June 13, 2007 11:34 am
Rick Hendrick and his racing team, Hendrick Motorsports, have been having a phenomenal year. Jimmie Johnson, driving the #48 Lowe’s car, won the championship last year. This year, out of 14 races, they have won 10, with all four drivers having at least one win. This season has been almost magical for them; Rick has said that it’s not so much that they’re doing things to make it happen, they’re just not making mistakes, which puts them in the position to capitalize when others make mistakes. (Of course, that’s part of it, but there is an awful lot that goes into “not making mistakes.”)
But it seems that everyone in that organization is top-notch. Take Sunday’s race at Pocono as an example. After a 3±hour rain delay, the race gets going. Sixty-five or so laps into the race, a caution flag comes out. Was it Steve Letarte, the crew chief who started as a janitor at HMS, or an engineer who made the call? No - Jeff Gordon’s spotter made a suggestion, followed by the team, that they not pit. Casey Mears, Gordon’s teammate, also followed his strategy. By not pitting then, they needed to pit around the mid-80’s for fuel.
In NASCAR, if a race goes over halfway (100 laps in Sunday’s race), and has to be called for rain or darkness, the race is considered official. By pitting on lap 84, as they did, they had enough fuel to get them to lap 116. They were way back in the pack at that point. However, as the laps came up to 30 from the previous round of pit stops, cars started heading to pit road for fuel. When these cycled through, Gordon and Mears were running first and second. The rain came, and when the race was red-flagged at lap 106, Gordon was still first, though Mears had dropped to fourth. The race never started back, and Gordon got his fourth win of the season.
Then, today, who is going to join the team but Dale Earnhardt, Jr.! Rick Hendrick actually signed him to a contract on a napkin when he was 14 years old. Now, he had a real contract with NASCAR’s most popular driver.
Hendrick Motorsports is having a run like the Yankees had a few years back. It’s a good day to be a Hendrick fan. For the Hendrick haters, not so much.