Categories
News

Greg Biffle tames wild Texas, wins Triple Truck Challenge bonus in NASCAR return

Greg Biffle rolled to a lucrative NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series triumph with a $50,000 payday in his comeback race Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway, sidestepping a flurry of crashes to win the first-ever race in the Triple Truck Challenge bonus program.

Biffle, a Gander Trucks champion in 2000, led just 18 of the 167 laps and guided his Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 51 Toyota into position for further bonuses over the next two races in the inaugural Triple Truck Challenge — “The Trip,” for short — pending Biffle’s availability on the entry list.

“Just excited to be here, man,” Biffle said. “I don’t even know what to say. Just so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had to drive great trucks. This thing was really fast.”

Biffle’s second truck win at the 1.5-mile Fort Worth track was the 17th of his Gander Trucks career. The event marked the 49-year-old driver’s first national series race since the 2016 Monster Energy Series season finale and his first race in a truck since 2004. With his high-profile return prodded along by team owner Kyle Busch, Biffle especially savored the briefcase full of extra cash presented to him in Victory Lane.

“That’s great. You know, I’ve been off work for a long time, so this is going to be great for us,” Biffle said.

Matt Crafton wound up second in the wreck-filled SpeedyCash.com 400. Tyler Ankrum recovered from a spin to finish a career-best third, and Grant Enfinger and Harrison Burton closed out the top five finishers.

Biffle was able to finesse his fuel mileage over the final stretch, but still had enough oomph to sit .963 seconds ahead at the checkered flag.

“I haven’t been this excited in a long time,” said No. 51 crew chief Ryan “Rudy” Fugle. “It’s fun to win these things. I’ve won a lot of races, but never on fuel mileage — ever. I was praying to the fuel-cell gods there that we had enough fuel in the tank.”

Pole-starter Todd Gilliland and second qualifier Johnny Sauter made up the front row, but both drivers sustained heavy damage in crashes before the halfway point. The race was slowed by a record 13 caution periods, the most in the 44-race history of the series at Texas.

Sauter started second and led three laps, including the final lap of his Stage 1 win. But Lap 56 contact with Austin Hill’s No. 16 Toyota forced his ThorSport Racing No. 13 into the outside retaining wall in Turn 4.

Gilliland led twice for 32 laps, but lost control in a contest for the lead on a Stage 2 restart, backing his Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 4 Toyota into the Turn 2 barrier. The 19-year-old driver retired after completing just 69 laps.

“It still sucks that we’re out of this race — DNF — but still a lot of fun racing out there,” said Gilliland. “I was laying it all out there on the race track and I thought we were going to have something for them tonight. Just a couple more adjustments, but … I just need to be more patient. It’s not the end of the world if the 99 (Rhodes) gets by me right there and I finish this stage second or third. I just need to be a little bit smarter about that stuff. Felt really good to run up front. Proud of my Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra team. Hopefully we can come back stronger. We have an important couple of weeks right here. Keep the morale up and go into the next one even stronger.”

The series’ next race is scheduled Saturday, June 15 (8:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) at Iowa Speedway. The race will mark the second event in the Triple Truck Challenge, with the third and final race of the new program scheduled June 22 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Roush Fenway Announces 2017 Plans

The off-season changes continued at Roush Fenway Racing on Tuesday, as the organization announced their plans for the 2017 NASCAR season.

RFR will become a two-car team next season as Trevor Bayne will continue to pilot the No. 6 AdvoCare Ford Fusion and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will once again be behind the wheel of the No. 17 Fastenal Ford in NASCAR’s top series.

The team will lease its charter from the No. 16 car and driver Chris Buescher to JTG Daugherty Racing next season.

Veteran crew chief Matt Puccia will continue to call the shots for the No. 6 team and Brian Pattie, who served as crew chief for Greg Biffle and the No. 16 car last season will now be on the pit box for Stenhouse and the No. 17 team. Nick Sandler, who served as the No. 17 crew chief the last two seasons, has been named Director of Engineering.

Also, Kevin Kidd and Tommy Wheeler will lead Roush Fenway’s overall competition efforts going forward. Kidd will assume the role of Competition Director and Wheeler will serve as the team’s Operations Director.

