Instant Analysis: Matt Kenseth Gets New Crew Chief One Race Into Season

If there was ever proof that NASCAR is a "What have you done for me lately?" business, look at Drew Blickensderfer.

One year after the crew chief won the Daytona 500 in his Sprint Cup debut with Matt Kenseth - and then won again the following week in Fontana - Blickensderfer is out as crew chief of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing team.

The move was pretty surprising, given the Cup Series hadn't even arrived at an intermediate track yet (it's impossible to judge how a team's season will develop based solely on the wild nature of Daytona) and that Blickensderfer was just beginning his second season.

Yes, Kenseth and his team struggled mightily last year after winning the first two races. Kenseth missed the Chase for the first time in its existence and was basically a non-factor for most of the season.

But with the exception of a couple strong runs by Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, all of Roush Fenway had a disappointing season. The struggles weren't limited to Kenseth; Jamie McMurray and David Ragan didn't do anything either.

On this year's preseason media tour, team owner Jack Roush proclaimed RFR had found something to become competitive again. He seemed almost giddy (well, by his standards) at the possibility of a turnaround, thanks to whatever this mysterious something was.

And while Daytona certainly means a lot, it carries no significance in the grand scheme of things. The Roush cars had a fairly strong Speedweeks, but it's still irrelevant to the rest of the year's performance.

At least one would think. Apparently Roush and/or Kenseth were so unhappy with the team's performance, they felt this move was necessary now.

It's highly doubtful Roush made this decision without Kenseth's input. Kenseth played a key role in his previous crew chief change, when Chip Bolin (the team engineer who had replaced Robbie Reiser) was pushed aside for the arrival of Blickensderfer, who had become known as one of the top minds in the Nationwide Series.

Everyone figured Blickensderfer - a "young gun" for crew chiefs, if you will - would have a feel for NASCAR's new model car and be able to adjust on it to suit Kenseth's liking.

Clearly, that didn't happen. Blickensderfer will "assume a role in Roush Fenway's research and development department," according to a press release. That's quite a demotion from Sprint Cup crew chief, so you can bet Blickensderfer won't stay there for long.

Expect to see him surface in a crew chief role again soon, perhaps even in the Nationwide Series. This may have been a case of a driver and crew chief who never quite got on the same page, but that's admittedly specul ation.

In the meantime, Roush's answer to the No. 17's problems is Todd Parrott, which is a bit of an odd choice given the trend toward the young engineer types and not so much toward the veterans who were experts with the old car.

But Parrott's experience means he may lead more in the mold of Reiser than Blickensderfer - which is perhaps what Kenseth needs. It seems the only way for this move to pay immediate dividends is if the missing link for Kenseth and his crew chief was chemistry.

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