Hendrick vs. JGR: Tale of the Tape
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on April 23, 2013 | 10:41 A.M. EST
Jimmie Johnson (left) and Matt Kenseth have helped lead Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, respectively, to the head of the Sprint Cup Series class in 2013. (Photo: Getty Images)
As the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads toward the quarter mark with Saturday’s race at Richmond International Raceway, the main theme in a season of subplots is the domination by Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports.
Their success isn’t surprising. Hendrick excelled when the Gen-5 racecar debuted in 2007 and, with its resources, was expected to be fast early with the Gen-6 car. Gibbs ranks among those challenging Hendrick most seasons and has been strengthened by the addition of Matt Kenseth.
What’s surprising is how those two organizations have made Victory Lane nearly an exclusive club, with only Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards able to break through at Phoenix International Raceway.
JGR and Hendrick Motorsports have won seven of the first eight races this season and Kenseth notes how close Gibbs’ operation could be to having more than four victories so far.
"As an organization, one of our cars - if all the stars would have aligned - could have won every race this year if everything would have worked out," Kenseth said after winning Sunday at Kansas Speedway. "The only place I feel like we really kind of missed it was California and (teammate Kyle Busch) won there. Other than that, we've had cars capable of running in the top three or four every week."
Four times this season, Gibbs and Hendrick cars have finished one-two with JGR winning three of those races including Kansas, where Kenseth led Kahne to the finish. The two organizations also have combined to lead 73.3 percent of the 2,584 laps run this year.
Such success has five drivers from those two teams among the top 10 in points: Kenseth, Kahne, Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. That’s significant. In the past five seasons, nearly 80 percent of the drivers in the top 10 in points after the ninth race season have qualified for the Chase.
But even with all that those two teams have done, there’s more to watch in the coming weeks.
One key story line will be what happens to Penske Racing’s appeal of its penalties from Texas. The teams of defending series champion Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano face suspensions to multiple crew members, fines and 25-point penalties. Their appeal will be heard at 9 a.m. (ET) on May 1 at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, N.C.
Should Penske lose, it could appeal to John Middlebrook - the National Stock Car Racing chief appellate officer. His decision is final. Middlebrook surprised many last year by rescinding most of the penalties Jimmie Johnson’s team faced after an infraction that was discovered on opening day at Daytona in February 2012.
"It’s important to allow the appeal process to work its way out on its own," Keselowski said. "That’s why it exists. I’m thankful there's a process for appeals because, obviously, we’re in an ‘agree-to-disagree’ stage between Penske Racing and NASCAR. Thankfully, there’s a third-party panel or group to settle those disagreements."
Just as fascinating will be what happens with Tony Stewart. The three-time series champion has finished 17th or worse in five consecutive races. The last time he struggled like this was 2010, when he had six straight finishes of 16th or worse. "Smoke" rallied to make the post-season Chase that year but wasn’t a factor for the title, finishing seventh. How will he bounce back this season?
Also, word could come as early as today if Denny Hamlin will be back in the No. 11 JGR entry for Saturday night's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond. He's missed the past three races while recovering from a back injury suffered last month in a last-lap crash at Auto Club Speedway.
There will be other things to watch in the coming weeks, including:
- Martin Truex Jr.’s winless streak is at 211 races. He’s come close the last few weeks, placing second in Texas and fourth at Kansas Speedway. When will he score his second career victory?
- Kyle Busch has won the last four spring Cup Series races at Richmond.
- Jeff Gordon is scheduled to make his 700th consecutive start next month at Darlington Raceway. Ricky Rudd holds the series record at 788.
- Bobby Labonte also is scheduled to make his 700th consecutive start, next month in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
- The Aaron's 499 on May 5 at Talladega SuperSpeedway will be the first Cup Series restrictor-plate race since the Daytona 500, where Johnson won the race and rookie Danica Patrick started from the pole.
- And can Paul Menard (10th in points), Jamie McMurray (11th) and Aric Almirola (13th) - all of whom have never made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup - remain in contention for a post-season berth?
TALE OF THE TAPE
A look at how Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, the two dominant teams this season, compare after eight Sprint Cup races.
Joe Gibbs Racing ... 4
Hendrick Motorsports ... 3
Hendrick Motorsports ... 12
Joe Gibbs Racing ... 8
Hendrick Motorsports ... 18
Joe Gibbs Racing ... 12
Joe Gibbs Racing ... 1,073
Hendrick Motorsports ... 822