By admin | May 22, 2012
By Richard Allen
In the first three years that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. drove for Hendrick Motorsports, his fans often complained that their favorite driver was at a disadvantage because his cars were housed in the so-called ‘cursed’ garage at the team’s sprawling complex.
Perhaps this season is proving that theory correct. Although Junior has yet to win a points paying Sprint Cup race in 2010, he did win the Sprint Showdown and one segment in the Sprint All Star race this past Saturday night. And much more importantly, the popular driver is currently ranked third in the Sprint Cup standings after logging four top-5s and eight top-10s in the season’s first eleven races.
At the end of the 2010 season, veteran crew chief Steve Letarte was named as the new pit boss for Junior’s struggling No. 88 team. Essentially, Junior’s team was swapped for Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 team and his car was moved into the same shop with that of five time champion Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus. Since that time, the 88 team has shown marked improvement. A Chase for the Championship spot in 2011 and this season’s results clearly show that.
And along with Junior’s marked improvement, the No. 48 team of Johnson has made plenty of news for their success over the past couple of weeks. One week after notching the 200th win for the HMS organization in Darlington, Johnson scored a $1 million victory in the Sprint All Star race in Charlotte.
The season got off to a tumultuous beginning for the 48 team when they were deemed to have illegal C-posts on their car for the season opening race in Daytona. Fines, suspensions and points reductions were handed down by NASCAR but the bulk of those sanctions were overturned after an appeal.
Since that initial ruling against them, the 48 crew has come roaring back into contention. After once being in negative numbers in regard to their points total, Johnson now ranks fifth in the standings. He has the one official win along with five top-5s and eight top-10s.
But contrary to the success of the 48 and 88 teams is the lack of success being experienced by the two teams working out of the ‘cursed’ garage at HMS. The No. 5 car of Kasey Kahne and the No. 24 car of Jeff Gordon are housed together and they have each suffered through less than stellar seasons so far.
After getting his HMS career off to a miserable start with four finishes outside the top-25 in his first six starts, Kahne has recovered to post five consecutive top-10s. Still, he ranks only 16th in the Sprint Cup standings.
But the most inexplicable story among the HMS drivers is that of Gordon. The four time champion and winner of 85 career races is mired in the worst slump of his career. Bad luck has plagued the future Hall of Fame driver virtually all season as he has managed only two top-10 results and ranks 24th in the standings despite having strong cars almost every time he has taken to the track.
Clearly, two teams at Hendrick Motorsports are performing better than the other two in 2012. Is there a cursed garage there? That’s unlikely but it is unusual that the results would work out the way they have.
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