“We have been able to shore up our plans for 2017 and we feel that this will continue to move us in a direction that will yield improved performance and results,” said Roush Fenway co-owner Jack Roush. “We saw improvement in our cars and made substantial gains in our performance at times last season, and we will continue to build on that by maintaining a robust engineering group in order to take the next step by consistently running up front.”

Roush Fenway, the winningest team in NASCAR history, is looking to rebound from a dismal 2016 campaign, which saw zero wins and all three of its Cup Series teams fail to finish inside the top 20 in points. Notably, Biffle already announced he was leaving the organization to look for another opportunity, while Robbie Reiser was relieved of his role as general manager but will have a new position within the organization.

EMAIL JUSTIN at tuckerjustin65@yahoo.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @JustinTuckerWeb

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Biffle Leaving Roush Fenway Racing

After enduring three straight winless seasons, Greg Biffle announced on Monday that he would be leaving Roush Fenway Racing after a nearly twodecade relationship.

The Vancouver, WA native won championships in trucks (2000) and the XFINITY Series (2002) with Jack Roush before moving to the No. 16 Sprint Cup Series entry full time in 2003.

Over the last 19 seasons, Biffle has amassed 19 wins, 92 top-fives, and 175 top-10s in NASCAR’s premiere series. He also made seven Chase for the Sprint Cup appearances with a career-best points finish of second coming in 2005.

Biffle also enjoyed great success in the lower tier series with 20 career XFINITY Series wins in 244 career series starts; he also scored 16 wins in the Camping World Truck Series. Biffle won Rookie of the Year honors in both series.

2016 proved to be a struggle for Biffle and the No. 16 team. Only once this season did Biffle find himself in the top 20 in the championship standings. His only top-five finish of 2016 came at Loudon in July where he finished fifth. With only three top 10 finishes this season Biffle found himself 23rd in the final championship standings.

Last month before the Chase race at Kansas, Biffle acknowledged for the first time his plans for the 2017 season were undetermined.

“I want to be competitive in races and run in the top-10,” Biffle said. “That is my goal and my focus. If I am not doing that, then I am probably going to do something different.”

Roush Fenway Racing has yet to decide whether they will field three full-time Cup Series teams for the 2017 season.

 EMAIL JUSTIN at tuckerjustin65@yahoo.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @JustinTuckerWeb

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Roush Fenway Looking Like Its 2015 Self Again

It wasn’t an outstanding first half of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series season for Roush Fenway Racing, but it was certainly better than the entire 2015 campaign.

Among the three Roush Fenway drivers — Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Trevor Bayne, and Greg Biffle — the team had nine top 10s, four top fives, and a pole in the first 18 points races this year.

Minus the pole award, that’s what Roush Fenway had accumulated in all of 2015. There were also no Chase drivers from the Ford Racing stable, which had never happened since the playoff format’s inception in 2004.

Things were looking a little more promising this year for the organization — especially with Bayne. He seemed to be the most improved Cup driver from 2015 with three qualifying efforts in the top 10 through the first eight races. He also made a statement about his superspeedway abilities, validating that his 2011 Daytona 500 win wasn’t a fluke.

He led 22 laps at Talladega Superspeedway in May but ended up with a 10th-place result. Still, he proved that he knows how to get it done on NASCAR’s biggest tracks.

Biffle won the pole at Daytona International Speedway in July — the first for Roush Fenway since Carl Edwards won it at Texas Motor Speedway in Nov. 2013. Stenhouse has three top fives this year, which is a career best for the fourth-year Cup driver.

However, the last 10 races haven’t been as encouraging as the first 18 events.

Bayne, who was in the Chase discussion earlier this year, tailed off as the regular season ended and missed the playoffs along with his two Roush teammates.

He and Biffle each have one top 10 in the last 10 races, while Stenhouse has two top 10s in that span, including a runner-up finish at Bristol. But among the trio, there have only been 15 laps led (all by Biffle) and not a qualifying effort better than 14th.

They look like their 2015 selves again. Not good.

The team that was once a championship-winning powerhouse in the Cup garage still has a lot of work to do. The lone bright spot in the past two years has been Chris Buescher, who won the 2015 XFINITY Series title.

