As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end – and that was the case for Hendrick Motorsports’ recent domination at Pocono Raceway.
Coming into Sunday’s Axalta We Paint Winners 400, the last five races at Pocono had been won by HMS drivers: Jeff Gordon in Aug. 2012, Jimmie Johnson in June 2013, Kasey Kahne in Aug. 2013 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. capturing both races last season.
Aa sixth win in a row was not to be Sunday, as a Chevrolet still won, it just wasn’t a HMS driver behind the wheel.
Still, the Hendrick clan fared fairly well, with Johnson finishing third, Earnhardt 11th, Kahne 13th and Gordon 14th.
That Johnson was able to finish as well as he did once again showed the ability of he and his team to bounce back from adversity.
Johnson overcame a blown tire and getting into the wall but still scored a top-five finish.
“I’ve never given up, I guess,” Johnson said. “This is a great race team and a great race car. I think (Martin Truex Jr.) and (Kevin Harvick) had more pace than anyone else.
“But to be leading that next group of cars with a car with its right-side knocked off and splitter missing up front, it was a good result. There were plenty of challenges today for our Lowe’s team.
“Third is not the end of the world and so, we’ll take it and go on to the next one.”
As for the other three HMS drivers, Gordon continues to struggle in his final season as a Sprint Cup driver. His so-called “Victory Tour” continues to miss the biggest key element – he has yet to win a race in 2015.
What’s more, Gordon dropped from ninth to 10th in the Cup standings after Sunday’s race.
If the Chase for the Sprint Cup were to start today, Gordon would make it on points as the 13th of 16 drivers (based upon 10 different drivers already having earned at least one victory thus far).
Gordon is 43 points ahead of 16th-ranked Carl Edwards, which is the points equivalent of one full race win.
He needs to make some strong runs in the remaining 12 races before the Chase field is set or he could risk missing a chance to run for the title.
Earnhardt also had his struggles.
“We had a lot of fun out there passing a lot of cars,” Earnhardt said. “I made a mistake or, I don’t know what really happened on the back straightaway. (Brad Keselowski) came off the wall like he almost hit it.
“I yanked it to the left and I run into him and hit (Kahne). Just racing hard. You’ve got to get everything you can get. You can’t give up anything. I had a lot of race car and I was trying to use it.”