Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth were atop the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings for a combined 21 of the 26 weeks during the regular season. And understandably, the Roush Fenway Racing duo entered the Chase harboring realistic hopes they would be contenders.
But following back-to-back weeks where neither driver finished in the top 10 – including Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway where Kenseth finished 14th and Biffle 18th – it's apparent after just two races the Roush cars are not up to the task of winning this year's title.
Kenseth's struggles can sort of be explained considering his lame-duck status – he's leaving at the end of the year for Joe Gibbs Racing – as drivers in his situation historically don't do well as the season winds down.
However, Biffle's lack of competitiveness is head-scratching. Chicagoland – a 1.5-mile oval – is the style of track the Roush cars typically excel on, while New Hampshire is a place where he's won at previously and finished third in this race a year ago.
"We were doing really well in the middle part of the race and I thought, ‘Man, we've got something. We're going,'" Biffle said, trying to explain his afternoon. "We got up to 10th and then just went straight backwards. I don't know what happened."
But if this any hope in salvaging their sagging fortunes, it's that next week's race at Dover happens to be one of both Biffle and Kenseth's better tracks, as each has won there twice.
And with Biffle eighth in points, 33 markers behind leader Jimmie Johnson, and Kenseth 11th, 35 points in arrears, a good run next Sunday is desperately needed.
"Everybody wants to be leading, but last week was last week and this week we got everything we could get out of our car," Kenseth said. "It wasn't much better than that."