He also made the Sprint Cup Chase this year by winning the rain-shortened event at Pocono Raceway this summer, but with Front Row Motorsports — he’s technically not a Roush driver even though he is under a long-term contract with the team.

So what’s next for Roush Fenway? Well, that’s anyone’s guess. It looks like all three drivers are signed through 2017. There has been some talk of Buescher moving into one of Roush’s Cup cars in the near future, but that remains to be seen.

Roush Fenway either must get better with the drivers they have or some drivers’ seats are going to be changed.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Despite Success, Biffle Believes Roush Has Slowed Its Progress

A season of improvement from Roush Fenway Racing continued on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with two of the organization’s three cars scoring top-10 finishes.

Greg Biffle came home fifth, earning his first top five of 2016. It also marks his third top-10 finish of the season, all of which have come in the last three races.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 10th, scoring his fourth top-10 result of 2016 and second in the last three races.

Trevor Bayne struggled in the New Hampshire 301, finished 23rd and now sits 14 points outside of the Chase cutoff. 

However, the strong performances from the two highest-finishing RFR cars attest to the improvements the team has made in 2016. While they’re more competitive, Biffle believes the organization has actually slowed its progress.

“We’ve made some huge strides,” Biffle told POPULAR SPEED. “It looks like we’re doing remarkably well, but it seems like we’ve hit a little bit of a slowdown on the improvement.”

The No. 16 NESN Fuel Ford team has been running closer to the front, but they can’t seem to improve past their current performance level.

“We’ve got to where we have been running in the top 15, the top 10, but we’re just clawing for every bit we can,” Biffle said. “It’s like we’re at a threshold right now. We can’t break into that top five.”

Among the three teams, Bayne is currently closest to making the Chase, although today’s performances from Biffle and Stenhouse Jr. are encouraging. But with only seven races until the Chase starts, both Biffle and Stenhouse Jr. believe it will take a victory to earn a spot among the 16 title contenders.

“We’ve got to win a race,” Stenhouse Jr. told POPULAR SPEED, as he sits 21st in the standings, 41 points behind 16th. “We won’t get in on points, I don’t think. We’re going to keep putting in our best effort into finishing as far forward as we can. If things work out, and people crash, and we get lucky, I think we can make the Chase on points, but it’s really going to be about getting wins.”

Biffle is currently 23rd in the standings, 66 points behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 16th.

“We’ve got to win one,” Biffle said. “We can certainly get in. With the right conditions, we could have won today, but we just need to get track position and get there.”

Bristol might be Stenhouse Jr.’s most likely chance at a win. He has three top-10 finishes at the track, including a runner-up result in March 2014.

With four wins, 10 top fives and 15 top 10s at the speedway, Biffle’s best shot probably comes at Michigan in August.

“We’ve got to get to where we can run in that top five,” Biffle said. “We’re just not quite there yet, we’re close.”

Until the series visits those two tracks next month, the RFR drivers need to continue the success they’ve shown in July.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @NASCARJason

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Could There be Light at the End of the Tunnel for Roush Fenway?

It is safe to say that a few eyebrows were raised when Greg Biffle took the pole for the Coke Zero 400.

Biffle may be a respected veteran but it seems the Fords of Roush Fenway Racing have been written off since Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards parted ways in favor of Joe Gibbs Racing in consecutive seasons, beginning with Kenseth at the end of 2012. While 2016 may not be the year that all turns around, there is reason to believe that better days may be on the horizon.
Biffle finished eighth last weekend in Daytona, a finish that would otherwise serve as a highlight for Roush Fenway over the last few years. Instead, Biffle brought up the rear among his teammates. Trevor Bayne, returning to the site of his 2011 Daytona 500 win, topped the team’s efforts, finishing third and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was 5th, his second top 5 of the season and third top 10.

There was an inkling of a turnaround earlier this season when Bayne won the first segment of the Sprint Showdown and Biffle the second.  In the Sprint All-Star, Bayne came in 7th with Biffle one spot behind. While none of those accomplishments help the team in their quest for a championship, it does give them reason to believe they can compete with the big boys.

