The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season hasn’t started off as well as Hendrick Motorsports would have liked it to. Through 11 races, they’ve yet to visit victory lane in NASCAR’s premiere series. In fact, its been 34 long races since they’ve last won a Cup Series race. As we head to Saturday night’s race at the Kansas Speedway, I still wouldn’t put them as a favorite either.
But, what they’re doing, they’re just steadily getting better and better as the year has gone on. A month or so ago, they really didn’t have any of their four drivers as serious playoff contenders. Now, three of their four drivers are currently in playoff spots with the fourth just a few points out himself. With the way things are trending for the organization right now, it’s not too far out of left field to think that they can get all four drivers into the playoffs come the fall.
As odd as this sounds, with the way that Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are stealing race wins and stage points, it’s taking playoff spots away from others. Currently, that trio has won eight of the 11 races thus far. Its allowing for more wildcard spots to remain open for the playoffs. That in turn means that Hendrick can theoretically get all four drivers into the postseason and have none of them actually win a race in the regular season to do so.
Jimmie Johnson has charged all the way up to 13th in the playoff standings as he’s +29 points ahead of the cutoff line. He’s the second best driver in the overall points standings among the Chevy camp and was the top Chevy finisher last weekend at Dover. While some may say that his ninth place finish shows just how far off he is from victory lane, especially at a track where he’s won at 11 times during the course of his storied career, to me it shows just how far off Chevy is to the other manufacturers. He was the top Chevy driver in their camp and now has three top 10 finishes in his last four starts on the season and a 12th place run in his other start in that time frame. Overall, he has eight top 15 finishes in his last nine races on the season.
He’s getting the job done with that he has right now.
So is Alex Bowman. He’s 15th in the playoff standings, 13 points up. Out of his last six starts on the season, three of which have resulted in a top 10. He’s doing what he needs to do to remain in the hunt. Same can be said for his rookie teammate William Byron. He’s the only one of the four Hendrick drivers not in the current playoff standings, but he’s only 16 points out. He’s not making many mistakes and just staying inside of the top 20 for the most part. Seven of his last eight races have seen him finish inside of the top 20 as he’s even leading laps.
Chase Elliott is arguably the tops among all four abut he’s only two points to the good right now. That is all because of how many points he’s lost due to penalties. He has three top three finishes this season, including two of which in the last three races overall. He also has five top 12 finishes in the last six races on the season.
As you can see, they’re all just doing what they need to do. Imagine when they start getting their cars to match their skill set. They’re trending in the right direction and if they can keep this up and get all four into the playoffs, watch out.