Hendrick Dominance Continues
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on June 15, 2014 | 6:00 P.M. EST
Jimmie Johnson has pulled into Victory Lane three times in the last four races. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
Jeff Gordon started the string with his Mother’s Day weekend triumph at Kansas Speedway with Johnson going back-to-back at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag last week at Pocono, and Johnson continued the streak with his first career Michigan win.
“I think it is obvious that Hendrick Motorsports produces fast racecars,” said Johnson, who outran Kevin Harvick's Hendrick-powered ride for Stewart-Haas Racing. “They build fast engines. It doesn't matter if it is Stewart-Haas, or the Hendrick organization. We're winning a lot of races and running up front.”
This is the third time Hendrick Motorsports has won at least five straight races and it came on a day when they put all four of its cars in the top seven. Also, Six of the top eight cars were running Hendrick engines.
"To keep the streak going, get five, that's great," said car owner Rick Hendrick. "This was a good race, and it just played out the way we needed it to play out, and all our cars ran well. I think we were a little off early in the year, and we've been kind of clicking here lately, and real proud of all the guys. Just a tribute to Chad (Knaus) and all the crew chiefs and drivers working hard, working together, the engine shop, chassis shop. Everybody is really putting out a lot of effort right now, and it's paying off."
Sunday’s third-place finisher, Brad Keselowski, while proud of the effort by Team Penske and the Ford camp, acknowledged the Sprint Cup garage is chasing Hendrick’s success.
“We all have got a little bit of work to do because it's pretty obvious that the Hendrick engines are way ahead of everyone else,” Keselowski said. “Usually that's not something you catch up with in one season. As far ahead as they are right now, they're probably a full season ahead of everyone. We've got work to do to get there.”
Keselowski is by no means waving a white flag or conceding the championship to Johnson or anyone else from the Hendrick stable. But he believes trying to catch the organization this year will be a large task.
“I don't really see that changing for the duration of the season,” Keselowski said. “I think what you're going to find in the development cycle has been kind of found by this time in the year, and maybe there's a little bit more left on the table, but not enough to take a team that's not there to be there. That's just kind of my experience.”
Clint Bowyer was the top finishing Toyota in seventh.
“It’s just tough right now to compete with that horsepower they’ve (Hendrick) got right now," Bowyer said. "That’s a pretty distinct advantage when you look at the results on that. Just incredible. That deal cycles, but it sure seems like its pretty unfair right now.”
Since starting the season winless in the first 11 races, Johnson has now led a combined 480 laps and posted 2.3 average finish in his last four starts.
"I just know our cars are fast," Johnson said. "They run good. It's hard to say. The cars are all pretty equal aero-wise with what the rules are from NASCAR. But I'm not good enough to pick it out and tell you that we've got people beat in just one area. It's a team effort. Our engine shop is very strong. We've always known that. But it's hard for me to say exactly where it is."
Hendrick Motorsports now occupies the top three spots in the Sprint Cup point standings with Gordon, Johnson and Earnhardt.