As it stands, three Roush Fenway drivers are on the outside of the Chase looking in. Bayne is the closest, 10 points back of Ryan Blaney for the last spot.  While not an insurmountable disadvantage, Bayne’s trip to NASCAR’s post-season hinges on Blaney making rookie mistakes we have yet to see and Bayne being able to leapfrog Jamie McMurray. With Stenhouse 21 points and six spots out and Biffle one more spot and 85 points back, Bayne is the real hope of preventing Roush Fenway from missing the Chase for the second straight year.

While 2016 doesn’t look to be the team’s year, 2017 could see a reversal of fortune. The teams need to look closely at the success they enjoyed in the Coke Zero 400 and Sprint Showdown (and we shouldn’t forget Chris Buescher won Roush Fenway a XFINITY championship last year), then figure out how to repeat it. If Bayne, Stenhouse and Biffle become frontrunners on a consistent basis, it will provide a confidence booster, a sign that they are on the right track, in turn leading to better finishes and better seasons ahead.

EMAIL: john.milner@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Greg Biffle breaks four-year pole drought at Daytona

By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service) DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Greg Biffle came out of nowhere.

Winless since 2013 and without a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole since the fall Charlotte race in 2012, the driver of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford scorched Daytona International Speedway on Friday to claim the top starting spot for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 (at 7:45 p.m. ET on NBC).

In the second and final round of knockout qualifying, Biffle toured the 2.5-mile restrictor-plate track in 46.643 seconds (192.955 mph) to wrestle the Coors Light Pole Award from former RFR teammate Carl Edwards (192.748 mph) by .050 seconds.

The pole was Biffle’s second at a plate track, the first coming when he led the field to green in the 2004 Daytona 500, not quite eight months after Biffle won the only plate race of his career—the 2003 Coke Zero 400. Both were career-firsts for the Biff.

All told, Biffle has won 13 poles in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but Friday’s was particularly significant because of the boost it give his organization, which has been struggling for the past few years to find speed in the wake of the departure of veterans Matt Kenseth and Edwards to Joe Gibbs Racing.

“It is a huge confidence-builder, and coming out of here with a good finish, that’s a lot of momentum for the team,” Biffle said. “Qualifying on the pole, getting a good run and moving on to the next race—we need that.

“We need those good finishes and momentum and encouragement. Winning the pole is all smiles on those guys pushing the car up there and getting the pictures. They’re pumped right now. We’ll be ready to go tomorrow night.”

In a backup car with no practice laps because of a wreck in Saturday morning’s practice, Kyle Busch (192.336 mph) qualified third. Biffle’s teammate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (192.320 mph), earned the fourth starting spot, followed by Brad Keselowski (192.254 mph) and Austin Dillon (192.254 mph), who lost the fifth spot to Keselowski on an owner points tiebreaker.

Defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. failed to make the top 12 and will start 16th. Jimmie Johnson (eighth) was the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to advance to the second round, just as Kurt Busch (10th) was the only Stewart-Haas Racing entry to do so.

Earnhardt, however, wasn’t particularly concerned about his starting position.

“I think we’ll be good,” he said. “We worked on our car to try and help it drive better. That might take some straight-line speed out of it, but it’s going to hopefully help us be able to make moves we need to make in the race.

“It’s going to be slick in the race, and handling is going to be real important. I’m more concerned really with the car driving good. Might not be the fastest car out there, (but) that’s not the car that is going to win the race. I think (that’s going to be) the guy that’s got the best handling package. This place is going to be pretty slick.”

Biffle was fastest in both rounds of qualifying, pacing the first session at 192.629 mph.

“After that first session, I knew we had to be worried about (Greg),” Edwards said. “We ran a really good lap in the second session, but those guys were fast. They put the hard work in, they deserve it and I know how hard those guys work over there.

“And I guess in a way, it’s cool to see them have success. You hate to get beat by anyone, but knowing those guys and knowing how much they work, it’s good to see them have this day.”

Note: Josh Wise failed to make the 40-car field.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Crew Chief’s Absense Leaves Biffle Facing Uphill Battle

LONG POND, Pa. – Of the penalties NASCAR handed down this week, Greg Biffle’s team has the harshest to overcome.

