By admin | March 19, 2012
By Richard Allen
Without question, Hendrick Motorsports is THE power team in NASCAR. Any doubt of that would be quickly erased after only a brief stroll past the company’s trophy case. However, 2012 has been a disaster based on the standards set by this organization after the first four races of the season.
Before the first competitive lap had even been turned on the track in Daytona, HMS found itself embroiled in controversy. Crew chief Chad Knaus and the #48 team of driver Jimmie Johnson were busted by NASCAR for having what was deemed as illegal C-posts on their car. Ultimately, the team was hit with a 25 point penalty as well as suspensions for Knaus and car chief Ron Malec.
The penalties levied by NASCAR are being appealed with a hearing set for this week.
But the Daytona disaster for Johnson and his crew was not limited to illegal body pieces. After completing only one full lap of the Daytona 500, Johnson was forced into the outside wall and was then hit multiple times by other cars as he sat prone on the track.
Due to his poor finish and points penalty, Johnson actually entered the season’s second race in Phoenix with a deficit.
But amazingly, even with all his troubles Johnson is not in the worst shape of the HMS drivers. The #48 team has recovered with three consecutive top-10s to climb all the way back to 17th in the Sprint Cup points race. Both Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne currently find themselves lower in the standings than Johnson.
Gordon scored an 8th place in Phoenix but results of 40th, 12th and 35th in the other three races have landed the four time Sprint Cup champion in the 23rd spot in the standings.
And to make matters worse, Gordon’s poor finish in Bristol came as a result of contact with a teammate when the header pipe on Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s car slashed the left rear tire on his #24 and caused a crash. This incident came late in the Food City 500 when it appeared as though Gordon was on his way to a top-5 finish if not a win.
But perhaps the most disappointing of the HMS drivers so far has been Kahne. Enduring a wait of well over a year before being able to step into the #5 car after having signed with HMS back in 2010, the highly touted driver has logged finishes of 29th, 34th, 19th and 37th. These results have dropped Kahne all the way back into the 32nd spot in the Sprint Cup standings.
Kahne did start from the pole position in Las Vegas.
The lone ray of hope so far for HMS has been Earnhardt. On the strength of 2nd place in Daytona and three other top-15s, the popular driver currently sits in a tie with Denny Hamlin for 5th place in the overall standings.
Penalties, crashes and less than their best runs have so far amounted to a poor start for the most successful team in recent NASCAR history. However, that history indicates they will likely turn things around at some point in 2012.
Junior-Gordon incident nothing more than bad luck http://racingwithrich.com/?p=1726
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