It wasn’t a very good Thursday at the track for the entire Hendrick Motorsports bunch. They struggled in the lone practice session of the day at the Charlotte Motor Speedway with Chase Elliott leading the way for the team with being sixth on the overall speed charts. William Byron was 11th while Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson were 21st and 22nd respectively. In qualifying later on in the day, none of the four make it to the final round of the Busch Pole Award session. In fact, they struggled even worse.
They’ll start 21-22-23-27 for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET/FOX/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). That’s a bit shocking in the essence that Johnson leads all drivers at Charlotte in driver rating, average running position, laps in the top 15, laps led, quality passes and fastest laps. On top of all of that, he has eight career wins on the 1.5-mile track, way more than anyone else. Furthermore, HMS has won a record setting 19 times overall in Charlotte.
So, to see them all start so far back, well that’s troublesome for the group.
Johnson, has just six top 10 finishes on the track since 2011. Four of his last seven starts have resulted in an effort of 17th or worse. On the season, Johnson has finished 12th or worse in two of the last three races and has just one top five finish all season long. Dating back to last year, he has five total top five finishes over the last 48 races. On the 1.5-mile tracks this season, Johnson has finished 27th (Atlanta), 12th (Las Vegas), 35th (Texas) and 19th (Kansas).
Elliott, finished second in this very race last year and has two top three finishes in his last four starts on the season, but if you take those races out, he’s been pedestrian. Four of his other five Cup Series starts at Charlotte he finished 12th or worse. Also, in six of his last eight starts on the season, he finished ninth or worse. On 1.5-mile tracks in 2018, Elliott has finished 10th, 34th, 11th and 12th respectively. Those trends show that he will finish between 10th and 15th on Sunday.
Byron and Bowman don’t have much, if any, experience in NASCAR’s premiere series at Charlotte. Heading into this weekend, Byron has five straight finishes of 12th or worse including two of the last three with efforts of 29th or worse, while Bowman has three finishes of 18th or worse in his last four starts on the season. Their 1.5-mile finishes in 2018 read, Atlanta (18th-Byron, 20th-Bowman), Las Vegas (16th-Bowman, 27th-Byron), Texas (10th-Byron, 28th-Bowman) and Kansas (18th-Bowman, 33rd-Byron). Again, that shows a finish of 15th on back for both.
So, if you look at the stats entering this weekend and mix them with how this weekend is going, it doesn’t give us a lot of optimism that either of the four cars will challenge for the win on Sunday night.