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Hendrick Engines At Center Of Powerful Debate

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 29 2014

Hendrick power has other teams and drivers concerned. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

HAMPTON, Ga. – Add Brian Vickers’ name to the growing list of NASCAR drivers willing to go on the record and admit that, when it comes to horsepower, engines built by Hendrick Motorsports are the class of the field.

When Ryan Newman got into a heated argument with Jimmie Johnson two weeks ago at Michigan, Newman noted the discussion that his ECR Chevrolet engine couldn’t maintain the same pace of Johnson’s Hendrick-powered Chevrolet.

Fellow Cup drivers Jamie McMurray and Denny Hamlin, among others have made the same argument recently.

Vickers, who drives Michael Waltrip Racing Toyotas with engines built by TRD in California, was singing from the same verse on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway when asked about the Hendrick horsepower juggernaut.

“It’s definitely, like some of those guys have said, they’re strong right now and it’s tough,” Vickers said. “Hopefully, one day we’ll be on the other side of that cycle and they’ll be chasing us.

“But, right now for whatever reason they definitely have everyone beat in the engine department.”

Roush Fenway Racing Ford driver Greg Biffle also jumped on the “tell it like it is” bandwagon on Friday when asked why he’s only led 29 laps this season on non-restrictor plate race tracks.

“Leading laps is important because it puts you in position to win. But we just plain and simply haven’t been in that category this year,” said Biffle, winless this year but clinging to a spot in the Chase grid based on his standing in season-long points. “We haven’t had fast enough cars to compete all year and, except for the restrictor plate races, we’ve gotten up front a few times by strategy and staying out.

“But now we’re really making speed in our cars the last six weeks and we’re getting to the point where we feel like we’re going to get in a position to lead some laps here in the near future. But it’s obvious this year, it’s real plain and simple that we haven’t been where we want to be and that’s why we’ve been doing the testing and working as hard as we can.

“The Michigan test is really where we turned the corner, so to speak. Our performance since then has shown that we’ve made huge improvements. We’re not there yet, but were getting really close.”

Vickers, who has had to sit out several races over the years due to illnesses, was asked on Friday his thoughts on what Tony Stewart will experience this weekend following a three-week absence from racing following the sprint car incident in Ontario County, New York earlier this year that cost Kevin Ward Jr. his life.

“I, unfortunately, know what the answer is,” Vickers said. “ I think the biggest is excitement — really excited to get back in that race car. Appreciation, I think, is another emotion that you really feel. Just the fact that you are able to get back in the car and you’re able to get back in it again.

“At the end of the day at this level, yeah there’s a lot of parts to this job that it does become a job; it’s work. But at the end of the day, we do this because we love it and we love being in the race car and love going fast. I’m so happy to see Tony back in the car. I have so much respect for that guy and we’ve missed him since he’s been away and I can’t wait to get out there and race with him a little bit.”

Jeff Gordon will make his 750th career Sprint Cup start this weekend.

When asked to name the single moment that stands out in his career, he paused before choosing his win in the first stock car race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994.

“If I had to pick one great moment, it would be the inaugural Brickyard 400 if I had to pick one,” he said. “This last one (earlier this summer) ranked right up there with it because Ingrid and the kids were there kissing the bricks. We didn’t do that in 1994.

“I guess if I had to pick one because I think my life changed forever after that 1994 Brickyard 400. Billboards, commercials, a trip to Disneyworld, going to the race track and being excelled at after that; it changed my life in great ways. I guess I’d have to pick that one.”

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 29 2014
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