Now that 2009 is over, it's time to start focusing on the upcoming 2010 season, less than three months away.
Let's take a look at who has been stepping up their game throughout 2009, and should be able to carry that momentum in next year.
First off, let's see which drivers were able to score more points in each third of the season. They are highlighted in blue here.
We see Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin, who both kept getting better as the season progressed.
We also see Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer from Richard Childress Racing. They ended the year on a positive note, and should be chase contenders in 2010.
Also notice Greg Biffle and AJ Allmendinger, who quietly kept scoring more points during the season. Allmendinger made some great gains in 2009, and might have a David Reutimann-esque "almost make the Chase" type year in 2010.
And at the bottom of the pack notice John Andretti who did his job in keeping that #34 car above the Top-35 line in owners points.
Now let's consider some of the different organizations.
Starting off with Hendrick, we see that their top 3 guys kept getting better, while Earnhardt kept getting worse. I wonder if this trend will continue, or if Earnhardt will be able to join the group as a meaningful competitor.
Next up is Stewart-Hass racing. They actually started off the year very well, but didn't do sell well during Chase-time. Was their great early start just a matter of luck, or can they repeat that again in 2010?
Or is their finish to the season more indicative of how they'll be in 2010. Notice they did just as well as the RCR guys in the final 12 races. Is Stewart-Hass more in line with RCR quality rather than Hendrick quality?
Speaking of Richard Childress Racing, they did a good job of getting their act together by the end of the year. Look for them to have good momentum going into 2010. Especially over the last two races, it seems their team has figured out how to compete again.
Now taking a look at Joe Gibbs Racing, Denny Hamlin stayed strong all year long, and people are now talking about him as a title contender for 2010. Notice the resurrection of Kyle Busch in the final portion of the year, outscoring many Chase drivers.
And finally, the big gains Joey Logano made during the season should keep continuing into 2010. Joe GIbbs Racing should be stronger next year than this year. peaking of Richard Childress Racing, they did a good job of getting their act together by
Our last team to consider is the about-to-be-shrunk Roush Fenway Racing. They never really made any strides all year, and their only bright spot was Carl Edwards decent run during the middle portion of the season. But remember that Edwards went from 9 wins to 0 in a year. Not a very good sign.
Matt Kenseth kept getting worse and worse as the year progressed, notice how he keeps falling on the rankings.
Roush hasn't shown any signs of improvement (like Gibbs and Childress) late this season, so their fortunes don't look so great headed into 2010.
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