By: Drew Hierwarter
The rumors of the demise of Hendrick Motorsports have been greatly exaggerated. After dominating the 2007 season, the four car team has gotten off to what some have called a sub-par start to the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The racing media was all over the story and if you believed everything you read on the internet and heard on TV, you could easily get the idea that there was big trouble in paradise. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s been relatively common throughout the history of NASCAR for one team or another to sort of break out and have a run of success. They will find some little advantage that would give them an edge over the competition. But that advantage never lasted forever and before long the other teams would catch up and the game would be even again. One thing you can never do in racing is stand still. A team must constantly be working to find a little more horsepower, or a little better handling, or something to gain any advantage, no matter how small. To stand still is to fall behind. Many folks in the NASCAR garage area these days feel that’s exactly what’s been going on. The Hendrick teams are not doing poorly, everyone else is doing better. They’ve stepped up because they had to. There is one other thing, the big picture.
Since the introduction of the “Chase for the Championship”, the various Hendrick teams have become experts at working towards peaking at the end of the season when it really counts the most. Several weeks ago Chad Knaus, crew chief on the Jimmie Johnson driven number 48, said in an interview that they weren’t running up front because they were working on some things for later in the year. There was no panic in the Hendrick camp because they knew exactly what they were doing.
This past Sunday in the “Goody’s Cool
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The “new and improved” Indy Racing League debuted it’s now “unified” open wheel series on Saturday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. As expected, the teams from the former Champ Car Series were hopelessly outclassed. Not only have they had almost no time to figure out the IRL style car, but very few of the drivers have much oval track experience.
Scott Dixon started from the pole but young Marco Andretti, now in his third season, led the most laps and showed some of the talent that his family name is famous for. Tony Kanan was leading late in the race and would’ve won had he not clipped a spinning back marker. Kanan’s front suspension sustained too much damage to continue. And so the victory went to Chip Ganassi driver, Scott Dixon.
Most everyone in the pits and the media are optimistic about the future of this new, single series of open wheel racing. The crowd for the Saturday night race was decent, considering that the track did very little to promote it, and the racing was good. The teams that have come over from Champ Car are still facing a steep learning curve. Some say it will be as long as six months before they will be competitive on oval tracks. Things will be a little better for them next week as the series moves to a temporary street circuit in St.Petersburg, Florida, something that the IRL teams are not used to.
Now that there is only one major open wheel series in the US, there’s a good chance that Indy Car type racing will return, if not to prominence, at least to visibility.