Kurt Busch | No. 02 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske ChampionshipRacing
Analysis: Busch, a former Sprint Cup champion, failed to qualify for the Chase by finishing a disappointing 18th place, with one victory and five top-five finishes. The year began on a high note with Busch finishing second in the Daytona 500. His season shifted into low gear without another top-10 finish until the June 8 race at Pocono, where he finished eighth. Busch totaled five DNFs, with four resulting from accidents. Not all accidents are avoidable, but Busch's overly aggressive driving with the less than nimble Car of Tomorrow is not a winning formula. He drives with a top team, Penske Racing, so team resources are not the cause for his failures on the track. Busch still is a force on the Superspeedway tracks, where he is tied with Jimmie Johnson with an average career finish of 15.4. Only Dale Earnhardt Jr. David Ragan and Kevin Harvick have compiled a better record.
Juan Pablo Montoya | No. 41 Target Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing
Analysis: After winning the 2007 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award many viewed Montoya as a breakout driver last year. Many will cite a sophomore slump as the cause of his inability to follow up with a more successful 2008 campaign. He finished 25th last year after a promising 20th showing in his rookie season. Montoya ranks fifth amongst the active drivers on road courses with an average finish of 12.5. Compare his road race ranking versus 32nd on the intermediate tracks, which comprises the majority of the season's races. Montoya moves from the No. 42 car to the No. 41 Target ride, because it has full sponsorship for 2009. Learning the nuances of handling a new car may prove to further set him back. Fantasy owners would be better served focusing on drivers who have better all-around records.
Jamie McMurray | No. 26 Crown Royal Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Analysis: McMurray on paper should be one of the top NASCAR drivers. He won the Raybestos Rookie of the Year honor in 2003, won his second ever race and drives for one of the top teams in the sport. His 16th-place finish last season completed another year that promised a breakout season only to fall short. He tallied just two DNFs, running without a victory, and posted only four top-five finishes. Many will look at his four consecutive top-10 finishes at the end of the 2008 season, but these were races that McMurray ran with no pressure after failing to qualify for the Chase. Look for McMurray to run competitively in many races but fail to make the step needed to compete in the Chase.
Martin Truex Jr. | No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing
Analysis: After qualifying for the Chase in 2007, Truex failed to make the cut by finishing 15th in '08. He needs to be considered in the middle tier of drivers as he has not progressed into what many believed was his destiny of stardom. Last year, he recorded three DNFs and of which three were due to mechanical issues. Truex is a driver who has a large amount of talent but his team will have to make significant improvements after the Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing merger to compete effectively against the juggernaut teams of Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing. Look for Truex to narrowly miss out on the Chase.
About Bob Frykholm
Frykholm has been a KFFL contributor since February 2008.
Don't miss these great reports....