With their respective performances in 2015 and thus far in 2016, it would not be a far stretch to say Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle are in jeopardy.
What kind of jeopardy, you ask? Even though they’re both active and full-time drivers on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, they’re on the verge of becoming “Whatever Happened to?” questions in the sport.
Kahne came into this Saturday’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway having already dipped to 17th in the Sprint Cup standings.
Kahne has not won a race since 2014, managed just three top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 2015, and has just one top-10 thus far in 2016 (10th at Las Vegas).
Oh yes, and Kahne has finished 15th in the overall season standings in 2014 (the last year he made the Chase for the Sprint Cup, only to make a quick first round exit), and 18th in 2015.
Biffle is in even worse shape.
He’s ranked 23rd in the Cup standings after the first six races of 2016. He hasn’t won a race since 2013, had just three top-five and one other top-10 finishes in 2015, and has yet to crack the top-10 in 2016 (his best finish was 12th last Sunday at Martinsville).
Like Kahne, Biffle last made the Chase in 2014 (finished 14th), while he tied his career-worst season (20th) in 2015.
As hard as it may seem to say this, could Kahne’s and Biffle’s seasons be over already?
I hope not, as I have always liked both drivers for their talent and personality. But like their respective fans, I’m confounded as to why they have not been better this season – let alone the last few seasons.
Of course, when drivers struggle, rumors have a funny way of getting started. While there may be no basis (and usually isn’t) to most rumors, just because fans read something in print or online, or hear on the radio or TV that their favorite driver’s future is in jeopardy, many typically tend to believe the rumors.
I’ve already heard a few rumors on both drivers.
If you’re to believe rumors, if Kahne doesn’t improve quickly, he may be out of Hendrick Motorsports at season’s end – and potentially be replaced by the likes of Kyle Larson.
But I’ve also heard rumors that if Kahne does part ways with Hendrick Motorsports in 2016, he has a home already waiting for next season with Ford, which has coveted him for years. And don’t forget Kahne was originally a Ford driver before he signed with Dodge and former team owner Ray Evernham for his 2004 rookie Sprint Cup season.
I don’t make this stuff up. It just shows how strange this sport and business can be.
Ditto for Biffle maybe going elsewhere – if not forced into retirement – although his situation is a bit more complicated. His lack of performance isn’t exactly his fault; it’s more a combination of ongoing struggles that continue year after year for Roush Fenway Racing.
And Biffle and his performance – or lack thereof – are byproducts of the struggles within RFR. There had been a great deal of anticipation and optimism that the Roush Fenway group had made great strides during the offseason and was going to come out of the gates swinging in 2016.
Unfortunately, what was supposed to be great strides has turned into more of the same from the RFR camp. Heading into Texas, not only was Biffle ranked 23rd in the Cup rankings – and he’s the senior driver in RFR – his teammates have also struggled: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is 17th and Trevor Bayne is 24th.
To their credit, Stenhouse qualified fifth on Friday for Saturday’s Duck Commander 500, while Bayne qualified 12th and Biffle was 14th.
But will they finish that high or higher in the actual race?
As for Kahne, he qualified 17th for Texas, a far cry from qualifying second last week at Martinsville – only to finish a disappointing 22nd.
There’s an old adage in NASCAR that how a driver does in the first five or six races of a season is a good gauge of how he or she will do for the entire season.
If that’s the case, and with 30 races left heading into Texas, this could be the longest season either driver has ever experienced.
And that’s too bad, because with their respective talent, they should be doing so much better.
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