Roush Fenway Racing was assessed a P3 penalty after NASCAR found multiple issues with his Ford Fusion, resulting in a two-race suspension for crew chief Brian Pattie, a $50,000 fine and the loss of 15 driver and owner points.

Roush has decided not to appeal the penalty and Pattie will begin serving his suspension this weekend at Pocono Raceway. He will also miss next week’s event at Michigan International Speedway.

“It’s tough on us. We’ve been running decent and not getting the finishes that we have been trying to get. I guess you would say we deserve where we have been running,” says Biffle on Friday. “That has been really tough on us as a team. At Charlotte we go and qualify decent, run decent, stay out of trouble and run a clean race and finish 11th.

“That was not where we wanted. We wanted to get a top-10, so that is kind of a little bit of a shot that we don’t get to have Brian for the next couple of weeks. We get it, though.”

It doesn’t mean Biffle agrees, however. The No. 16 was found to have multiple violations, including a body design that was either not approved or not submitted to NASCAR, which left Biffle not wanting to comment whether the penalty was fair or not.

Biffle’s car was taken as the random last weekend in addition to NASCAR routinely taking the first and second place cars.

“I do know it’s the first time they have had our car in quite some time, so it seems a little harsh to me to not give us a chance to fix it. I get that it has to be fair for everyone,” he said. “It doesn’t matter that we finished 11th and never led a lap. It isn’t like we dominated the whole race, but that doesn’t matter. It is disappointing, but we’ll get through it. It is only a couple of races, so we move on.”

Biffle is still looking for his first top-10 finish of the season and following the penalty sits 24th in points. Former Cup champion crew chief Robbie Reiser will call the shots for Biffle on Sunday, which the driver said he’s comfortable with.

“The crew chief these days is more of a manager and decision-maker, and the car chief and engineers make it a correlated deal. It’s an impact, but it isn’t like we can’t function without having Brian,” Biffle said. “The importance of losing a crew chief is really in calling the race.

“Having Robbie Reiser on the box to call the race certainly makes good sense. He has done a good job on the box and has won a title. That is not a disadvantage to us. That is really where the crew chief is important, calling the race, being on the box and making the right pit calls and decisions. I feel like we have somebody that can do that job, and I think we’ll be fine with that.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Categories
Development Journalists

RFR Solid at Bristol and Making Progress

All three Roush Fenway Racing cars battled for much-needed solid finishes in Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. In the closing laps, RFR drivers Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Greg Biffle all had good track position, running in the top 10.

Bayne finished fifth for his first top five since winning the 2011 Daytona 500. After being stuck in the bottom lane on late restarts, Biffle and Stenhouse Jr. got shuffled back to 12th and 16th place finishes, respectively.

“Every restart we were on the bottom,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I thought we had a top-five car there at the end with speed, but we just couldn’t break out.”

Biffle said the advantage on restarts was in the top lane.

“We were up in sixth, and those last two restarts we started on the bottom and that just killed us,” Biffle said. “But I will say that all day long I started on the top. Those last two were the only ones where I didn’t, and that’s just luck. You’re not gonna get the top every time and the last two I didn’t get it.”

Bayne had the preferred top lane for the final three restarts, and it pushed the No. 6 AdvoCare Ford to its fifth-place result.

“We had a really good race car,” Bayne said. “That’s what paid off. You can’t come back if you don’t have good race cars and we’ve got that now.”

Last August at Bristol, RFR’s best finish among the trio was Bayne’s 15th-place showing. Stenhouse Jr. and Biffle finished 21st and 25th respectively, so Sunday’s race marked an improvement in the team’s overall performance at the half-mile track.

This season is shaping up better than 2015 as well. RFR cars compiled a total of only four top-five finishes in 36 races last year, and Biffle was the only driver with an average finish in the top 20. Through the first eight races of 2016 though, the organization has two top fives and two drivers have improved their average overall showing: Bayne’s average is up from 25.8 in 2015 to 19.6 this year, and Stenhouse Jr.’s average has improved from 24.3 in 2015 to 18.8.

