By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR author
Hendrick Motorsports’ string of consecutive NASCAR Cup Series point wins ended in six points when Kyle Busch extended his fuel miles to win at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.
Does a non-Hendrick driver have to win races like this?
“Thank you,” said Busch when he asked this question. “If you look at the readings, I think that luckily we had the fastest car. At least we had that where we had the fastest car.
“It was just about being in the right position at the right time.”
In fact, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver thought he could have won at Pocono on Saturday – he finished second in that event – had he got a better boost from Hendrick driver Kyle Larson restarting behind him, which was the final restart the race became a race.
Maybe the teams will catch up with Hendrick Motorsports. But it is one thing to catch them and another to defeat them.
“It’s good that we have the balance to run so well,” said Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski after finishing third on Sunday. “We have to be where we don’t have to have the perfect car just to drive with them.
“The days when we have the perfect car [we should be] the fastest car. “
Keselowski wasn’t the only rider who felt his organization still had to make progress. Kevin Harvick has finished in the top 10 for the last three races including Sunday’s fourth but still believes the Stewart-Haas Racing organization is lagging behind.
âWe’re just like what we were,â said Harvick. âOur cars are a little better. We still need some speed.
“I think we are better than we were and I think our team just does a good job to get good results.”
The fact remains that Hendrick has raced for the last seven races
– Achieved six wins with four 1-2 placements, 17 top 5 placements and 21 top 10 placements.
– Won nine out of 15 stages.
– 1,203 of 1,516 laps (79%) led.
The increase comes in a season when Hendrick and ECR (Childress) worked together to build their Chevrolet engines, which resulted in more horsepower for the Hendrick teams.
But it also seems that the Hendrick cars drive better. They didn’t seem that dominant last weekend in Pocono, and some might suggest the team (and other Chevrolet teams) may need to fix the bugs on their cars.
NASCAR said it hadn’t enacted any ordinances after the June 20 race at Nashville Superspeedway, but changes appear to have been made to many of the Chevrolets.
The fact that Hendrick had a winner in the first race at Pocono in Alex Bowman and almost won the second race with William Byron, who ran out of fuel a few laps to go, shows that, despite all the changes, the Hendrick cars are may have been made, it was still quick.
“Of course we were a racing team before we got that position,” said Jeff Andrews, Hendrick’s vice president of competition. “We chased several organizations in front of us.
“We certainly understand how it feels. … NASCAR and [series director] Jay Fabian, you are doing a great job regulating this sport and balancing this sport. Every time they talk to you or want you to talk about something about your racing car, we go back and bring it up. “
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The JGR riders knew that last weekend in Pocono may not provide an accurate indication of whether they were making any profits.
“This is a track where we can come here, feel good with our setup, our baseline and everything we have, and be quick,” said Busch. “I don’t know if the Hendrick boys can say the same thing.
“They haven’t been fast here in a while. Obviously they were better, they were faster this time. But that was a good chance for us to stack as best we can and as well as possible and see what happened.”
Busch crew chief Ben Beshore said he would wait until mid-August to see if they made any profits on Hendrick.
“If we go to Michigan I’ll probably tell you,” said Beshore. “Pocono is so unique, with three corners. Kyle is so good here. His talent may make up for some of our car problems here.”
It’s better to have won and have a little optimism. But it’s in the nature of a crew chief with a technical background to want more data.
“We feel like we’re chopping them off,” said Beshore. “These races in Vegas, Kansas, Texas deep in the playoffs will be the telltale sign of how far we’ve come.”
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Think out loud
Was Trackhouse Racing’s purchase of Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR assets at the end of the season a good or bad move for the sport?
It’s a bit mixed.
Chip Ganassi had no one to take over the team and, at the age of 63, was right to wonder if it would be a good thing to cut a branch of his motorsport business. And Trackhouse owner Justin Marks is a racing driver, just like Ganassi.
But it’s still sad to see an owner who has been committed to the sport for 20 years and his organization pretty much disappears into the hands of an existing organization. Even though Ganassi is involved in so many motorsports, it is still a loss for NASCAR to lose him.
NASCAR wanted new, young owners. But it also benefits from organizations that have a history in sport. This advantage is lost with this transaction.
You said it
“Our team wasn’t for sale. Justin just came to me with a great offer and an even better vision for racing.” – Chip Ganassi on selling his team to Justin Marks
Bob Pockrass has spent decades reporting on motorsport, including the last 30 Daytona 500. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after serving at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene Magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpokrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR newsletter with Bob Pockrass!
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