By admin | February 8, 2010
By Richard Allen
Only one short year removed from the biggest win of his career it is hard to believe Matt Kenseth is looking to improve upon what turned out to be a season filled with a few ups and many downs last season.
Kenseth fulfilled a long time dream when he won the rain shortened Daytona 500 in 2009. The usually stoic competitor actually shed a few tears in his victory lane celebration after the win. It seemed that a driver so known throughout his career for steady consistency was sure to be a championship contender after getting off to such a great start.
The next week at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California only served to confirm the notion that Kenseth would be threat to claim a second Sprint Cup title. He dominated the second half of that race and scored his second win in as many weeks to open the 2009 campaign.
However, things went downhill quickly after that for the Roush Fenway Racing #17 team. Kenseth’s Ford suffered a blown engine at the very beginning of the next race in Las Vegas which resulted in a last place finish. From there, this driver and team seemed unable to find the right combination that would provide the solidity they had become so accustomed to in the past.
Ultimately, the #17 team missed out on the Chase for the Championship for the first time since the playoff system’s inception in 2004. Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson had been the only two drivers to have qualified for the Chase in every possible season prior to last year’s miss.
Even in a season in which he won the biggest race of his career and followed that up with an immediate second win, 2009 had to be considered a bit of a failure in the end.
Last year was the first season together for Kenseth and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer. At times, the lack of familiarity showed in their relationship which led to adjustments being made that were not to the driver’s liking. Listening to radio chatter between the two seemed to indicate that the honeymoon ended abruptly after their initial successes.
After a full year of working with one another and a full off season to build on that all important driver/crew chief relationship this tandem may well be set to lead the #17 team to a recovery of sorts.
Jack Roush himself has declared that his teams will have everything they will need to be successful in 2010 and that RFR will pay more attention to detail than ever before. With the resources at hand at Roush Fenway Racing and the talent compiled here it would seem as though a return to his normally consistent ways would be in order for Matt Kenseth in the coming year.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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