COT Success All Hendricks

Hendrick Motorsports’ early dominance by of the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season has produced an impressive array of statistics: seven victories in the first 10 races, three consecutive victories and seven victories in the last eight races.

But, perhaps the most extraordinary figure of all is a perfect four-for-four performance in Car of Tomorrow races.

Obviously, the Hendrick organization has figured out the COT better than any other team.

And, with 12 of the season's remaining 26 races employing the new machine — beginning with this weekend's Dodge Avenger 500 at Darlington Raceway — that distinction could very well be the difference between winning and losing this year’s championship.

Hendrick’s COT success shouldn't come as a complete surprise to anyone who follows the sport. One of NASCAR’s powerhouse teams for years, Hendrick has the resources, personnel and finances to pour into research and development.

"In some ways, I am surprised that we’ve been able to win as many races as we have," said Jimmie Johnson after his fourth victory of the year last weekend at Richmond International Raceway. "We’ve had a lot of great competition from other teams, but we put a lot into the current car, our restrictor-plate programs and also into the Car of Tomorrow."

Two-time 2007 winner Jeff Gordon and Johnson have been the beneficiary of the team’s understanding of how to adjust the COT, adapting the car to the nuances of each track and making necessary changes during a race.

But, even those tweaks have been approached cautiously.

"I think if you really watch, the reason people are doing real small adjustments at this point during the races with these cars is because we don’t know the cars that well," Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus said. "So, you don’t want it to step out somewhere to where you can’t return if you make an adjustment. We’ve been actually focusing on making very small changes until we get comfortable with the car.

"With the other car, a minor adjustment can make a big difference as well. But, we’re more comfortable with that car so we’re more apt to go out there and maybe do a Panhard bar and a wedge adjustment at the same time. With this car, you just don’t know enough about it yet. I think that’s everybody’s approach at this point."

The COT success has even made some drivers, such as Kyle Busch, like the new machine better — at least a little.

"Jeff and Jimmie tend to have a better feel for the car than I do, but I kind of came into a rhythm there in the beginning and toward the middle of the race that I knew what I needed to do," said Busch, who finished in the runner-up position last weekend at Richmond.

True, it’s only been four races, but, so far, the year of the COT has been the year of Hendrick Motorsports.

And, it doesn't as if thigns will change anytime soon.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2007

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