John Haverlin is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

LEE: Four Drivers Who Need a Texas Turnaround

FORT WORTH, Tex. – Legendary baseball player Yogi Berra was known for his famous sayings, or “Yogi-isms.”

One of my personal favorites? “It’s getting late early.” Fresh off the season’s first short track race of the year, the teams have seen nearly every type of track they’ll encounter from now until November.

While NASCAR is about as far from America’s favorite pastime as you can get, the clock is ticking for several drivers who have struggled in 2016.

Matt Kenseth

The 2003 champion finds himself 14th in points after six races, the farthest down he’s been at this point in a season since finishing the 2009 campaign 14th. But unlike the other drivers on this list, Kenseth’s problem hasn’t been speed: it’s a black cloud that’s been lingering over his No. 20 Toyota Camry since last October.

For those who don’t know, Kenseth’s season spiraled out of control when Joey Logano spun him at Kansas Speedway in the opening race of the second round of the the Chase. A crash at Charlotte the following week set the stage for their infamous run-in at Martinsville, where a frustrated Kenseth crashed Logano after he felt he was taken out by Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski.

Kenseth was less than a mile away from winning his third Daytona 500 this February before he was shuffled back to 14th in the mad dash to the checkers. The next week in Atlanta, Kenseth was again one of the cars to beat, leading 47 laps. A pit penalty for illegal fueling led to a communication breakdown on the team’s radio that saw Kenseth fall two laps behind and out of contention en route to a 19th place finish.

A crash at Las Vegas and another comedy of errors on pit road at Auto Club Speedway ruined strong runs for Kenseth. At Martinsville, he appeared to be well on his way to turning the ship around before a late-race restart saw him on the outside of teammate Kyle Busch. The result was a 15th place finish that spoiled a tremendous run.

Oddly enough, the race that Kenseth didn’t lead, Phoenix, saw him make it to the finish in one piece in seventh.

Kasey Kahne

Kasey Kahne, Kasey Kahne, wherefore art thou, Kasey Kahne?

Once regarded as the next big thing in NASCAR, Kahne’s rise to the top is all but a distant memory in 2016. After finishing fourth in points in his debut season in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5, Kahne has failed to finish in the top 10 for three consecutive years. Kahne’s last victory came in 2014, when he won at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Through six races, Kahne has yet to lead a single lap and has just one top 10 (Las Vegas). Kahne qualified second at Martinsville last week, but dropped like a rock from the start and brought his Chevrolet home 22nd. It feels like every time we expect to see something from Kahne, he falls flat on his face and shows he’s a distant fourth in the Hendrick pecking order.

Kahne qualified 17th for the Duck Commander 500, but has seen success at Texas in the past. He finished eighth in this race last year, and does have a win at TMS. If you believe in fate, it should be noted that Kahne’s victory at Texas came 10 years ago to the day of the Duck Commander 500.

Kyle Larson

On the heels of a third-place run at Martinsville Speedway, it would be easy to remove Larson from this list. But when you look closer at the numbers, it’s easy to see why Larson isn’t out of the woods.

Larson has only posted back-to-back top fives once in his career, when he did so in September 2014. Taking it a step further, the Chip Ganassi prodigy hasn’t recorded consecutive top-10 finishes since last June.

The No. 42 Target Chevy has yet to lead a lap in 2016, and Larson has only advanced to the third round of qualifying once this season, including Friday, when he qualified 20th for the Duck Commander 500. Larson and crew chief Chad Johnston will hope for a run similar to 2014 at Texas, when Larson finished fifth in this race.

 Greg Biffle

With the exception of Team Penske, Ryan Blaney and a couple of strong runs from Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford has been behind Chevrolet and Toyota in the early stages of 2016.

Greg Biffle has hoisted the Texas six shooters twice in his career, last winning at TMS in 2012. Prior to the switch to the Generation 6 chassis, Biffle was a Texas master with nine top-10 finishes in 10 starts in the “car of tomorrow.”

If Biffle is ever going to re-establish himself as a frontrunner in the cup series, a trip to Texas might be exactly what the doctor ordered for the No. 16 team. Otherwise, it may be time for Roush Fenway to find a new lead driver.

EMAIL HANK AT editors@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HankLee89

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.