Through 20 races this season, Hendrick Motorsports has won six races and combined for 24 top-five finishes. Between four drivers, that seems like a recipe for success.
However, questions have been raised recently about why Hendrick is seemingly falling behind the likes of Joe Gibbs Racing and others on the track. In the last three races, just Dale Earnhardt Jr. with a top five at New Hampshire has collected a top five.
But when he met with the media at Pocono on Friday afternoon, Junior didn’t seem too concerned with the issues.
“It’s business as usual as far as I can see,” Earnhardt said. “We definitely understand when we don’t perform well. Last week was frustrating. I don’t think we’ve been too thrilled over the last month.
“But from Rick [Hendrick] on down, you get the impression that things need to be better and everyone needs to work harder.”
Earnhardt also just so happens to be the last driver to win a race with his triumph at Daytona. That was the only win by any other driver since June 28 other than Kyle Busch. So the question has to be raised: Is Hendrick truly struggling, or is Busch just that determined?
JGR hasn’t been just a one-man show with Busch leading the way, though. Denny Hamlin has three top fives in his last four races while Matt Kenseth has an average finish of sixth over the last three. Carl Edwards, who started the slowest of the JGR stable, has two straight poles heading into Pocono.
But all of that can be turned around by Hendrick and Chevrolet as a whole this weekend.
Earnhardt swept the track last season and Martin Truex Jr. will be looking to do the same on Sunday. In fact, a Chevy has won five races at Pocono, with Junior and Jimmie Johnson capturing four of those checkered flags.
Hendrick might not be on top for now, but Earnhardt knows that can all change in an instant in NASCAR.
“There are cycles in this sport,” he said. “[Gibbs] worked hard to get where they are. … We’re struggling at the moment due to circumstances and a lot of things out of our control. As a company, we feel like with the resources we have we should show up and be the best every week.
“The Gibbs guys have found more speed and they look like, over the past couple of weeks, to be a lot stronger. We’re not on top of the mountain anymore, by ourselves at least. They’ve found speed and we need to combat that with more.”
The top of the NASCAR mountain doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room, so the push from Hendrick will have to be a strong one in the coming weeks. But with four wins out of the eight repeat Chase races already this season, don’t expect the drought to last much longer.