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Top 20 Countdown: No. 4 Matt Kenseth

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports is counting down the top 20 drivers of the 2012 season, as predicted by the Yahoo! Sports NASCAR staff – Jay Hart, Jay Busbee, Nick Bromberg and Geoffrey Miller. The countdown will conclude Feb. 17 with the unveiling of the No. 1 driver.

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Matt Kenseth photo
(Getty Images)

2011 statistics
Finish Poles Wins Top 5 Top 10
4 3 3 12 20
The countdown
No. 3: Revealed Wednesday, Feb. 15

2011 finish: 4th

Our 2012 predictions:
• Jay Hart: 5th
• Jay Busbee: 4th
• Nick Bromberg: 6th
• Geoffrey Miller: 3rd

Crew chief: Jimmy Fennig

Offseason action: Gained new sponsor in Best Buy, though only for nine races. The rest of the sponsor schedule is to be determined.

2012 outlook: Lost in the brilliance of Tony Stewart vs. Carl Edwards was how close Kenseth was to winning a second championship in 2011.

In case you were among those who missed it – and don't feel bad, because you're hardly alone – Kenseth posted six top-six finishes in the Chase, led laps in nine of 10 races and was on the verge of taking the points lead with just three races to go.

A blown tire that led to a run-in with Kyle Busch cost him at Martinsville and, ultimately, his shot at the title. Still, Kenseth has to feel confident heading into 2012.

What's odd about Kenseth's situation now is that he's still looking for sponsorship. Here's a driver who's a past champion, who runs up front just about every week, who has an unbelievably loyal fan base, yet will enter the season without full funding.

If there was ever an example of how difficult the business climate is in the sport right now, this is it.

All of Roush Fenway Racing knows this too well. A lack of sponsorship led to RFR paring down to just three cars this season, a move that forced the organization to lay off some 100 employees, many of whom found employment elsewhere. This is the root of Kenseth's main concern heading into 2012.

"If there's anything to be concerned about or think about, it's just we've lost so many people over the offseason," he said during testing at Daytona in January. "We've lost some important people … that had access to everything [that are now] pretty much at every single different team throughout the garage. So I think anything you have that you maybe thought was an advantage through last year – things we learned – has certainly disappeared."

Point of interest: Kenseth's three wins in 2011 were the most he's had in a season since 2006 … Oh, and follow Kenseth on Twitter (@Matt_Kenseth17) because he's funny.

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