Almost a week has passed since Alex Bowman’s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Camaro all but disappeared from the view of Kyle Busch in the closing laps of the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, Calif. Before he claimed the checkered flag, Bowman led 110 of the race’s 200 laps. Second-place Busch crossed the finish line almost a full 10 seconds after Bowman did.
Simply put: Bowman and the No. 88 team spanked the entire NASCAR Cup Series field at Auto Club Speedway in a way no HMS team has done in years. His teammates — Chase Elliott (fourth), Jimmie Johnson (seventh) and William Byron (15th) — made strong runs, too.
The Hendrick teams’ success at Auto Club followed similarly impressive showings at Las Vegas the week prior. Now three of the four drivers are inside the top six in the early season points standings.
This is notable considering a Hendrick driver has finished a season in the top 10 in points just four times in the three years since Johnson won the 2016 Cup Series championship. The organization’s average points standings finish in those three seasons among all four teams is 13.4.
So, after spending a few years in the tire tracks of Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing, is Hendrick Motorsports back?
“I think it is a little early (to say) that,” Elliott told Sporting News during a Friday phone conversation when asked whether HMS’ early 2020 success is a sign of more to come. “As you progress (through) the year, everybody else is going to be getting better, too. People will start to complain, and as that stuff happens, they’ll start to ding you in tech, and this and that.”
Busch, the defending series champion, is one of the drivers Elliott can expect to improve from his 19th-place standing in points after just three races. The same goes for 2017 champ Martin Truex Jr., currently 13th. And as well as the Hendrick cars have run, they still share the top six in points with Penske’s Ryan Blaney (first) and Joey Logano (second) as well as Stewart-Haas’ Kevin Harvick (fourth).
But now the Hendrick cars are working with the possible benefits associated with the new design of their Camaros, a potential game-changer for the sport’s top Chevrolet team when it comes to competing against the top Fords and Toyotas.
Chevy switched to the Camaro ZL1 1LE in the Cup Series for 2020 after two years running the ZL1, and the new body shell supposedly features better aerodynamics. Last month, Richard Petty claimed “Chevrolet’s probably got the best overall program” in NASCAR.
Elliott isn’t ready to go that far despite his team’s early success. In fact, Hendrick’s hot streak could be considered fools’ gold.
“To be honest with you, I’m not sure that you want to be in your stride currently,” Elliott said. “I’d much rather be in a good stride for the last 10 (playoff races). I think the really good teams can be good all season and have shots to win all year long.
“I think it’s a little early to say, A, ‘We think we’re pretty good,’ or B, ‘We have work to do.’ I think we need to run a month or two into the season to really know.”
Source: Read Full Article