The Hendrick Domination: Is it Good for NASCAR?
By Ron Fleshman On Tue, Jun. 17, 2014
Jimmie Johnson is on his usual roll at the mid-point of the season, and with the success of other teams using Hendrick Motorsports engines and chassis, it has left the rest of the field in a tremendous funk. It also is not good for NASCAR because many fans of the sport find no fire for Johnson. Add to that his fellow competitors.
You could hear it in Greg Biffle’s voice pre-race. Something special had to happen for him to have a chance. The Hendrick Chevrolets were so far ahead that it would almost take a miracle. It didn’t and Biffle finished 18th. Post-race, it was Brad Keselowski who admitted even though he finished third he was just not competitive with the Hendrick cars. Obviously, the Hendrick teams, which include his own four teams plus Stewart-Haas’ four car team and Chip Ganassi’s two car team, are pretty much the cream of the crop this season and most of the other seasons of the decade.
Early on, it seemed that they were just as confused by NASCAR’s new rules as the rest of the field, but the win by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Daytona 500 and Kevin Harvick’s win at Phoenix the next week should have told everyone something. After Keselowski won at Las Vegas, Edwards at Bristol, and Kyle Busch at California, everyone was excited that maybe there would be a fight for the championship after all.
After Kurt Busch surprised everyone at Martinsville, Logano won Richmond and Denny Hamlin won Talladega. It looked like parity did exist, but what we didn’t see was how competitive the Hendrick cars were. It started at Kansas. Jeff Gordon won that one and at Charlotte Jamie McMurray won the All Star race and Johnson won the 600. Then Johnson went back to back at Dover and Earnhardt won at Pocono. Last week, Johnson led less than 40 laps, but had the fastest car at Michigan and won. So far, after a start where everyone was in the pool, Hendrick cars have won five consecutive races and the All Star race. So far, the score is Hendrick nine and the rest of the field six, but what is more telling is when it’s broken down by organization.
If we add HMS and Stewart Haas together, they have nine wins. Team Penske has three. Joe Gibbs Racing has two. Roush Fenway has one. Split up, Hendrick has six wins, Stewart Haas three, Team Penske has three, Joe Gibbs two, and Roush Fenway one.
There is some proof that television ratings and race attendance dropped after Johnson went on his tear in 2006. That’s probably not fair to Hendrick and Johnson, but it’s a documented fact. Johnson has won the coveted championship in six of the last eight years, amassing 51 wins and 183 top 10s. That’s an average of nearly seven wins and 23 top 10s a season. Fans of other teams probably tired of this domination just like their drivers. At the same time, Johnson is a friendly and nice guy, and Hendrick is everyone’s Daddy. It’s not their fault they have the ability to figure out the changes NASCAR makes earlier than anyone else (see Car of Tomorrow for reference).
There is some possible relief for fans of other teams coming. The drivers next head to the road course at Sonoma, Kentucky, and Daytona, three places where Johnson has not excelled, but don’t be surprised if there is a win from some of the other Hendrick aligned teams anyway. With drivers like Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, and Ryan Newman still winless, all might not make the Chase, though Kenseth seems safe on points. Don’t be surprised if winless Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne sneak in a win for total domination. My fear is that people will lose interest. Maybe they already have.