Hendrick Motorsports is one win away from a historic feat. Their next trip to victory lane in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series would be the 250th overall. But, there’s one problem, they’ve been waiting on accomplishing that feat for over 12 months now. In fact, if one of their four drivers doesn’t win Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (2 p.m. ET/NBCSN/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, then it would have been a full year since they last won a race in NASCAR’s premiere series.
July 23, 2017 to be exact.
Kasey Kahne is the last HMS driver to win as he took his No. 5 Chevrolet to victory in upset fashion in last year’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He’s now no longer with the team. That though, is how all their wins have really went recently. Jimmie Johnson won the other three races last year but none were in dominating fashion. Most were byproducts of late pit calls to give him track position to seal a win
That’s how far the mighty have fallen. For year, Hendrick Motorsports were the New York Yankees or Boston Celtics or Las Angeles Lakers of NASCAR. They dominated almost every race and saw the championships go through them.
From 1995 through 2010, they won 10 of the 16 championships in NASCAR’s premiere series. In that time frame, they also had 155 of their 249 career victories too. They were the “dream team.” The one that every driver had dreams of racing for.
In the seven in-a-half years since, they’ve won just two titles (both by Johnson) and won races (30 of which by Johnson). As you can see, they went from being a viable three to four car contender to just one, Johnson.
Take this stat for example now, Johnson has scored just two top five finishes in 2018. He has more DNF’s (3) than top fives (2). When a seven time champion has more DNF’s than top fives, you know you’ve slipped.
In fact, Johnson entered 2018 with coming off of his worst statistical year ever in 2017. His top fives (4), top 10’s (11), laps led (217) and average finish (16.8) were all career lows. This year, he’s had two top fives, six top 10’s, 15 laps led and a 15.5 average finishing position. Safe to say, he’s heading towards another season of career lows.
So is Chase Elliott. He’s only scored four top five finishes (had 10 in 2016, 12 in 2017), eight top 10’s (had 17 in 2016, 21 in 2017), led just 19 laps (led 358 in 2016 and 560 in 2017) and has an average finish in 2018 of 14.4. He’s set for career lows in all categories too.
Those are the top two drivers on the team.
William Byron is making his Cup debut in 2018 and like Johnson, has more DNF’s (4) than top fives (0). In fact, he has just one top 10 finish all year. The fourth driver, the one with the task of replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had the best stats of the four with seven top 10 finishes and 67 laps led. Despite that, his average finish is just 16.1. As you can see, when he’s not battling for a top 10, he’s not finishing.
The once prominent team is now just another organization. Just look at their odds of winning Sunday’s race. Elliott is best among the team at 44/1. Johnson is 80/1. Byron (220/1) and Bowman (330/1) well they are back there too. That’s how far they have fallen.
Prior to 2016, HMS won at least eight races in any given year for four straight seasons and 11 of the last 13. Now, they’re struggling to get just one win.
Can they end that year long winless drought?
So far this weekend, they’re showing some promise. Three of their four drivers made it to the final round of qualifying on Friday as Alex Bowman will start eighth in his No. 88 Chevrolet. He was eighth fastest in practice too. Chase Elliott rolls off 10th while William Byron qualified 11th. Jimmie Johnson was the only one of the four not to advance past the second round as he will start 21st.