By admin | April 13, 2008
Is Hendrick really “back”?
By Richard Allen
Make no mistake, Hendrick Motorsports is the best organization in NASCAR. They may even be the best organization in professional sports. However, few would argue that the super team has not lived up to their lofty standards so far in 2008.
After winning the Subway Fresh Fit 500 Saturday night in Phoenix, Jimmie Johnson climbed from his car and proclaimed, “We’re back”.
Now, if Johnson simply meant they were back in victory lane then, of course, he was correct. However, if by “we’re back” he meant that his organization had reclaimed its place atop the NASCAR world he may have been a bit premature.
After all, Johnson won the race by having more faith in his fuel tank than most of the other competitors. He did lead the most laps, but he was in second place until Mark Martin’s team called him down pit road for fuel.
The only other race this season in which the Hendrick Motorsports team has looked like the HMS of old was at Martinsville, another flat track. Throughout the early stages of the season it has been newcomer Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who has kept the powerhouse team near the top of the finishing results.
And what’s more, this was only the first win for HMS. Roush Fenway Racing has three wins. Joe Gibbs Racing has two victories. Richard Childress Racing and Penske Racing South also have each grabbed one checkered flag this year.
For the most part, the drivers of HMS have been up and down, seeming to have turned the corner one week only to appear to take a step back the next. Just last week in Texas, Jeff Gordon suffered what may have been the worst race of his career. He admitted afterwards that he and his crew had no idea why their car was so bad.
So, with that type of inconsistency it would be difficult to say Hendrick is all the way “back”.
With all of that being said, let’s answer a few questions.
Will Hendrick Motorsports win more races in 2008? Absolutely.
Will they be as dominate as last year? Probably not.
Will they place at least three cars in the Chase for the Championship? More than likely.
Will one of their teams win a championship in 2008? Don’t bet against them.
When all said and done this may have been nothing more than a debate on semantics. However, I am not ready to say that Hendrick Motorsports is “back” because they stretched their fuel mileage further than everyone else to win just one race. I am willing to say that I believe they will claim their share of races this season by simply beating the competition, and they will eventually be “back“.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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