Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What's wrong with Hendrick?

The start of the 2008 Sprint Cup season has been an unlikely struggle for Hendrick Motorsports drivers not named Earnhardt. The four teams that ripped off 18 victories last season and captured a second-straight championship, haven’t scored a win at tracks they normally dominate.

After Bristol, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is fifth in points (91 laps led), Jimmie Johnson is 13th (91 laps), Jeff Gordon is 14th (93 lap) and Casey Mears is barely hanging on
at 33rd (0 laps).

In comparison, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch has led more laps (336) than all four of Hendrick’s drivers combined. Busch leads the points and is followed by Tony Stewart in seventh (286 laps led) and Denny Hamlin at 15th (130 laps led). It’s clear the Gibbs cars have more horsepower and could have won at least four races this year if not for mechanical problems and/or crashes.

Their start is similar to how Hendrick’s four teams began last year when Gordon was leading the points and finished in the top-10 four times. Johnson, by this point, had three wins and was third in the points. By contrast, Junior has been the lone bright spot this season with four top-10s.

Whether this is an early-season slump or a sign of things to come should be answered this weekend at Martinsville, where Johnson and Gordon fiercely battled for the win last year. It’s also a track where Hendrick has won eight of the last 10 races.

Hendrick 2008 finishes
Dale Earnhardt Jr. : 9th* -- 40th -- 2nd* -- 3rd* -- 5th

Jimmie Johnson : 27th* -- 2nd* -- 29th -- 13th -- 18th*

Jeff Gordon : 39th* -- 3rd* -- 35th* -- 5th* -- 11th

Casey Mears : 35th -- 42nd -- 13th -- 17th -- 42nd

* led a lap

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