Long: More questions than answers exist with Hendrick Motorsports

13 Comments

The refrain lately rings like a well-worn song. Joe Gibbs Racing wins. Team Penske challenges. Hendrick Motorsports trails.

Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 marked the second race in a row that Hendrick’s top car placed 10th. That would be great for a team like Roush Fenway Racing, not Hendrick.

While Hendrick’s teams loaded their haulers at Michigan International Speedway, Joe Gibbs Racing celebrated its fifth win in the last six races. Penske had placed in the top two in the past five races before Sunday’s event.

Hendrick Motorsports?

Well, there was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win at Daytona in July but Hendrick cars have combined to lead five laps since – all by Jeff Gordon.

One can argue that three of the last six races – Kentucky, Indianapolis and Michigan – featured a rules package that won’t be used in the Chase, so no need to worry too much about what has happened.

Maybe so, but that’s not the Hendrick way. The attitude there is to win, not make excuses. It’s why all those trophies reside there and why team owner Rick Hendrick often knows well ahead of time his early December plans – celebrating another title at the banquet.

While anything can happen in the Chase, Hendrick cars haven’t shown lately that they’re likely to break the organization’s recent title funk. Hendrick has one crown in the last four years. Fail to win the title this year and this stretch will match the one title from 2001-05 as the organization’s leanest period in terms of Sprint Cup championships.

source:
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Rick Hendrick

One title every five years is something about any team would take, but Hendrick’s sustained success makes such an accomplishment seem more like a failure. This is an organization that has won an average of 10 races a year over the past decade.

Another argument for the lack of success lately for Hendrick can be that Johnson and Earnhardt are experimenting since they clinched Chase spots earlier. Nothing wrong with that. One should expect greater results once the Chase begins next month at Chicagoland Speedway.

But what about Gordon? What about Kasey Kahne?

Gordon’s final season has become more noteworthy for the accolades – a parade, a track briefly changing its name for him and all sorts of high-priced gifts – instead of what he’s done on the track.

Gordon and his team don’t look like a championship contender at this point. He has three top-five finishes this season. It’s hard to win a championship without winning a race and Gordon is not sniffing wins.

Gordon comments after Sunday’s 17th-place finish proved telling.

“We were able to hover around the top 12, which I was extremely happy with,’’ he said. “Unfortunately that is not where we ended up. Just couldn’t get going on the restarts which is no surprise. It happens to us every weekend.”

As for Kahne, he at least made it to the finish this time after placing 43rd at Pocono and 42nd at Watkins Glen the past two weeks. He’s not in a Chase spot and needs a win to make it.

Of course, Kahne won at Atlanta last year with just one race before the Chase field was set to make it.

Even with Bristol – a track Kahne won at in March 2013 – it’s hard to see this team winning at this point. Sunday’s 15th-place finish was the team’s best since placing eighth at Sonoma in late June.

The benefit of the Chase format is that struggles can be wiped away by a hot streak. Just recall Tony Stewart going winless in 2011 before the Chase and winning five of the 10 races to win the title.

But what happens in this year’s Chase will be based off actions and decisions made now. Today, Hendrick does not appear to be a championship contender. Tomorrow provides another chance to change that scenario.

Will tomorrow come soon enough for Hendrick?

Sign up to play the $16 Million Perfect Grid Challenge

 

Xfinity race results, point standings after Bristol

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chase Briscoe led the final six laps and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol for his seventh win of the season.

Briscoe beat Ross Chastain for the win. The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the race results.

Playoff standings

The 12-driver field for the playoffs has been set with Briscoe’s win in the regular-season finale.

Brandon Brown placed 12th and clinched the 12th and final spot.

Here are the re-seeded point standings entering the playoffs.

Chase Briscoe – 2,050 points

Austin Cindric – 2,050

Justin Allgaier – 2,033

Noah Gragson – 2,025

Brandon Jones – 2,020

Justin Haley – 2,018

Harrison Burton – 2,014

Ross Chastain – 2,010

Ryan Sieg – 2,002

Michael Annett – 2,002

Riley Herbst – 2,001

Brandon Brown – 2,000

Click here for the re-seeded standings.

