Dale Jr., Harvick among biggest disappointments of 2009
Often the losers will be the drivers we all expected to do well, because it’s inevitable that someone is going to step up their game each year, leaving a usual competitor on the sidelines.
In 2009, there were several drivers who failed to live up to their potential, and are hoping for major improvements in 2010.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The stat line isn’t pretty here, and there’s no sugarcoating how badly this season went for the sport’s biggest star. 25th in points, 2 top-5s and 5 top-10s. He is racing on the best team in NASCAR and his three teammates finished 1,2,3 in the points. There is no conceivable reason that Jr. should have such a bad season, and I hope for both his sake and NASCAR’s sake that he snaps out of it and he doesn’t have a repeat performance in 2010. Dale Jr. winning and competing for wins is good for the sport, but he hasn’t done much of it in the past few years.
Whether it was getting caught in wrecks, his car being ill-prepared, or the driver making the mistakes on the track, the #88 team did not come close to meeting expectations this year. They’ve already switched the crew chief, so now it’s all on the driver. No buts about it, Dale Jr. is going to have to perform in 2010, as he has no excuse left for doing poorly.
I had high hopes for David Ragan this year, after he made a strong run last year and almost made the Chase. This year, he was just plain dreadful, finishing 27th in points with 0 top-5s and just 2 top-10s. This was the biggest one-season dropoff I’ve seen in a long time, as a young driver on his way up in the sport seems to have taken a step back. I am at a loss when trying to explain this massive slip. Clearly, Ragan has some talent, which he showed last year, but something just isn’t right at the #6 team. You almost forgot Ragan was on the track most weeks, he was running so badly. Jack Roush had better hope this team improves in 2010, because Roush needs a solid young rising star like Ragan on his team and doing well.
All 3 or Richard Childress Racing’s drivers made the Chase in 2008. In 2009, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears AND Jeff Burton all missed. Some of the teams, particularly Burton, looked better at year’s end, but it didn’t matter by that point. With a great history full of championships, this team should be doing better than it is. It’s clear the 4th car was too much to handle, and the team wasn’t anywhere near competing with the Hendrick standard. The team members’ points finishes (15th, 17th, 19th and 21st) show that. Childress needs to make whatever adjustments are necessary this offseason to get back on track.
Roush Fenway Racing
David Ragan wasn’t alone in his struggles at Roush. Matt Kenseth won the first two races, then fell off the map. Greg Biffle didn’t win all year, and neither did Edwards, who won 9 times in 2008. While Rick Hendrick’s team took a step forward in 2009, Jack Roush’s team took a big step back. The Roushketeers need to figure out what is ailing their teams (the drivers are pretty solid, so maybe some crew/garage staff shuffling might help), and get their cars up to snuff so they can get going in the right direction in 2010.