By admin | April 28, 2010
By Richard Allen
As a history teacher one the most interesting time periods for me is the period surrounding World War I. The reason I find the era so fascinating is that it is a classic example of the people involved not being able to ‘see the forest for the trees’. Looking back with hindsight as an aid, historians can ponder why the Europeans, and the world, could not see that the tragic events they were living through were leading them to destruction.
With that said, on a scale of far lesser importance, could it be that Hendrick Motorsports is heading for a destruction of its own?
Before you scoff, look at the pieces in place. The organization’s two biggest stars have suddenly begun publicly feuding with each other. Or perhaps better said, the one star who hasn’t been winning has seemingly grown impatient with the star who has been winning.
Jeff Gordon has not been the least bit shy about pointing the finger of blame at Jimmie Johnson in recent races. In his well documented interview at Talladega, Gordon declared that, “The 48 is testing my patience,” and that he was, “Pissed off”. If any comments like these had ever been made at HMS before, they were made in private.
Aside from Gordon and Johnson, another piece to a destructive puzzle is waiting to be placed. The sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is not winning even when his teammates are often running up front. He is not even in position to get into a scrape with the other HMS drivers because they are, or at least have been, running so far in front of him.
Last year, three HMS cars finished the season at the top of the point standings while Junior was outside the top-20 in those standings. This is definitely weighing on his many fans as is evidenced by reading comments and message board posts. But at the same time, and more importantly, it has to be weighing on the driver himself.
Granted, this year Junior is 8th in the Sprint Cup standings but he has not exactly contended for a win other than in Daytona.
To me, one of the most intriguing things to happen at HMS has not involved Gordon, Johnson or Earnhardt. The signing of Kasey Kahne to drive for the organization well over a year from now could be an incident that creates a spark. In a not so subtle way, HMS is telling Mark Martin they would not be terribly upset if he went ahead and moved on.
Bringing Kahne into the fold with no clearly defined path for 2011 opens the door for a number of things to happen. Kahne could drive for one of the Hendrick satellite teams, but so could Martin. Or, Martin could form his own version of Stewart-Haas Racing. Or, Martin could leave altogether. Or, Kahne could drive outside the HMS umbrella for a year. Whichever of these events actually happens, Martin cannot help but feel like the odd man out in the mix.
Years after the fact we can look back and see that the unfolding of events in the early part of the 20th Century led to a very predictable result despite the fact that those involved at the time were too close to see what was happening.
Could it be that years from now people will look back to 2010 and see that it was obvious Hendrick Motorsports was due for a very predictable implosion? My guess is that the organization will continue to prosper, but there are some ominous pieces at least giving the appearance of falling into place.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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