Click here for the normal point standings.

Chase Briscoe wins Xfinity race at Bristol Motor Speedway

Leave a comment

Chase Briscoe took the lead with six laps to go and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which marked the end of the regular season.

Briscoe passed Austin Cindric to assume the lead and went unchallenged to the checkered flag. The victory is his series-leading seventh of the season.

“I was so mad after last week (at Richmond),” Briscoe told NBCSN. “I told all the guys there ain’t no way we’re getting beat today. I was so mad after how we ran last week and I get on the internet all the time and see guys count us out after one bad race and I know what this team is capable. … I finished second here the last two races and I wanted to win here so bad and it’s awesome that I can actually celebrate it with all these race fans.”

The top five was completed by Ross Chastain, Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

More: Race results, playoff standings

Allgaier dominated the early portion of the race, leading 126 laps and winning the first two stages. But he lost the lead for good in the pits during the Stage 2 break.

Brandon Brown finished 12th and clinched the 12th and final playoff spot.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ross Chastain led three times for 117 laps, but had to settle for his fifth runner-up finish of the season without a win … Austin Cindric earned his 13th top-10 finish in the last 14 races … Harrison Burton earned his 13th top five of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brett Moffitt finished 27th after he had to pit three times in the opening laps and was penalized for taking fuel before the competition caution … BJ McLeod finished 34th after he was eliminated in a multi-car wreck that began when he made contact with teammate Jeffrey EarnhardtMichael Annett finished 31st and Joe Graf Jr. placed 27th after they were involved in an incident on Lap 120.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I hit pit road and I wanted to cry.” – Ross Chastain after he finished second for the fifth time this year. He is winless entering the playoffs.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity playoffs open at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 26 on NBCSN.

 

Fans not allowed at Las Vegas races

Fans not allowed
Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Spectators will be not be allowed for any of the NASCAR playoff races next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the track announced Friday night.

A press release said only essential personnel will be allowed to attend the Cup, Xfinity and Truck playoff races there.

“To say we’re disappointed that we will conduct the South Point 400 playoff weekend without fans would be a gross understatement,” said Las Vegas Motor Speedway President Chris Powell. “Our staff has been working – many of them remotely – since the February Pennzoil 400 to prepare the speedway for our playoff tripleheader.

“But we must adhere to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive that limits gatherings due to COVID-19.  While we disagree with this policy, we have no choice but to oblige.  We certainly regret this situation for the thousands of race fans who won’t be able to attend our NASCAR-weekend events.”

Nevada’s re-opening plan does not permit fans at sporting events, concerts. Groups are limited to 50 or fewer people.

The Las Vegas Raiders announced last month that they would not have fans at any of the team’s home games in its inaugural season there.

The Truck playoff race will be at 9 p.m. ET Sept. 25 on FS1. The Xfinity playoff opener will be at  7:30 p.m. ET Sept. 26 on NBCSN. The Cup playoff race will be 7 p.m. ET Sept. 27 on NBCSN.

Fans holding tickets for those events will be contacted by the speedway ticket services department to discuss credits for future races or refunds.

Pit crew change for Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson teams

Leave a comment

Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson each will have a pit crew change for Saturday night’s playoff race at Bristol.

The change is the result of an injury to one pit crew member.

Dustin Lineback, jackman for Bowman’s team is out with an injury, the team stated. Kyle Tudor, who has been Johnson’s jackman, moves over to that role for Bowman’s team. Eric Ludwig, a backup for Hendrick Motorsports, moves up to be the jackman for Johnson.

MORE: Saturday Cup race at Bristol: Start time, forecast, lineup

Bowman enters the elimination race 27 points ahead of teammate William Byron, the first driver outside a transfer spot to the second round. Bowman opened the playoffs by finishing sixth in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He followed that by placing ninth at Richmond. Bowman was collected in a crash and finished 37th in the May Bristol race.

Johnson, who is in his final full-time Cup season, seeks his first victory of the season. He finished third at Bristol in May.