In the first edition of a "Head to Head" preview, I took a look at Hendrick teammates, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, and told you who would have the better 2011 season. Today, we will compare two more teammates.
This time, we move over to a couple of drivers in Jack Roush's stable. We will take a look at Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. After both making the Chase a season ago, what is in the cards for them this coming season?
Matt Kenseth has been one of the toughest drivers to figure out over the last couple of seasons. In 2009, he won the season opening Daytona 500. He promptly followed that up by going out and winning the following week at Auto Club Speedway as well.
Then, inexplicably, he almost fell off the map for the rest of the season, and even failed to qualify for the Chase, for the first time in his career.
Last season, he turned things around. Although he failed to win a race, now making it 70 races since his last trip to victory lane, he still managed to qualify for the Chase and then finish fifth in the season ending points.
Kenseth, the last driver to win the championship while it was still contested under traditional rules, actually had a roller coaster 2010 season. He started out red hot.
He started the year with five straight top 10 finishes, and had top 20 finishes through the first eight events. In fact, his five consecutive top 10's to start the season trailed only his teammate Greg Biffle who started the year with six.
Then things turned ice cold for Kenseth. Over the next 14 races, he only scored two top 10's, with just one of those resulting in a top five finish. Over that stretch, Kenseth only led for a total of 25 laps.
But, as the season reached its final third, Kenseth once again rebounded, as he seemingly always does. Over the final 14 races, Kenseth was his typical consistent self. He only had two finishes that were outside the top 20, and was in contention for multiple wins over that stretch.
So, what is the outlook for the 2011 season? Well, the season couldn't pick a better track to open at for Kenseth. In his last five trips to Daytona, he hasn't finished outside the top 15, and of course has a Daytona 500 trophy to his credit.
While he is mired in a nearly two year winless draught, I don't think that will last much longer. Kenseth is once again paired with crew chief Jimmy Fennig. They were paired together midway through the season last year, and have had some past Nationwide success together.
Now with the some time under their belts to get reacquainted with one anothers styles, I don't see the winless streak of Kenseth going much more than four or five races into the season.
I think 2010 will be a big year for Kenseth. I can see him winning three or four races, and I in fact have him finishing very high in the points standings. How high? I will get there in a moment.
Much like Kenseth, Greg Biffle had an up and down 2010 season. He was able to score two wins, and finish a very respectable sixth in the standings, but the season was also marred with some really bad finishes.
Biffle opened the season with a third place finish in the Daytona 500. In fact, had that race been a half of a lap shorter, it would have been Biffle, and not Jamie McMurray, who wound up in victory lane.
He maintained that momentum over the next few months. Through the first nine races, Biffle only posted one finish outside the top 20. Then some inconsistencies arose.
Four of the next five races, saw Biffle run outside of the top 20. The rest of the season would seemingly be a roller coaster for Biffle. He could never really put together any other long strings of good finishes.
While the second half of the season saw Biffle score both of his victories for the year, as well as top 10's in half of the seasons final 18 races, he also posted five finishes outside the top 30. That sort of inconsistency led to Biffle being a non factor in the Chase.
So where does that put Biffle in 2011? I don't see Biffle having a much different season than the one he just had. He is obviously more than capable of running up front and winning multiple races in a season, but very rarely, does he put together long strings of real good finishes.
Biffle will definitely find victory lane at least once this year. Maybe twice, but anything more than that would really be asking a lot. He should have no trouble once again making the Chase, but with the amount of talent that is sure to be in the Chase in 2011, I don't see him bettering his 2010 final standing.
So, the verdict is in, and my vote goes to Matt Kenseth in this battle of Roush racers. I expect a good year out of Kenseth, maybe even a career year. I may be a little crazy in this prediction, but look for Kenseth to be squarely in the title hunt when the series goes to Homestead in Miami.
Don't be surprised, if at the end of that fateful day in November, Kenseth is holding the championship trophy for the second time in his career.
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