by his teammates for the year. Racking up a total of 10 top-fives and 16 top-tens, Biffle had the best performance of all the Roush drivers last season, even if he did go winless. That type of consistency granted Biffle a spot in the Chase. Unlike 2008, Biffle’s performance did not make him stand out in the 2009 Chase. For the past 2 years, Biffle has made the Chase so why should 2010 be any different? The #16 pit crew, given the name the 3M Pit Bulls by Biffle himself, will no doubt work hard to be on top of their game. After going winless last season, Biffle will be ready to win again as the new season starts.
David Ragan undeniably had a terrible season in 2009, his biggest accomplishments being only 2 top-tens—a 6th place finish in the Daytona 500 and a 7th place finish in the Pepsi 500. There were some races where Ragan had a strong car, but things worked against him almost every time, resulting in poor finishes. This season marks Ragan’s 4th year as a full time driver in the Sprint Cup series. It was disappointing to see the driver who finished 13th in points just the year before end up 27th in the standings in 2009. If there’s any Roush driver hungry for a win, it’s Ragan. After 3 full years, Ragan still has no wins in the Cup series, and he’s only scored 2 wins in the Nationwide series. There is only one major change for Ragan and the #6 team-- Donnie Wingo, former crew chief for Jamie McMurray, will be taking over crew chief duties since Jimmy Fennig has gone to Roush’s R&D department this year. If the black cloud that seemed to follow Ragan last season has dissipated, the underdog of Roush Fenway Racing will make his presence known in 2010.
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to not give a shoutout to Jamie McMurray. After 4 years of driving for Roush, he was let go after Jack Roush had to downsize from five teams to four thanks to a rule implemented by NASCAR that teams could have no more than four full time teams in the Cup series. McMurray won the Amp Energy 500 at Talladega, scored 5 top-tens, and finished 22nd in the standings his last year racing for Roush. In 2010 McMurray will be driving the #1 Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. Whether he will do better or worse there is uncertain. He has raced for Ganassi before, but that was before the merger with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. If he expects to have a great performance in 2010, McMurray has a couple major hurdles to overcome first—racing for a relatively new organization and getting used to not only working with a new crew chief, but a whole new crew as well. As for the #26 car, it has been sold to another team.
Look for Roush Fenway Racing as a whole to rebound from the setbacks they failed to overcome in 2009. With hard work and dedication the Roush drivers can be some of NASCAR’s top
performers in 2010.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect those of Skirts and Scuffs or its other contributors
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