New crew chief sure to light a fire under morose Matt Kenseth
What a difference a year makes.
Last year in the Hollywood Hills,
But as we know in sports and entertainment, there are a million short-term success stories and only about 100 that ever hold up.
Fast-forward to 2010, and the
That two-week honeymoon with Blick was the highlight of a marriage filled with cracks. The duo had just five top 5s and 11 top 10 finishes in their last 35 races while leading just 154 laps -- easily the worst stretch of Kenseth's career since 2001. Looking back, the knockout punch came at Richmond last September, with Kenseth's 25th-place finish leaving him out of the playoffs for the first time since the Chase began in 2004 -- a system designed in part because of his dominance in capturing the Cup title the year before.
Now, one of NASCAR's most successful drivers finds himself with his third crew chief in a little over two years. It's been a shocking downhill slide for Ford's once-marquee attraction, a stage Kenseth now shares with
Most trace the answer to the departure of
He never has.
While others have embraced that role (
Kenseth's deadpan sarcasm can be hilarious at times, but when he's slumping it comes with a nitpicky criticism that has him earning the nickname Eeyore -- the morose donkey from
Take last weekend, for example.
"I was happy with the result, I wasn't very happy with our weekend overall," he said. "We started the day way, way off and it was just a battle the whole time. We got lucky."
Based on those comments, you'd think Kenseth finished 30th instead of 8th. But that's the way he's always been, keeping the team from finding the inspiration to turn things around.
The good news is that Parrott appears to be a perfect fit. The third-winningest active crew chief on the circuit (29 victories), his first gig was with a winning driver who'd also been having his share of confidence problems:
A hard-nosed, fierce competitor, Parrott's not going to put up with those kind of publicly demoralizing quotes. As an old school guy with old school tactics, he's the type who will immediately whip Kenseth into shape. The bigger problem will be whether the technology has passed him by. A longtime member of
Some will question Parrott's hire after just one race, wondering why Roush didn't make this type of change after last season. But sometimes, you're better off giving someone a shock when they least expect it than seeing how they perform under the circumstances.
That's exactly what he's done with the "leader" of his team, putting in a fiery Parrott to shake his driver out of the doldrums. Now, we'll see if Kenseth has the willingness to change along with it, rewriting his own Hollywood ending -- or beginning a slow, dark fade into the category of "C" list stars.
-- For someone who's not a fan of bump drafting,
-- Tired of all the
-- Looking for a driver whose restrictor plate muscle might translate into the 2010 season as a whole? Try putting your money on