DOVER, Del. – Even with four drivers in the top 10 in points, including two with victories this season, all is not well at Hendrick Motorsports.
Jeff Gordon, who enters this weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway ninth in points, admits this season has been a struggle for his team and the entire organization.
“This rule package that we have this year has not suited any of us very well,’’ Gordon said Friday. “I know Jimmie (Johnson) has the three wins, which we all scratch our heads and are amazed that he’s been able to do that because we don’t feel that we’ve really performed, any of us … to that level.’’
While Gordon says the team remains strong at Daytona and Talladega, he notes that they’ve not been as dominant at other tracks.
“It seems like that at the other tracks we’re off a little bit with downforce and maybe even a little bit with power,’’ Gordon said. “That’s unusual for us. We’re very aware of it. I wouldn’t call it an urgency, just a lot of hard work and focus on getting that turned around.”
Even with such issues, Johnson had five consecutive top-three finishes until placing 40th last week in the Coca-Cola 600. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s third-place finish last week gave him top-five finishes in all five races on 1.5-mile speedways this season.
Still, there are signs the organization is not as dominant.
No Hendrick driver ranks in the top three in laps led so far this season. First is Kevin Harvick (1,032 laps led) and second is Kurt Busch (659). Both drive for Stewart-Haas Racing, which gets its chassis and engines from Hendrick Motorsports.
Johnson, who has ranked no worse than third in laps led since 2007, is fourth. Gordon ranks eighth in laps led this season. He’s ranked worse than sixth only twice since 2007.
Gordon knows he and his team have work to do.
“We’re very conscious of the fact that we need to improve our performance, especially the mile and halves,’’ said Gordon, whose average finish is 17.0 at 1.5-mile tracks this year. “We’ve not lived up to our own expectations, and we’re working extremely hard to find that. Right now, if we execute flawlessly, we have a shot at winning, but we haven’t been doing that either.
“We have some work to do. It always helps when you get your performance up in your cars you can have a few little mistakes here and there and still put yourself in position to win. While our performance is down a little bit, I’ve got to do a better job on restarts, we’ve got to do a better job on pit road and the calls that we make for pit strategy and track position, all those things have to be done perfectly.’’
Sitting ninth in points nearly halfway to when the Chase for the Sprint Cup field is set, Gordon is not focused on points.
“We want to win every time we go out there on the racetrack,’’ he said. “Nothing has changed in my entire career. Your goal is to go out there and fight as hard as you can for every position and get the best position you can, hoping that that is a win.
“If you have a 10th-place car, you want to get it to eighth, ninth or seventh. Right now, that’s what we’re trying to do is to get the most out of it. Last week, we certainly had better than a 15th-place car and it didn’t play out of for us. We ended up 15th. That was very very disappointing.
“The reason we’re ninth in points is because we’ve been consistent. That’s definitely not good enough for us. We want to be better. We don’t just want to be in the Chase. We want to be in the Chase with a chance of winning.’’