Hendrick Power Is Leaving Competition In A Funk
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports didn’t just leave Michigan International Speedway with money and a trophy after Sunday’s Sprint Cup Race. They also left with the hearts and hopes of a lot of the other competitors.
Johnson won the Quicken Loans 400 at MIS. It was his third victory in his last four starts.
If anybody in the grandstands or garages was thinking before Michigan that victory No. 1 and/or victory No. 2 this summer were not slump busters for the 48 team, they were not thinking that afterward.
The six-time champion champion is rolling now and everyone knows where that can lead.
But it wasn’t just Johnson’s and the No. 48 Chevy’s victory that was causing concern in the post-Michigan garages. It was the scoring pylon and stat sheets.
They showed that all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers and cars finished in the top 10 on the MIS oval. They showed that about the only other car from another team that could keep up with the Hendrick cars was that of Kevin Harvick, who was in a car with a Hendrick engine and benefiting from Hendrick logistics.
They showed that Hendrick-affiliated cars led 140 of 200 laps at MIS.
They showed that nine of the 14 races held in 2014 have been won by Hendrick-afflilated cars.
They showed that Hendrick cars have won four straight races now.
They showed that the top three drivers in points are Hendrick drivers.
They showed that every Hendrick-affiliated driver in the garages except Danica Patrick is in position to make the Chase.
They showed that Chad Knaus, Johnson’s crew chief, was spot on when he said post-MIS, “And as far as Hendrick Motorsports goes, I think if you go back and look starting at Daytona, the engine shop and the chassis shop, the way that the Hendrick Motorsports affiliated teams and team itself has performed has been pretty impressive as a whole. The chassis shop, we know we build chassis for a lot of the other competitors, as well, and those cars have ran very, very well. The teams that have run with our engines have run very, very well, as well. It’s been pretty awesome.”
The stats did not show the demoralizing effect this is all having on other teams and drivers.
Testaments to that effect were left to other teams and drivers themselves.
Clint Bowyer, driving a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, had a pretty good day at Michigan. He finished 10th – best among Toyota drivers – and moved up in the standings a bit.
But afterward, he said he had no shot at winning.
“It’s just tough right now to compete with that horsepower they’ve (Hendrick Motorsports) got right now,” Bowyer said. “That’s a pretty distinct advantage when you look at the results on that. Just incredible. That deal cycles, but it sure seems like its pretty unfair right now.”
The Fords of Team Penske fared better. Brad Keselowski led some laps and finished third. Teammate Joey Logano finished ninth and led copious laps.
But asked a big picture question about Hendrick vs. the Sprint Cup World the rest of the way this year, Keselowski gave an elaborate and unsettling answer.
“I don’t really think there is anybody in the wings” who can challenge Hendrick’s dominance, Keselowski said. “I think the way this year’s package has kind of come together, where we’re at now is where we’re going to be for the remainder of the year. You might see some small gains from some teams, but I don’t see anything significant coming.
“I think right now the Penske cars are probably the best when it comes to balance track-to-track. The Hendrick cars are probably the best anywhere it takes power to run and these tracks are certainly one of those, and Kevin Harvick (who drives for a Hendrick-back Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy), his team is probably the fastest week-in and week-out, so I don’t really see that changing for the duration of the season. I think what you’re going to find in the development cycle has been kind of found by this time in the year. Maybe there’s a little bit more left on the table, but not enough to take a team that’s not there to be there.
“We all have a little bit of work to do because it’s pretty obvious the Hendrick engines are way ahead of everyone else. Usually, that’s not something you catch up with in one season as far ahead as they are right now. They’re probably a full season ahead of everyone, so we’ve got work to do to get there. Thankfully, we’ve got 12-13 weeks until the Chase starts. I know we’ve got some stuff coming up for that, but I think we’re right there – maybe just half-a-nose behind Hendrick-powered cars.”
“I think what you’re seeing right now is probably the top five or 10 is what it’s going to be when it comes down to money time in the Chase.”
That’s a lot of words used to explain what’s going on in terms of Hendrick dominance right now in Cup. All those words have the ring of logic.
Johnson himself, however, summed it up a bit more economically.
He said Sunday, “I just know our cars are fast.”
Hope-shattering fast, it appears.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments