2013 Sprint Cup Team Preview: Hendrick MotorsportsBy David Morgan
Today, our 2013 Sprint Cup team previews move on to Hendrick Motorsports, one of the powerhouses of the sport that is always a threat to win races and compete for championships. The 2013 lineup for Hendrick Motorsports will be the same as 2012, with Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Kasey Kahne returning.
Dale Earnhardt Jr
The 2012 season was yet another season in which Earnhardt and crew chief Steve Letarte performed well, especially through the midpoint of the year when Earnhardt won at Michigan and took over the points lead. If not for the concussions that Earnhardt suffered at the Kansas test and in the last lap wreck at Talladega, this team could have possibly won another race or two and finished in the top half of the points standings. Both Earnhardt and Letarte return to the No.88 team in 2013. Diet Mountain Dew announced last year that they would be scaling back their sponsorship of this team in 2013 and an announcement regarding who will replace them and join the National Guard as sponsors has not yet been made, but look for one to be made soon.
After a test of the new Gen6 car in December, Earnhardt said: “I think the car has really awesome potential, and I like it already leaps and bounds beyond the COT. This car really gives me a lot of sensations that are similar to the old car that we ran 10 years ago.” That should make Earnhardt fans happy, as Earnhardt’s best performances of his career were with the old car. Look for this team to contend for race wins and the championship in 2013 and if everything falls into place, this could be the year we see an Earnhardt as champion once again.
The old saying of “If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” fits perfectly with the year Jeff Gordon had in 2012. Gordon struggled throughout the year, picking up five DNF’s along with two wins, in the rain shortened event at Pocono and the season finale at Homestead, and barely making the Chase for the Sprint Cup and finishing tenth in the final standings. Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson team up once again in 2013 with sponsorship from AARP Drive to End Hunger and Dupont. Look for the No.24 team to rebound from the struggles of 2012 and be back in the Chase and a threat for the title in 2013.
As has been the case in recent years, Jimmie Johnson and the No.48 team were once again a championship contender in 2012, but came up short of claiming a sixth title. Despite five wins, struggles in the final two races of the year, a wreck at Phoenix and mechanical problems at Homestead, relegated Johnson to a third place points finish. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus head into 2013 with the disappointment of the 2012 season still fresh on their minds and as always will be threats for both race wins weekly and for the title as well. After falling short in 2011 and 2012, it’s very possible that Johnson could claim his sixth title in 2013 and move one step closer to tying Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty with their seven Cup championships.
The debut season for Kasey Kahne at Hendrick Motorsports got off to a rocky start without a finish higher than 14th in the first six races, but Kahne then reeled off top ten after top ten and won his first race of the season in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May and followed up with another win at Loudon in July and a fourth place finish in the final 2012 standings. Look for Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis to do more of the same in 2013, with wins and a Chase berth sure to come. If Kahne and Francis can avoid the bad luck early in the year, they could join the other three Hendrick drivers as championship contenders.