It’s been a rough last month for the four-car Hendrick Motorsports team.
Just a few races ago they had three of the four drivers (Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne) solidly in the top 10 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings and looking like the Cup trophy would go through them.
Additionally, veteran and four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon was running very well and moving up in the standings after a third place finish on Mothers Day weekend at Darlington.
Since that time, it’s been a real downer for the four-car team as no one is running well and the drivers are falling quickly down the standings.
Gordon went from 11th and just a few points out of being in the top 10 to 16th in the standings after only one top 10 in the last four races including two sub 30th place performances. In last weeks race at Michigan he was collected in a crash very early on and left with a disappointing 39th place finish.
Kahne looked like he would rival Johnson for the championship after Kansas where he concluded a stretch of five finishes in the top 10 in a six race span. Since, he has one top 15 finish in the last seven races with finishes of 21st, 42nd, 17th, second, 23rd, 36th and 38th respectively including a very disappointing mid race at Michigan where he blew a tire and got into the outside SAFER barrier inbetween Turns 1 and 2 while leading.
Now Kahne finds himself free falling from second in the points leaving Kansas to 12th heading to Sonoma.
Earnhardt Jr. too looked like this could be his year after getting off to his best start of his Sprint Cup career. Earnhardt started the year off with five straight top seven finishes and and looked like a victory was coming in his near future. Since he has finishes of 24th, 29th, 16th, 10th, 17th, ninth, 39th, 10th, third and 37th. He too had issues at Michigan while leading when his engine expired soon after Kahne’s tire blew.
That up and down stretch has dropped him down to seventh in the standings 91 points behind Johnson for the points lead.
The only one that’s been a mainstay has been Johnson who’s the points leader, but he too has had his share of issues the last month. Johnson has only one top 15 finish since Darlington after only finishing outside of the top 15 just once in the first 10 races. He has finishes of 22nd, 17th, first and 28th the last month and his points lead has taken a hit lately.
As rare as this is for Hendrick to have performances like this, they also can get out of this rut quickly and have a historical run that we’ve never seen.
On the bright side at least the recent bad luck string is happening now and not in the beginning of the season where they have to get out of a huge hole to get in the conversation of just making the Chase or in the Chase itself eliminating themselves out of championship contention.
I have no doubt in my mind all four drivers will end this slump very soon. It could come as quickly as this weekend.
Eric Smith is the Lead Motorsports Writer for Race Review Online. Follow him on Twitter @ericsportsguru
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